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Obituary: Paula McKaig

Paula McKaig, 63, passed away peacefully on Oct 10th after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.   The Omega House hosted her going away party, with friends and family, soft guitar music, stories, tears and a little laughter.

If you received an email from Paula, her signature said ‘Musician/Master Gardener, Retired Music Teacher’.  These were really two of her biggest passions.  Add to that her faith in God, and devotion to helping others and you sort of know Paula.

Paula was born to William and Ann Newman and attended and graduated from Calumet High School with the class of 1973.  She began playing music in her church at a young age and excelled at several instuments in the superlative Calumet HS Band with Mr. Lehto.   She received a secretarial certificate from Lake Superior State and excelled at various jobs.  She met and married and was embraced by her new family, but that marriage did not work out.  She decided to pursue her dream of teaching music and with a lot of hard work and determination she graduated with honors, earning a BA in Music Education.  To help get by in college she lived with an elderly lady (‘Mike’) and became her Alzheimer’s care giver.  After receiving her degree, Paula was then taken on as the Dollar Bay-Tamarack City K-12 music teacher, but also taught classes in healthy eating, life skills, and even a beginning computers course for a while.  She was the school SADD advisor for many years.   She developed the band program, added a choir program, and eventually began doing school musicals in the spring.  With fund raisers, spring carnivals, summer marching,  band trips, and later, a large school teaching garden, she was a busy and very happy woman!  She enjoyed this job for 23 years and dearly loved her kids.  She said God didn’t bless her with her own children, so he gave her around 80 each year to enjoy.  Paula retired from professional teaching in 2015.

In 1996, she married the love of her life, Denny McKaig.  They had 22 years of  happy marriage and with their shared love of music, they played in several area bands including the Keweenaw Swing Band, the Bluff’s Orchestra, and the largest effort, Cheap Therapy.  That name came mostly from Paula who said after a day playing music with her kids at school it was delightful to play with some ‘adults’!  These bands have played all over the Copper Country and western UP, including a memorable Swing Band gig in Silver City on New Years Eve in 2000 (Y2K year) – when the power went out right on time!  But the band played on with candles on the music stands.  As you know, the world as we know it did not end that evening.

She also continued playing music in her churches, including the Lake Linden Methodist Church, and the Grace United Methodist Church in Houghton.  At Grace she enjoyed playing with the resident Praise Band most Sundays.  She looked forward to Sunday mornings with her church family.

Paula loved seeds, dirt, and all that goes into growing beautiful flowers and vegetables.  She was never happier than having dirty hands.   She struggled yearly since she lived in some of the poorest growing conditions in the area – out in the Klingville area – but most years she brought in the crops and flowers in spite of the weather.  She received her Master Gardener certificate around 2000 and was proud of that accomplishment.

Paula also loved to travel, and in the nearly 3 years of battling her cancer made trips to Italy with her dear friend Kathy, the Atlantic coast of Florida with her husband, the cherry festival in Traverse City with her friend Sherri, spent considerable time in Louisville, KY getting treatment, and followed her husband to a few auto races, an interest they came to share.  Paula wrote about some of these trips, and the larger trip she was on, in a blog out on WordPress – sharing her thoughts and getting some therapy herself from the effort.

She also loved her Detroit Lions, and was blessed to see her Lions defeat the Packers on her last weekend.  Her family has split opinions on that issue, but decided to give her that one….

Paula’s goal in life was to encourage and spread hope and love to others.  She will be deeply and sadly missed by her husband, her dear pets, her loving family, and many, many treasured friends who she helped and who helped her. The family wishes to extend thanks to the many caregivers along the journey who gave compassion and encouragement.  Paula saw the inside of several major medical facilities during her fight and found nowhere with the level of care as in the Copper Country.

She is survived by her husband Denny, mothers Ann Newman, Beth McKaig;  brothers William (Carrie) Newman, Gerard (Chris) Newman, Jim (Kari) Newman, Eric (Matt Kotowicz) Newman, John (Naomi) McKaig; sisters Sherry (Bob) Hansen, Valerie (Mike) Teddy, Nikki (Pete) Alger, Heather McKaig.

Paula was preceeded in death by her father, William Newman; father-in-law, John McKaig; sister, Ann Schafer; and her neice, Sarah Teddy.

Visitation is at the Erickson-Crowley funeral home in Calumet on Monday , October 15, 2018 at 2-5pm and 7-9 pm.  A celebration of Paula’s life will be held at Grace United Methodist Church in Houghton on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 11am.  A luncheon will follow in the church hall.

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy donations may be directed to The Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly.

Online condolences for the family may be left at www.ericksoncrowleypeterson.com

The Erickson Crowley Peterson Funeral Home in Calumet is assisting the family.

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