Nature 28

Rachel (Marzan) Inselberg

January 2, 1934 ~ April 25, 2021 (age 87)


Rachel Inselberg passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her family on April 25, 2021. She was born on January 2, 1934 in Manilla, Philippines, the daughter of Rosalia Medrano and Melecio Marzan. Her full given name was Raquel Narcissa Trinidad Marzan y Medrano. She was the third of four children. Her family also raised their first cousin when he was orphaned at a young age.

Her father was from a village in the Philippines. He joined the U.S. Navy and subsequently studied in Indiana earning a double degree in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering before meeting Rachel's mom. He came back to the Philippines to assist in electrifying Manila. He passed away after falling from a 25-foot ladder while conducting an inspection when Rachel was only 5. Her mom was quite resourceful, using the life insurance money to build housing to rent for income. She later remarried before the start of WWII.

During the war, the Japanese were in control of Manilla, the family became quite poor. She spoke of watching dog fights in the sky between the American's and Japanese. They were forced to bow to the Japanese in the streets and during the worst part of the war, take rations for food so they would not starve to death.

Before, during and after the war, education was always highly valued in the family. By the time she was in fourth grade she spoke Spanish, two dialects spoken in the Philippines, English and Japanese. She learned Hebrew later in life. Not surprising to her family and friends she was quite bored in school until around high school. Even though her family could not afford it, they found a way to send her to a private high school where she began to flourish. She finished her first year at the top of the honor roll. After high school, she attended the Philippine Women's University and graduated at the age of 20. She then received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States. She further received a Fellowship from the University of Illinois which covered all of her other expenses. It is there that she met her soul mate, Edgar Inselberg who had survived WWII and the Holocaust coming halfway around the world from Athens Greece to obtain his Master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois. They met at a graduate student mixer soon after she arrived and were married at the Hillel on campus the following August. They were married 61 years before he passed away in May of 2018.

Rachel received her Master's from the University of Illinois and her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University in Child Development and Early Childhood Education. She and her beloved, Ed settled in Michigan in the mid 1960's as professors in their respective fields at Western Michigan University. They bought their first and only home in Kalamazoo in 1970 where they lived until they both passed. They shared a joint passion for travel, dancing, education, lifelong learning, Jewish life, philanthropy, and the arts. During retirement Rachel was a devoted member of the Congregation of Moses synagogue and a docent at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art. She also loved spending time with her grandsons, Alex and Jason and her daughter Louise in Milwaukee when her grandsons were both very young and Louise's husband, Jon was traveling for work and Edgar had not yet retired. Later when Ed was also retired, they loved hosting their family in Kalamazoo or traveling to Milwaukee to all be together. She was loved and adored as 'Granny' and took great pride in being part of their lives.

Rachel was reunited with her dear Edgar just shy of three years since his passing. She visited the cemetery daily leaving stones (in keeping with the Jewish tradition) that she and her companions painted along with countless flowers.

Surviving is her daughter: Louise (Inselberg) Jesse; devoted son-in-law: Jon Jesse; and two grandsons: Alex and Jason Jesse. The family is grateful to all of the devoted companions who made it possible for her and Ed to stay in the home they loved all the days of their lives. Especially Rachel's adopted grand-daughter Sara Olson who was Rachel's roommate and companion for the last almost three years. She also had a special bond with her beloved Mary Lou, who brought her great joy with all of their well thought out activities and adventures. In addition, the family thanks all of her dear friends and neighbors who continued to visit her, check on her and take her out pre-Covid.

A private graveside service was held at Jewish Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Rabbi Harvey Spivak officiated. Memorial contributions in Rachel's name can be made to the Congregation of Moses or the Milwaukee Jewish Day School.

Please visit Rachel's webpage to sign her online guest book or to leave a condolence at


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