Denise Maki was an influencer and a cheerleader.
“She was a cheerleader for our success,” said granddaughter Mattie Weber.
She loved planning parties and Boy Scout outings, had careers in finance and flowers and volunteered for community organizations.
“Denise was a sincere, kind and warmhearted person, who was always happy to help others,” said Beth Dillon, volunteer coordinator for Hospice Alliance.
Denise was known to be clever, witty and outspoken, said her daughter, Renee Maki. “You never had to ask her her opinion,” Renee said.
She was also ecumenical. Her roots were in Judaism, but she attended churches at different times in her life. “She loved learning about different religions,” Mattie said.
“She made the best Hanukkah brisket and St. Paddy’s Day corned beef,” Renee said.
Denise Rachel Maki, 75, of Kenosha, died peacefully at her home Dec. 26, 2019. She is survived by her daughter, Renee Maki; granddaughters, Mattie Weber and Lindsay Weber; four other grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and two brothers, Bill (Carol) Casfalk and Bill (Mary Lou) Melzer.
Denise was born in Chicago, Ill., Feb. 10, 1944, and was adopted as an infant by Rueben and Sarah Aronson. She was raised as an only child, but later made contact with her birth mother and some of her biological siblings.
After attending high school and studying business in Chicago, she married Bill Maki on June 22, 1963.
They lived for several years in the Chicago area where Bill worked in heating and air conditioning.
While her children were young, Denise was a stay-at-home mom and worked for a while in a hospital emergency department.
In 1982, Denise and Bill moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where they owned and operated a florist shop. Denise enjoyed being creative with flowers and attending large floral conventions throughout the Southwest, Renee said.
She also began decorating her home in Southwest motif with collections of Hopi kachina dolls and kokopelli figures.
Returning to Illlinois in 1986, the Makis settled in Highland Park, Ill. For the next 21 years, Denise worked in finance for the Boy Scouts of America, Northeast Illinois Council, headquartered in Highland Park. She was also a scout troop leader.
Bill also volunteered with the Boy Scouts, sometimes at the same scouting events and jamborees as Denise.
Asked why she didn’t work with Girl Scouts, Renee says her mother replied, “Too much drama.”
Denise’s involvement with scouting often brought into play her skills in event organization and cooking, said her family.
“She loved throwing and going to parties,” Renee said.
She and Bill liked to dress up for Halloween and hosted many a Halloween bash, recalls Renee.
Denise loved cooking and teaching her family the art of the latke, matzo ball soup and her very special brownies.
“Cooking for friends was how she repaid them for gifts or kindness,” Mattie said.
Move to Kenosha County, retirement
In 2002, Denise and Bill moved to Pleasant Prairie where they lived with Renee and her daughters.
Bill died in 2007, and a couple of years later Denise and Renee purchased a home in Kenosha’s Strawberry Creek subdivision.
That same year Denise retired from her work with the Boy Scouts in Highland Park. She continued her connection to scouting by volunteering for Boy Scout activities and events in southeast Wisconsin.
“She liked going to camps and doing the food,” Mattie said.
Retirement also found Denise as “Bowling Nonnie” — the grandma who supported and cheered granddaughters Mattie and Lindsay as they participated on bowling leagues.
“She fed us to keep our energy up and took us aside to talk us down if we got into an attitude,” Mattie said.
Denise also dug into volunteering for Hospice Alliance and the Senior Action Council. For the latter, she sometimes enlisted the aid of her granddaughters.
“Mom was a ‘take over’ kind of gal,” Renee said.
Denise was president of the Senior Action Council for two years. “She worked hard, and we appreciated everything she did for us,” said Sonja McClure, current Senior Action Council president.
Sonja recalls Denise hosting “a big huge Christmas party at her house” for SAC board members. “She made these flippin’ fantastic chicken enchiladas. They were so, so delicious!” exclaimed Sonja.
Faith was important
Belonging to a faith community was always important to Denise.
For most of her life, Denise attended temple and observed practices of the Jewish faith.
In Kenosha, she helped out with Sunday School and Hebrew School at Beth Hillel Temple and supported the confirmation of Mattie and Renee.
In 2013, Denise began attending Spirit Alive, a Lutheran church.
Denise was at home in each of her chosen religions, said family. “She liked their spiritual and community aspects,” Mattie said.
Denise began volunteering for Hospice Alliance in 2011, helping with administrative, marketing and even gardening tasks. She also delivered birthday cards and balloons to hospice patients.
“In Denise’s own words,” Beth said, “the volunteering that was most rewarding to her was sitting beside patients in their final hours.”
Editor’s note: Each Monday, the Kenosha News takes a look at the life of a Kenosha County resident who has recently died. We share with you, through the memories of family and friends, a life remembered.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.