Lara Plewka ’98 MacGregor
Louisville – It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness we share the passing of Lara MacGregor, 45, of Louisville Kentucky. She was and will continue to be an inspiration to all who knew and loved her. She touched the lives of many with her passion, caring, determination and courage during her too brief time on earth.
Lara was born and grew up in Whitehall, Michigan. She graduated from Whitehall High School and went on to attend Hope College, graduating in 1998. Lara was employed at a number of nonprofit organizations: Hope College, United Way of Grand Haven, McWane Science Center in Birmingham, AL and in 2012 founded Hope Scarves. Since its beginning Hope Scarves has sent over 20,000 scarves to people facing cancer in every state and 29 countries around the world. In 2014 when Lara was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer the focus of Hope Scarves broadened to include support for metastatic breast cancer research. During the years since over $1.5 million has been raised to benefit research.
Her incredible efforts were recognized many times throughout her life, most recently as 2021 Hope College Distinguished Alumni and the selection as 2021 L’Oreal Woman of Worth for her enduring philanthropic work.
Lara met the love of her life, Jason MacGregor, in 1998. After he proposed to her on Beaver Island, by writing the question “Will You Marry Me?” in the sand on the beach, they were married in July of 2000. Their wedding day started with torrential rain but just as Lara brought sunshine to so many circumstances, as the ceremony concluded the clouds disappeared and the sun shone brightly at the moment their life together began. Lara and Jay have two children, Wills 16 and Bennett 13.
Watching her boys compete was a favorite pastime. Whether they were kicking a soccer ball for a goal or sinking a game winning basket, being there brought her ultimate joy. She was their ever proud and unabashedly boisterous cheerleader.
She loved fiercely, lived life with enduring hope and challenged everyone around her to be a better person. Being happy and creating happiness was an essential part of Lara. Her glowing smile was contagious. She often questioned family and friends, “Is what you’re doing filling your bucket?” Her passion for life, her quest to capture every moment, her love for adventure led her family on an endearing quest to experience life. Whether diving into the waves or sailing through the waters of Lake Michigan, flying in a helicopter through the Grand Canyon, snorkeling in the Bahamas, hiking the mountains and white water rafting in Montana, swimming on a remote Kauai beach or completing a marathon/triathlon with Jay (most don’t know their first date was a run, Lara’s request). A moment was never wasted. She was an expert at finding a way to extend a vacation “just one more day.” Her unapologetic response, “Why not?” she would say, with a smile and shrug of her shoulders.
Lara nurtured friendships just as a master gardener nurtures flowers in a garden. With her unique expressions of care, kindness and love, and in each new location, Lara grew her circle of friends. Friendships that have long endured the tests of time and distance. The scores of fortunate people who she called friend indeed feel truly blessed.
Everyone felt Lara’s raw honesty, perspective and were inspired by her words whether through her A Hopeful Life podcasts, Instagram updates or sitting with friends telling stories. She always wanted meaningful conversations and connections with others. It was a gift she had, and we all are better for the words she shared.
Light, color and texture were her palette when she decorated a home or chose a dress and jewelry. This gift was extended to her photography. She had the distinctive talent of being able to capture the very essence of the moment in so many of her literally thousands of photographs. Pictures of her family, friends, vacation memories but perhaps especially of the glowing sunsets on her favorite Lake Michigan beach.
While Lara was contented being curled up in a comfortable chair reading a favorite book she was most happy being on the move. Daily runs, yoga, swimming and hiking all brought her delight. And we can’t forget her love of dancing. Whether at a formal fundraising event, heel and toeing to a country western song at a backwoods bar in the UP or spontaneously joining in with the street dancers at a Bahamas Junkaroo festival, music and movement were in her DNA.
Lara was comfortable wherever she lived but Michigan was always her home. Her True North. Swimming and sailing in the crystal blue waters of Lake Michigan, fly fishing for trout in a fast-flowing stream, hiking trails through the towering forests all brought her joy especially when accompanied with her boys and Jay. She reveled in reliving those fond moments in stories she shared with friends and family perhaps seated at a campfire or, with a glass of wine in hand, around a dinner table.
To fondly cherish her memory, Lara leaves her loving husband Jay, sons Wills and Bennett, parents Art and Sue Plewka, brother Eric ’04 and sister-in-law Lindsay Plewka, her father and mother-in-law Rick and Chris Kent, her brother and sister-in-law Erin and Amy MacGregor and nieces Lea, Ryan and Naomi, nephew Jack as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins who are inspired by her daily.
There will be a private memorial to celebrate Lara’s beautiful life on Friday, 1/28 at 4pm EST. The Celebration of Life will be livestreamed for those interested: facebook.com/myhopefullife.
The family would ask that any donations be provided to Hope Scarves continuing Lara’s legacy.