By David Fleet
Laone Trese’s life was full.
A family of 17 children, a loving wife for 50 years topped off with a laundry list of visible roles in the community.
At 4 p.m., July 27, a plaque honoring Laone who passed away March 28, 2002 will be dedicated at Crossman Park-Kindness Rock Garden in the Village of Ortonville. The community is welcome to attend.
Leone’s husband, Tom Trese now 91, recalls a conversation Laone had with a college classmate during a psychology class she was enrolled in prior to the couples’ marriage in 1952.
“They asked Laone, ‘what do you see for your future?’” Tom said. “She told them she wanted 16 children. That’s way before we had any kids. So, before we were married she made sure I wanted to have a really big family. So I told her, ‘yeah I love kids.’”
The couple had their first child in 1953 and had ten children while living in Toledo, Ohio before they moved to Brandon Township in 1965. The six bedroom, 3,000 square feet home on two acres was located about eight miles from Brandon High School.
“The most money I made was just a school teachers salary,” recalled Tom, who worked as a social worker in the Royal Oak School District. “We accepted and welcomed all our children with open arms. The Lord was saying to us ‘here is one of my most cherished treasures, take care of it,’ and we did.”
Laone could have quit having children at anytime, added Tom.
“At 16 (children) we thought we were done—that was 20 years of having children,” he said. “For five years she did not get pregnant. So, one day she was working in her garden and was complaining she was starting to put on weight. She was also feeling woozy and dizzy in the morning. So, I took her to the doctor. The doctor examined her and point toward her stomach and said, ‘the problem’s down here.’ She said, ‘no it’s up here I get woozy and tired when I get up in the morning.’ He said, ‘no it’s down here you’re five months pregnant.’”
The last child was born on Oct. 10, 1978.
The eight boys and nine girls attended Brandon Schools for 30 years. Today the Trese children have 20 bachelor degrees, eight masters and three with doctorates including an attorney, veterinarian and college professor. At one point 12 were in collage at one time and in 1985, five were attending the University of Michigan.
“The kids were all great students, it was not a lot of chaos (at home),” he said. “At one point we had 16 at home all at once. We used the den as a bedroom too. I thought it was fun—we had a really good attitude and we appreciated every new one, it was not a burden. Laone wanted a big family—she came from a family of 11 children and was the oldest. I had too small of income for that family but we made it work.”
Laone encouraged Tom to start a family business to help fund the household needs. They purchased a small lawn mowing business to run during the summer months when Tom was home.
“She and I mowed lawns in the summer for many years,” she said.
There was an expectation of a lot of noise and activity in the household, he laughed.
“Our ears were tuned to problems,” he laughed. “If someone is crying or someone is fighting or someone is mad. But normally they interacted and did activities together.”
Tom divided the children into an A team and B team.
“I figured, if you asked a kid to do a job, they’re going to resist,” he said. “But if they are part of team they are not going to goof off and the team would suffer.”
For example, one team would set the table and cook. Then a second team would clean up, did dishes.
“If you did not do your job, you’re going to do it the next day,” he said. “We started them at preschool age.”
Trying to feed 19 people three time a day was expensive.
Laone was very good about that, she wanted healthy food. Her emphasis on a natural approach vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
“Our oldest son would make eight loafs of bread several time per week,” he said. “We had table that was four feet by 10 feet. We sat on benches along the table.”
The kids were active in 4-H, raising pigs and goats and providing an alternative source of meat for their diet.
The whole family would go to church at one time.
“We would, three in the front with the baby on her lap. In the back seat, little kids on their lap, and even smaller kids on their lap,” he laughed. “We could only afford one car. You squeeze them in.”
There was no TV when the kids came home from school, they did their homework then chores. Their home was full of the children’s trophies and school awards for cross country and track. About a third of children played in the band which included a flute, a clarinet, a trumpet, drums and a French horn.
“After the kids were in school, she started volunteering,” he said. “What ever Laone valued she did something about. She valued children, so youth assistance was where she was at. She was always so positive.”
Laone shared her parenting skills with others by serving as chairperson of the Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance, where she as active for three decades. She was involved in family education programs in both Brandon and Clarkston. Laone was a Brandon Library Board member, Optimist Club member, Master Gardener, parenting mentor for Oakland Family Services and Headstart. She was also named Citizen of the Year 2001 by The Citizen newspaper.
She was the loving wife of Tom for 50 years and mother of Lynette Trese, Tamara (Robert) Stockwell of Attica, Arthur (Terri) of Ohio, Gregory (Antoinette) of California, Noelle (Thomas) Trese of Kalamazoo, Philip (Judy deceased) of Lathrup Village, Brennan (Carolyn) of Farmington Hills, Todd (Linda) of Saline, Joseph (Tiffany) of Colorado, Charles (Kimberly) of Virgina, Dolores Trese (Dan) Bonner of Muskegon, Marguerite “Peggy” (Paul) Dacus of Clarkson, Angela (Dave) Ripka of Dexter, Colleen Trese of Idaho, Christianne (Guy) Benner of Lathrup Village, Shane (Eden) of Troy and Shereen (Johnathon) Martus dec of Oxford. There are now 34 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.