Patricia Ann Rizzolo – better known as Roro, Mom, Mrs. Rizzolo, AP, or Pat – passed away on June 22, 2023, after a short illness. She was 90 years old.
Pat was born March 18, 1933, the blue-eyed, red-headed firstborn—and only daughter —of Harriet and Ralph Matthews. She grew up near Battle Creek, where she was known for her field hockey and horseback riding skills, and despite her small stature, for always standing up for her four younger brothers.
From 1951-1955 she attended Western Michigan University, where she graduated with a BA in elementary education. At Western she met Louis Rizzolo, who she married in 1956. Over the next decade Pat and Lou had three children: Connie, Matt, and Marc.
The family started out in Petoskey, but in 1964 they moved to the Kalamazoo area, living first in Parchment and then Cooper Township. In 1966 Pat began teaching developmental kindergarten and kindergarten in the Parchment public school system, a position she proudly held for the next 30 years.
Teaching was more than a job to her; it was a calling. She was an engaged and dynamic educator, with an innate sense of wonder that drove her. She understood how children think, what they’re interested in, how they learn. To be in her classroom was a joy, filled with music, field trips, dancing, stories, and adventures into what the world holds.
Truly, besides her family, her students were the delight of her life. And Mrs. Rizzolo was everyone’s favorite kindergarten teacher. When out and about in Kalamazoo, former students, sometimes grown and with children of their own, would often stop Pat to tell her how much she’d meant to them, and how what she taught them—how to learn, how to approach the world, how to think—had shaped the rest of their lives.
It wasn’t just students who appreciated her talent. Pat was repeatedly recognized as an outstanding teacher, someone pushing the conversation forward in early childhood education. She was named Parchment School District’s Teacher of the Year, and was instrumental in creating the Young Fives program, understanding the need for a different approach to meet the needs of the district’s youngest students. She also served as a supervising teacher for WMU’s student teacher program for many years, happily sharing her knowledge with dozens and dozens of new teachers.
Mid-career, Pat returned to Western, where she earned her master’s degree in education with a concentration in early childhood, all while working full time and raising three children of her own. After she retired from teaching, she remained active in the community as a dedicated participant in the Kalamazoo County Association of Retired School Personnel, where she worked to increase enrollment and welcome new members.
Pat was never one to let anything stop her. In her 50s, she decided to pick up tap- dancing, something she’d always wanted to do. There was one problem: it was too painful to put her feet into the stiff tap shoes. She figured out a solution: she had taps added to her sneakers and would happily click down the hallway on her way to class.
After her divorce, Pat found love and companionship with Robert Hollin, until his death. She was active in her church, and loved gardening, knitting, watching the birds and chipmunks outside her window, volunteering on Election Day, spending time with her good friends, going to Lake Michigan beaches, and visiting the area’s many nature preserves, parks, and zoos.
She loved being with her family, from holiday get-togethers to Saturday mornings spent eating pancakes and watching car shows, to attending the Parchment High School parade, especially proud to see her grandkids perform as they marched past. She was the official treat-giver to all family pets, and the official Roro at as many soccer games, track meets, band recitals and birthday parties as she could attend.
With a twinkle in her eye, she was always up for an adventure, from chasing her grandchildren around on tricycles to fulfilling her dream of visiting England and Ireland. Pat made friends wherever she went. She was known for her spunk, her quickness to laugh with you or at herself, for underlining words in greeting cards, her love of Christmas ornaments, her collection of battery-powered talking santas (which always delighted her grandchildren, much to their parents’ chagrin), and for her many, many, many snapshots of the sky—taken while accidentally tumbling down a hill when she was trying to take a photo of something else.
She was immensely proud of her kids and grandkids—her only disappointment was that none of them had red hair—and was always happy to sing a song or read a story and sneak an extra cookie under the table when no one was looking.
There aren’t enough words to describe her, but in short, Pat – or maybe you knew her as Roro, Mom, Mrs. Rizzolo, or AP – was an amazing woman. Her absence will leave a huge hole in all of us, everyone who knew and loved her. We will miss her immensely, but we are lucky for the legacy she left us: of an unflappable spirit, a zest for life, to always believe in ourselves, and most importantly, of love.
Pat is preceded in death by her parents and four brothers, William, Robert, Waldo, and Charles. She is survived by her three children, Connie Rizzolo (David) Brown, Matt (Karen) Rizzolo, and Marc (Joan) Rizzolo; as well as five grandchildren, Marisa (Alexis) Brown, Jason (Bridget) Brown, Skylar Rizzolo, Lucas (Delaney) Rizzolo and Dante Rizzolo; two great-grandchildren, Vincent, and Francis Brown; sisters-in-law; and many, many nieces, nephews, and close friends.
A visitation will be held Thursday, June 29, 2023, from 11am to 1pm at Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial & Cremation Services, 3926 S. 9th St, Kalamazoo MI 49009. Private graveside services will be held in Battle Creek Memorial Gardens. Additionally, a memorial and celebration of Pat’s life will be held Saturday, September 23, 2023, from 1pm to 4pm, at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum, 6151 Portage Rd, Portage MI 49002. Please join us there for food and tribute. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can be made to Homes For Our Troops, Huntington’s Disease Society of America, or Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries. To view Patricia’s personalized web page, please visit https://www.langelands.com