Thirteen days before her 90th birthday, former Grosse Pointe Farms resident Vivian M. Putrycus passed away Friday, July 3, 2015, at ShorePointe Village in St. Clair Shores.
Mrs. Putrycus was born in Detroit to Belgian-born parents, cabinet maker Cyril Eugenius Warnez, and Clara Claeys. She grew up on Beniteau St. on Detroit’s lower east side, an area largely populated by French and Belgian Americans. After graduating from St. Bernard Catholic High School, she earned a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan. She often shared memories of college life for women in the 1940s with her family, including strict curfews and “no boys allowed” dormitory policies.
In 1947, Mrs. Putrycus began her teaching career, spending most of her years at Defer Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Park. After retiring in the 1970s to take care of her aging mother, her family said she was often approached by former students who wanted to say hello to their “favorite teacher.”
On July 8, 1950, she married fellow St. Bernard’s classmate, Donald J. Putrycus. Sharing a love for road trips, they traveled regularly with friends throughout the United States and Mexico, including their favorite destination — the Pan American Hotel in Miami, Fla. From 1990 to 2007, they wintered at their condominium overlooking the Intracoastal in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Mrs. Putrycus was the favorite aunt to her nieces and nephews. Having no children of her own, she was known simply as “Auntie,” for her status as an aunt precluded the need for a specific name. Family members said she was influential for instilling in them the importance of family.
Her family also said she was an inspiration by making them proud of their Belgian heritage. Her fondly-told tales of the hard-working Belgian immigrants who, by way of adapting their talents to their new environment, transitioned from cabinet making to home building and property management. Although her family eventually owned and managed dozens of properties in Wayne and Macomb counties, Mrs. Putrycus was quick to point out their success was not the result of a wealthy upbringing or an expensive education. Instead, it was their core Belgian values — faith, modesty, generosity, integrity, frugality, ingenuity, and a no-complaint work ethic, that spelled success for the family.
Her frugal nature was legendary among family members. When cassette tapes began to dominate the music listening world, she once insisted her new Cadillac come equipped with an 8-track tape recorder, just so she could continue to play her one and only 8-track tape.
Mrs. Putrycus often expressed her love for literature and poetry. Her nieces and nephews learned to appreciate poetry through her. They especially recall her reciting her favorite poem — “Trees,” by Joyce Kilmer.
During the last seven years of her life, Mrs. Putrycus lived at ShorePointe Village where she was known to residents and caregivers alike, as she wandered the halls “looking for trouble”. Extremely mobile until the last week of her life, she never lost the ability to have fun and share a joke with anyone she would meet, often pointing to a resident and warning “you’d better watch that one — she’s a trouble maker.”
She also never lost her fondness for brightly colored clothes, jewelry and accessories. Caregivers said they would paint their nails with vibrant colors to see if they could “out-do” Mrs. Putrycus.
The family said there was a mutual love between Mrs. Putrycus and her caregivers. After learning of her passing, one caregiver said, “It’s going to be hard to come to work without Mrs. Vivian — we loved her.” The family would like to thank all of the staff at ShorePointe who guided and cared for Mrs. Putrycus throughout the years.
Mrs. Putrycus is survived by her nephews and nieces, Thomas Warnez (Annie), Joseph Warnez, Monique Vasquez (David), Barbara Putrycus, Diane Indrecc (Kent), Susan Putrycus, David Putrycus and Patty Onderik (Brian); brothers-in-law, Arnold Putrycus (the late Shirley) and Robert Putrycus (Ann); and her sister-in-law, Mary Ann Warnez.
She was predeceased by her husband, Donald J. Putrycus and brother, Russel H. Warnez.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic Church, 1401 Whittier, Grosse Pointe Park. The family will receive visitors beginning at 9:30 a.m. Lunch will follow in the church Social Hall.