Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes

1730 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI


Ladona Lee Zack

February 5, 1933March 24, 2020

Ladona Lee Zack - Deceased March 24, 2020

An angel was delivered and baptized on February 5th 1933, born to Florence Elizabeth Chynard and Leo Lyons of Chicago, a lifelong Catholic, devoted to her faith and family. During WWII Ladona Lee Lyons accompanied her widowed Mother to Baltimore where she had taken a job at the Social Security Administration. Together they traveled to Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Miami Beach Fountainbleau Hotel. Taking the name Ladona O’Neill when her Mother remarried, she returned to Chicago to attend Sacred Heart High School. Ladona graduated with honors from College of St. Francis in Joliet, where typing was purposely NOT taught, and discouraged almost as much as marrying a divorced man. Before embarking on a career in Social Work at Catholic Charities through which she visited families in slums, tenements & projects, taking great personal reward in delivering babies to their adoptive parents, Ladona got a temp-job typing orders at Merchandise Mart; on the first day they said “You don’t have to return after lunch”, her hunt & peck technique and transposed numbers squashing that career path.

Living as a single career woman on Lake Shore Drive, in 1958 Ladona married Leonard Joseph Zack, a dashing Steel Salesman from the South Side with a convertible and an expense account. Together they enjoyed the fine restaurants & clubs in Chicago in the 50s & 60s, including Trader Vic’s and Playboy Club. Cherished memories include: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sitting at the next table when he was in town to lead a Civil Rights March, waving to Queen Elizabeth passing by in an open car, in town on the Royal Yacht Britannia for the celebration of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, dances at the Conrad Hilton and Congress Hotel, and horseback riding at South Shore Country Club.

Being an only child, Ladona always wanted a large family. The arrival of the first of 7 children led (as it always does) to a more prosaic future. Len’s job took them to Michigan, they moved to their East Lansing home in 1968 during a February snow storm, delivering their 5th child the next day. Ladona is survived by her husband & children (Margaret Susan, Mary Elizabeth, Michael Joseph, James Christopher, David John, Thomas Richard, Kathleen Clare), their spouses (Mike Madden, Bill Mahoney, Odilon Vasconcelos, Anneliesse Ayala Zack , Michelle Zack, Ben Fort), her grandchildren (Michael, Acacia, Miranda, Delaney, Francesca, Asyia, Mia, John, Ali, Kai), lifelong friend Agnes Hilty, close neighbor-friends Rosie Baker, Margaretta Freburg, Mary & David Blinn, among many others who knew and love her.

Before giving up driving (when Schmidt’s closed), Ladona would drive to East Lansing Public library and grab a stack of books (mostly biography) which she would plow-through laying in the back-yard sun. While the neighborhood kids run amok around the neighborhood, she unwittingly became a role-model for kids who would grow-up to become prolific backyard readers themselves.

Following the lead of loyal friend Betty Blinn, Ladona became a Reading Tutor with Michigan Dyslexia Institute, and for years improved the lives and prospects of many children, and many working adults who had survived until then without being able to read but who were determined to achieve this skill which opens so many horizons in life. She took great pleasure in reading to, and helping her grandchildren with their schoolwork.

All who know Ladona have experience her un-bridled kindness, encouragement, love & cheer. It was impossible to get her to say a negative word about anyone, try as one might.

Ladona’s only comment concerning gifts was, “Don’t give me anything I have to dust”. But any gift, any kindness, any holiday or life event would elicit a note containing congratulations, thanks, encouragement, sympathy, love, or just something she clipped from a magazine or The Lansing State Journal which might interest you. Note cards went into the mailbox daily. Note cards from the Metropolitan Museum became the go-to gift for Mom, so friends & family became spoiled receiving the finest art, through the mail. She stressed to her children the importance of a written thank you note. In her possessions was found a note from Ethel Kennedy dated Aug 7, 1967: “Dear Mrs. Zack, Many happy thanks for your warm good wishes. I am sure you understand the ten reasons that have prevented me from acknowledging your letter before this. Both my husband and I were grateful for your generous thoughts. Thank you for sharing them with us. With warm wishes to you and your family from Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy” Ladona will be missed by all she touched, yet her Spirit remains with us. This is a great comfort. Support for Michigan Dyslexia Institute (www.dyslexia.net), and Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell New Mexico (poorclares-roswell.org) is greatly appreciated and honored tribute to Ladona’s lifelong devotions.


  • Memorial at a Later Date


Ladona Lee Zack

have a memory or condolence to add?

John Dood

April 3, 2020

A life truly well lived. My condolences to Len and their children.