Dr. Maja Fontichiaro, Mother of 2 Children, Followed Her Passion for Animal Care

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Dr. Maja Kay Fontichiaro (née Holkeboer) was beautiful on the inside and out. Quiet and disarming on the outside, she was also fiercely confident under the surface.

Born February 17, 1975, Dr. Fontichiaro grew up in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, MI where she attended Pattengill Elementary and Tappan Middle School. She spent one semester of high school in Argentina as an exchange student and graduated from Community High School in 1993. Before graduating Magna Cum Laude from the Journalism Institute at New York University, she interned on NBC’s Today Show, and later worked on the editorial staff for Martha Stewart Living and Boston Magazine.

After returning to Ann Arbor, she worked at Beyond Interactive, then followed her passion for animal care, working at Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital and attending Eastern Michigan University for her veterinary school prerequisites. Maja received her DVM, and numerous academic achievement awards at Michigan State University in 2006. She practiced at Heritage Animal Hospital in Dundee, MI, and was the Medical Director for Affordable Veterinary Services in Ann Arbor. Throughout her career, Maja found homes for an ever-expanding number of stray pets among her family members, always attending to their medical care afterwards.

She married Rob Fontichiaro in Vermont on December 20, 2004, and shortly thereafter moved to their home in Saline. There they raised their two children, in addition to the many cats, dogs, chickens and goats that brought her joy. Scientific and curious, she loved word puzzles, reading a good book, and playing Scrabble with her mother, who was her best friend. A lifelong vegetarian who loved nature, she grew her own produce, and enjoyed nothing more than a nature hike with her family in Northern Michigan or near the family cottage on Houghton Lake to look for ducks and to identify trees and wild plants. An early riser all her life, she enjoyed a morning cup of tea alongside the family cat, Mimi, and baked annual holiday fruitcakes for her appreciative family members. Unflappable and independent, she was also kind, supportive and caring, accepting people for who they are. She was unfailingly punctual, always patient, an active volunteer in her children's schools, a wonderful writer, and a reliable and dependable friend. Most of all, she loved being a mother to her two children, Aurora (9) and Lucas (6).

Throughout her 18 month-long, courageous battle with cancer, Maja applied her scientific training to collaborating with her oncologists and doctors, helping her to communicate the potential risks and rewards of various medical treatments to her family. On June 16, 2021, she chose to end life-prolonging treatment, and died peacefully the next day at age 46 with her family at her side. On her last day of life, she spent four hours in her hospital room with her loving husband and children. The family would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff with University of Michigan Oncology, Critical Care, Hospice, and Patient and Family Services.

Dr. Fontichiaro donated her body to the University of Michigan Anatomical Donations Program for the purpose of ongoing education and research. A private service will be held to celebrate her life, along with her Great-Aunt, Edith Louise Pemberton, and Grandmother, Dorothy Strand, to whom she was especially close. She is survived by her husband, Rob; their children, Aurora and Lucas; father, Robert Holkeboer; mother Katie Strand-Evans and stepfather, Gary Evans; brother, John Holkeboer, and step-brother and step-sister, Gary James Evans and Aimee Behrmann, in addition to many adoring aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws.

Life is a gift that we all give back some day. When someone dies young, we can’t help lamenting the life they would have lived and the goals they would have met. Though Maja wanted to do more in her life, she was ready to go with dignity and grace when her time came. May we remember that we still have a chance to live our lives the way she would want us to.

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