Luella M. (Handrich) Esch

Died Aug. 18, 2017


Luella Mae (Handrich) Esch, 94, went to be with Jesus on Aug. 18, 2017, at Wellspring Lutheran Services in Fairview, where she lived the past eight years.

She was born March 3, 1923, to Oliver and Ada (Shantz) Handrich in Mio. She married Claude Esch on May 2, 1945. Luella thoroughly enjoyed school, and because she always took extra classes, was able to skip her sophomore year. She graduated with the honor of salutatorian in 1941 from Fairview Area Schools. She moved to Midland after high school, working for different families, and ended that time with the Stanford family. She attended Hesston College in Hesston, Kansas, for one year. At the end of the year she received a letter from the Stanfords asking her to return to Midland to work for them. Dr. Stanford was a dentist and Luella went to work in his office. She stayed there until December 1944 when she returned home.

Luella became a member of the Fairview Mennonite Church in 1931 when she accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. Her faith and Christian beliefs were a very important part of her life. She was a supportive mother, who along with Claude, taught their children from early on the importance of knowing who God is. Her children are forever grateful for that teaching. Church life was important to her and she served in many ways, including teaching Sunday school, serving as an officer and member of the Women’s Missionary Service Association and helping with the Northern Michigan Relief Sale. She was involved in the Stephen Ministry for several years, and many other church activities. She wrote hers and Claude’s stories for her grandchildren, beginning with the ancestors who came to this country in 1751 (Esch) and 1844 (Handrich).

In the early 1960s when her brother-in-law needed blood transfusions, Luella was the one who made calls to community people for help. Because of this, she became the go-to person for Tolfree Memorial Hospital (now West Branch Regional Medical Center) when people from Oscoda County needed transfusions. This resulted in the eventual Red Cross Bloodmobile involvement in the county. Luella had numerous jobs: cleaning homes, being a foster parent, babysitting and working in a chicken processing plant. Luella had always wanted to return to a position in a dental office. In 1973 her dream came true when she was employed by Dr. Kusnier for 12 years and then for Dr. Tootle for three years before retiring. Along with Claude, Luella was very involved with the Oscoda County Fair. One building at the fairgrounds has been named in their honor. After retirement, Luella was a part of the Ladies Auxiliary of the former AuSable Valley Community, now Wellspring Lutheran Services.

Surviving are her children, Leota (Dave) Crowder of Windsor, Colo., Bruce (Gail) of Squaw Valley, Calif., Leta (Emerson) Gerber of Fairview, Joyce (Roger) Yoder of Glenwood Springs, Colo., Bill (Beth) Esch of Mio and Paul (Shawn) Esch of Fairview; her grandchildren, Chad (Dani) Crowder, Jeff (Elaine) Crowder, Charmian (Tony) Shitanishi, Aaron (Becky) Esch, Heidi (Joel) Metzger, Vaughn (Nikki) Gerber, Phillip (Kyla) Yoder, Deanna (Sean) Lynch and Stephanie (Adam) Valk; her great-grandchildren, James, Dayton, Colton, Jack and Jolene Crowder, Ashlyn and Elijah Crowder, Jacob and Elle Shitanishi, Christin and Paxton Wilkerson and Wyatt Esch, Ethan, Justin, Hannah and Westin Metzger, Ashley Gerber, Mehli, Zephan, Nahum and Ephraim Yoder, Ian, Gabriel, Micah and Grayson Lynch, and Harper and Cooper Valk; her brothers, Richard (Janet) Handrich and Harry (Sandy) Handrich; her sister, Olive Gerber; and many nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Claude; her parents; her brother, Don Handrich; and her sister, Jean Hoover.

Visitation will be held at Lashley Funeral Home on Tuesday, Aug. 22, from 5-8 p.m. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the Fairview Mennonite Church at 11 a.m. with one hour visitation at 10 a.m. with Pastor David Price officiating. Memorials may be directed to WMSA at Fairview Mennonite Church.

Arrangements have been made by Lashley Funeral Home of Mio.


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