Mildred “Millie” Kathleen VanderMeer, passed away Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at the Mayo Healthcare Center in La Crosse.
She was born March 19, 1927, to Wesley D. and Eva (Kuhnlein) Lapell in Chicago. The Lapells founded, owned and operated Sunlight Dry Cleaners in Chicago. Her family business experience led to the development of her skills for business later in Tomah. Millie was raised in Chicago, graduated from Calumet High School, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and was a dedicated member of the 7th Presbyterian Church of Chicago.
At age 18, following the loss of both her brother and father, Millie and her mother, Eva, continued operating their family business, Sunlight Dry Cleaners (Lapell Dry Cleaners).
Millie was united in marriage to Joseph “George” VanderMeer June 18, 1947, in Chicago. George was a young entrepreneur and held an avid interest and participation in Indy car building and racing. Throughout their married life they focused on and worked toward their goal of one day becoming a General Motors dealer. In 1976, they moved to Tomah and started Cusser-VanderMeer Sales and Service, Tomah’s Chevrolet, Buick, and Oldsmobile dealership. By 1982, their partner retired and the business became VanderMeer Chevrolet-Buick-Oldsmobile, one of Tomah’s longest serving Chevrolet dealerships. Millie and George built their business based on serving their customers and developing long lasting relationships. She loved working at the dealership and treated the employees and customers just like family. Millie was a patient, caring, and loving person who will be sadly missed by her family and many friends. In 2010, the business transitioned to VanderMeer Motor Company, eventually serving Tomah for a total of 41 years.
Nancy VanderMeer was Millie and George’s only child. Millie was very active during Nancy’s school years in Evergreen Park Illinois’ PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and Nancy’s Girl Scout troop, as Millie had been a Girl Scout herself.
Millie was an active member of the American Business Women’s Association, Tomah Chapter, for over 20 years, developing more treasured friendships within the community. Millie, George, and Nancy enjoyed the companionship of their German Shepherds and cats, throughout their life in Tomah.
She is survived by her daughter, Nancy VanderMeer (David Hall) of Tomah; cousin, Dorothy Whitney (who has grown to be a sister) of Evergreen Park, Ill., cousin, William (Mary Helen) Hartmann of Lake Barrington, Ill.; sister-in-law, Lois Vandermeer of Pittsburg, Pa.; nephews, Dirk (Karen) Vandermeer of Clarion, Pa., and Jayson (Becky) Vandermeer of Dayton, Maine; cousin, Millicent (Dean) Walden of Richardson, Texas, cousin, Willard Natwick Haskell of Corpus Christi, Texas; the extended members of the Baumgarten family; the extended members of the Hall family; and other relatives and many friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Wesley and Eva; her husband, George in 1999; and her brother, Wesley Dean Lapell, Jr., who died in World War II.
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Tomah. Pastor David Dahl will officiate. Burial will follow in the Mount Vernon Cemetery, Tomah. Family and friends are invited for visitation from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, at the Torkelson Funeral Home in Tomah. Family and friends are also invited for visitation from 10 a.m. until the time of service Saturday at the church.
The Torkelson Funeral Home of Tomah, is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be offered at www.torkelsonfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church or Tomah Memorial Hospital Building Fund.