In all ways, Debra DeGroff loved and was dedicated to those she held dear. Never compromising her love, family came first in Debra’s world, and there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for them. With her quick wit and the ability to come up with some great one-liners, Debra was a delight to all who enjoyed her fun-loving company. For these things and so much more, the heart of Debra DeGroff lives on in the many lives she touched.
While the ’54 Chevy was the shape of things to come, the year 1954 welcomed a thriving economy. With manufacturing, housing and consumer goods at an all time high, business was booming in the United States. Elvis began his musical career, and the TV show, “Father Knows Best” portrayed what every American family longed to be. In the Wisconsin city of Madison, the cold winter gave way to Christmas time anticipation, especially in the lives of Everett L. and Dorothy (Meyer) DeGroff when on December 19, 1954 they welcomed the birth of their little girl, Debra Jean.
The youngest of five children, Debra was also welcomed by four older siblings, Everett W., Noreane, Ted, and Janis. The DeGroff family made their home at 4221 School Road in Madison where memorable times were shared. Since Debra was quite a bit younger than her oldest siblings, she was closer in age to some of her nieces and nephews, and grew close to them.
When Debra was five years old, her family suffered a tragic loss when her mother died in 1960. It was especially difficult for Debra, and hard for her to understand at such a tender age. Left with five children to raise, her father later remarried. With a new stepmother and stepsister, Betty and her daughter, Shelley became a vital part of Debra’s life and family.
Debra attended a local parochial school during her early educational years before graduating from Madison East High School. A friend to many, she was well liked with her easy going nature. With her education behind her, Debra began working at Gimbels Department Store in the shoe department. While working there, Debra met a young man, Michael Slutzky, a co-worker in the shoe department. With mutual attraction, they developed a dating relationship and a romance began.
On July 30, 1973, Debra and Michael began their new life together as husband and wife. They decided to wait before starting their family, and moved from Madison to Thiensville, Wisconsin where they were blessed with the birth of their first child, their son, Jason. Born at 4:17 PM on July 30, 1978, it was five years almost to the minute of when they were married. Their family was complete with the birth of their daughter, Laura on May 20, 1982. In 1988, Debra and Michael moved their family to Mequon, Wisconsin. Although their marriage came to an end in 2001, Debra was always grateful for the children shared from her union with Michael.
Debra worked for about nine years for Humana Insurance as an underwriter assistant. Throughout these years, she was a wonderful mother to Jason and Laura who meant everything to her. Very supportive, she was a constant in their lives and was always there for them. Unconditional in her love, she was their greatest fan and was sure to attend their many activities. Always the first one in the stands for their hockey games, Debra developed a great love for the game of hockey. As a family, Debra and her kids enjoyed trips to Door County, Wisconsin where they took in all the area had to offer. She was also a fantastic cook and made sure to always include the kid’s favorites when meal planning. Being a mom was the most important and cherished status of Debra’s life. It was indeed her greatest accomplishment, but it sure rivaled becoming a grandma!
Debra’s greatest joy included the grandchildren she came to love with her entire heart. She also became the “unofficial daycare provider” three days a week for her granddaughter, Alexandra. In Debra’s eyes, Alexandra was always, “My Little Peanut.” She was amazed at how much Alexandra was her daughter Laura’s “mini” – the spitting image of her mommy.
Betty Boop memorabilia and Legos were just a few of Debra’s favorite things. She also loved a good movie. Always an avid hockey fan, she especially loved the Milwaukee Admirals. From 1988 to 2004, Debra was even a season ticket holder and a few times traveled to watch them play in Chicago. Hockey played an important role in Debra’s life in more ways than one.
In 2004, while attending a Milwaukee Admirals versus Chicago Wolves game on Chicago’s home ice, Debra met Marty Arteaga, a tried and true Chicago Wolves fan. Their love for hockey brought them together, and their love for one another quickly developed and flourished. Marty moved to Mequon to be with Debra, and they became engaged in 2008. The love of her life, she and Marty looked forward to the many dreams they planned for the future.
Half the delight in planning for the future is in the planning. Through these times, she and Marty shared much. Debra also had hopes of continuing to be an integral part of the lives of those she cherished most . . . yet it was not to be. Quite sudden and unexpected, Debra Jean DeGroff, at the age of 59, left her earthly life for a new, yet unplanned journey on Tuesday, February 4, 2014. Full of life and full of love, she leaves behind endless memories of a mother’s love, and the tenderness of a grandmother’s touch. To those with whom she loved and adored, Debra will be deeply missed, but her love remains forevermore.
Debra is survived by her fiancé, Marty Arteaga; the cherished mother of Jason (Phylane) Slutzky and Laura (Matthew) Littlejohn; loving grandmother to Sawyer Slutzky and Alexandra Littlejohn; dear sister of the late Everett W. (the late Peggy) DeGroff, Noreane (Dean) Ziegel, Ted (Pam) DeGroff and Janis (Robert Sr.) Perry; stepsister of Shelley (Terry) Giese. She was preceded in death by her parents, Everett L. and Dorothy DeGroff; stepmother Betty DeGroff and by her grandson, Baby Boy Slutzky; further survived by other relatives and friends. Visitation Sunday, February 9 at the funeral home from 1–3 PM. Graveside Service 11:30 AM Monday, February 10 at Roselawn Memorial Park, 401 Femrite Drive Monona, WI 53716. Suminski Life Story Funeral Homes-Suminski/Weiss, 1901 N. Farwell Ave (414) 276-5122. www.SuminskiFuneralHome.com .
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