MARQUETTE, Mich. - Gloria M. Haara Haapala, age 91, once referred to as the "Angel of Baraga Avenue" in a November 2005 issue of The Mining Journal, entered eternal life Friday morning, August 9, 2013, at the Norlite Nursing Center, in the loving, comforting care of her family, the Norlite staff, and Lake Superior Hospice.
Gloria was born March 23, 1922 in Bessemer, to Emil and Naemi (Kari) Koski.
At age 12, Gloria went to work at the Midway Bar and Restaurant on Keweenaw Bay. She married at 16 and had six children. When Gloria came to Marquette, she was employed at the Piqua; then as a housekeeper in custodial maintenance at the Duluth South Shore and Atlantic Railroad, as a cook-housekeeper with St. Michael rectory and convent, and then as a cook at the Tip Top Cafe and later at Hotel Northland (Landmark Inn). In 1962, Rex's Cafe building on Baraga Avenue became available and Gloria entered the business world, catering to all walks of life. All were welcomed with her broad smile and a desire to fill their empty stomachs. Prices were fair, the accommodations adequate, but definitely not fancy, and service and food exceptional. She often credited St. Vincent de Paul for issuing food tickets to the hungry and for their donation of turkeys at Christmas. Finally, after serving customers for 11 1/2 years during the 1960s and '70s, Gloria closed her cafe. In retirement, Gloria returned to the kitchen, cooking at St. Peter Cathedral rectory. She had a special love and respect for soldiers, her own brothers having served in the military, and often visited the "old soldiers" at the Jacobetti Veterans Home, bringing donuts and good cheer every week. It was her way of honoring their sacrifice. Gloria worked hard all of her life and never counted the cost, only asking that the outcome be sufficient. She commented that her cafe operated like the miracle of the "loaves and the fishes".....food was always there. Her efforts did not go unnoticed as the City of Marquette named her Citizen of the Year and countless, nameless others benefited from her generosity and compassion.
Gloria is survived by her children, Marilyn (George) Voce of Harvey, Robert Haara of Skandia, Dr. Kathleen (Kenneth) Holmgren and Joy (Alfred) Tousignant both of Marquette; a daughter-in-law, Maureen Haara of Marquette; numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandson; her brother, Ronald (Donna) Koski of Wisconsin; 4 half-brothers and sisters; numerous nieces and nephews.
Gloria was preceded in death by her parents; husbands, Wilho Haara, Francis McCabe, and Art Haapala; sons, David and Ted Haara; daughter-in-law, Sheila Haara; sisters, Bernice and Joyce; and brothers, Bill, Robert, Gordon; and a half-brother, Earl.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Christopher Catholic Church on Wednesday, August 14, at 12:00 noon with the Rev. Jeff Johnson as celebrant. The family will greet guests at a reception in the church fellowship hall following the service. Interment will be made in the Holy Cross Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the family, or if you see someone who is down on their luck or who looks like they need a smile, tell them Gloria, the "Angel of Baraga Avenue" loves them and donate enough, in Gloria's name, for a cup of coffee.
The Fassbender Funeral Home is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at fassbenderfuneralhome.com.