Resident Spotlight-Christel Kanaby

Activity Scrapbook
An old black and white photograph of a young woman.

Christel Magdalena Kausch Kanaby was born on Dec. 20, 1924 in Koenigsberg, East Prussia.  She was 2 months premature and weighed less than 3lbs. Her mother Charlotte made a circular incubator and warmed it with bricks and crocks to keep her warm around the clock until she grew stronger. She had one older sister Dorothea.

 In April 1929, her father Edward left for America and settled in Detroit. It was during the depression, but he got a job at Strohs’ Brewery as a high pressure steam fitter. They made ice cream until Prohibition was over and then brewed beer.  6 months later he had saved enough money to send for his family.

In September 1929, she, her mom and sister left from Germany and sailed on the ship “Resilient” to Ellis Island, NY.  At 4 1/2 yrs, she has memories of the ship and the people being nice to her.  Her Mom and sister were so seasick, she was on her own to roam the ship.They were so happy to be in America when they arrived. They lived in a small apartment above a store until they could save enough money for a home.

She joined a Methodist church at 14 yrs, the only one in the family to attend church. She loved playing the violin, was first chair violinist in high school and enjoyed playing the solos the best. She graduated “Cum Laude”.

In the 11th grade, she met her husband to be, Sylvester. He was drafted into the Army/Air Force and they married while he was on furlough on 4/4/1944.

They lived in Detroit, until saving enough money to begin building their home in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. They would hitch hike from Detroit to work on their home. They bought an old car from someone who gave them a ride. After 1 1/2 yrs of part time building, they moved in January 1950. Their first son Gary, was born in April 1950, second son Wayne in July 1952 and daughter, Sherry 1957. She stayed in this home until October 2014, when she moved to Mars Hill Retirement. Saying goodbye was sad and painful, but she knew in her heart, it was time to leave.

Sylvester moved out in 1959, the same year her Mom died.  They were divorced a couple years later. She got a job at Manufacturers National Bank, downtown Detroit, working midnights. She was an encoder and stayed with the bank until retirement, 1961-1988.

She always loved skating. She took her kids to the roller rink in summer and ice skating on the lake in the winter.  Taking care of her flowers and yard work kept her busy into her 80’s. She took great pride in keeping up her home.

She taught her children to be kind, compassionate, to be “color blind”, to expect nothing and work hard for whatever they wanted in life. The home was full of love. Many animals, cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, mice(pets), guinea pigs and fish. She was a den mother and always enjoyed having all the neighborhood kids at the house. When all the kids grew up and moved out, she volunteered at the recycle center and humane society. She joined a great group of women, attending water aerobics and luncheon’s weekly. She had many great life long friends. Her kids were her greatest love and she sacrificed much to provide for them, always doing special thoughtful things to show her love.

She is happy at Mars Hill Retirement. She loves her room and always brags about the staff being sweet to her. She loves all the activities and is proud to give us the things she makes. As she approaches her 95th birthday, she is slowing down and is forgetful. She still has the desire to please and wants to do way more than she is capable of. She always says how much she appreciates everything people do to help her and never forgets to say “ I love you”. She is one of the finest of the Greatest Generation.