Michael C. Auten, 70, Vicksburg, passed away May 10. Michael was born on May 10, 1948, in Marion, Ind. the son of Charles and Marjorie (Glass) Auten. He served in the United States Army for two years. On April 19, 1975, he married Mary Dubbeld. Michael worked for General Motors for over 30 years. Michael is survived by his wife of 43 years, Mary; children Sherri Auten, of Vicksburg; Mike (Michelle) Auten, of Hastings; Candace Auten; grandchildren Nathan, Ashlynn, and Brooklynn. He is also survived by his sister, Mary Ellen (Ken) Griffin, of Georgia. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, Jeremiah Auten, and a sister, Dixie Wadsworth. Mr. Auten will be cremated. No services are planned at this time. Visit Michael’s page at Donations may go to the American Heart Association.

John Zane Betts, 78, Portage, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away May 16. He was born to Louis and Delores (Miller) Betts on July 3, 1939. In 1962, John began his 42-year career working for Kalamazoo Container. In time, the company was bought out by Green Bay Packaging Inc. which ignited his passion for the Green Bay Packers. It didn’t take long for John to become an over-the-top, crazy Packers fan. His love for the team led to his claiming a room in his home as the Packer Den. For a combined 22 years, John honorably gave his time and energy to both the Otsego and Mattawan Fire departments. Fishing was another passion. He even enjoyed winning some bass contests sponsored by DNR Sports. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Karen; children Christopher (Tracy) Betts, of Grand Rapids; Rick Betts, of Battle Creek; Brad (Jennifer) Betts, of Ann Arbor and Jason (Angie) Betts, of Plainwell; 13 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. He is also survived by siblings Tryell (Jim) Handy, of Ithaca and Dennis Betts, of Bath; Celia Anderson, of Bath and several nieces and nephews. John was preceded in death by his granddaughter, Taylor, and siblings Tom and Louis Betts. A memorial service was held on Tuesday, May 22 at the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg. Visit John’s page at Donations may go to Generous Hands and KVD Foundation.

Merl Ambrose Burk
, Vicksburg, passed away May 17. He was born on August 26, 1921 to Emory and Ellen (Fuller) Burk and lived a Christian life full of love and integrity. He was a WWII Army Veteran who obtained the rank of Sgt and served in the South Pacific. Merl entered the tool and die industry after leaving the Army and went to work for Severance Tool in Saginaw. He eventually went to work for Johnson Carbide where he became an owner of the company before retiring to Florida in 1983. For the past few years he has lived on the grounds of Indian Lake Nazarene camp and enjoyed riding around on his golf cart, visiting with family and friends, sitting by the campfires and gathering at the snack bar to socialize and talk about the “good ole days”. He had plenty of stories to tell. He was an avid golfer and fisherman and loved having his family around. He leaves behind two daughters, Karen M. Wells (James), Susan J. Bliss (Thomas) and one son, Patrick J. Burk (Suzanne), 10 grandchildren, and 20 great grandchildren. His wife Jean A. Burk predeceased him along with one grandchild and four great grandchildren. Burial with Military Honors was at Fort Custer. Donations may go to Indian Lake Nazarene Camp. Visit his page at

KC Burson, 68, Vicksburg, died May 7, at the Battle Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center-Hospice, after a courageous battle with lung cancer. KC, the son of Milton Terry and Doris Elaine (Williams) Burson, was born in Three Rivers on March 1, 1950. He was a 1968 graduate of Schoolcraft High School. He immediately enlisted in the US Marine Corps, where he served during the Vietnam War as a private first class and was the recipient of a Purple Heart. KC worked for over 20 years as a sewer and water hook-up operator for the Scott W. Taylor Company of Galesburg. He enjoyed fishing, watching football, especially the Detroit Lions; and was an avid fan of watching NASCAR to cheer on Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Surviving are his wife of 42-plus years, Nancy; his daughters, Stacy (Andy) Helmboldt of Battle Creek and Autumn (Tommy) Dean of Vicksburg; three precious granddaughters, Taylor Burson, Grace and Libby Helmboldt; step-children, Laurie (Tim) Leonard of Kalamazoo, Cheri Puryear of Paw Paw, and Bill Puryear of Kirksville, Mo.; just as precious step-grandchildren, Alisha Queen, T.J. and William Leonard and Steve, Raymond and Jenavee Puryear; three sisters, Peggy (Tom) Baldwin and Marlene Burson, both of Lawton, and Terry (Richard) Burgess of Vicksburg; sister-in-law Pat Burson of Schoolcraft and many nieces and nephews. KC was preceded in death by his parents; his step-mother, Betty Burson; a sister, Louise Rhoda; a brother, Bob Burson, and a step-brother, Mike Hess. Interment was at Fort Custer National Cemetery with the US Marine Corps Honor Guard and the Fort Custer Honor Guard bestowing full military honors. Donations may go to the Battle Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center-Hospice or West Michigan Cancer Center. Visit his page at

Doug Gillespie, was born July 22, 1952 to Patricia and Herald Gillespie in Three Rivers and died unexpectedly on March 31, 2018 in Denver, CO, his longtime home, surrounded by loved ones. He is survived by his mother Patricia Gillespie Doak, his current wife Sandy, his two beloved daughters, Leslie Brooke Gallegos(Jeremy) and Michelle Blair Provenzano (Tony), as well as five grandchildren and three stepchildren.  He was preceded in death by his father. Doug lived the first part of his life in Vicksburg, where he met and married Suzan Olvitt Gillespie. He also lived in Texas and Arizona. He made his life in Colorado since the 1980s. He followed his dad’s example and worked as a lineman and later as a self-employed contractor.

Kathleen Mary Hageman, Schoolcraft, died May 12. She and a twin brother were born on July 22, 1949 to Edwin and Patricia Hageman. They were premature and weighed about three pounds each. The brother only lived four days. Kathleen thrived in an incubator and when she reached a “safe” weight was allowed to come home. Because she was premature, mentally she did not develop as her brothers and sisters did. When it was time for her to attend school, the school told the parents reluctantly that they could not handle her. She was slow and had seizures, but was willing to learn. In her late twenties, she became a part of McKercher Workshop. They had work for their attendees and paid them for it. Kathleen loved it! Kathleen left this life peacefully at Rose Arbor hospice after about 10 days. Kathleen was preceded in death by her father, Edwin; brother, John and brother-in-law Chris Renberg. She is survived by her mother, Patricia, siblings Colleen (George) Schwartz, Susan (Roger) Smith, Jill (Matthew) Anderson, Edwin (Kim) Hageman, Nell Renberg, Cyril (Teri) Hageman, Susan Kay (Jim) Ryan and numerous nieces and nephews. Donations may go to Residential Opportunities Inc., where Kathleen was allowed to live as independently as possible for over 30 years, or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan which made her last days comfortable and peaceful. Visit her page at Arrangements handled by Avink Funeral Home Cremation Society.

Brennan Scott Hamilton, 18, Vicksburg, passed away suddenly on Sunday, May 27, due to injuries received in an automobile accident. Brennan was born in Kalamazoo on November 20, 1999, the son of Sara Bartosiewicz-Hamilton and the late Scott Hamilton. He recently graduated from Vicksburg High School, where he was in the school choir and was a member of the National Honor Society. Brennan had a great sense of humor. He enjoyed skiing, playing lacrosse, and was an avid music lover. He is survived by his mother, Sara Bartosiewicz-Hamilton; a sister, Payton Hamilton; grandparents, Gary and Phyllis Bartosiewicz and Michael and Lorraine Hamilton; great-grandmothers Verna Hamilton and Virginia Baynton; aunts and uncles, Jennifer (Ryan) Edlind, Lisa Bartosiewicz, Laura (Bryan) Boily, Jason (Melanie) Hamilton; cousins Liam, Tyler and Carter Edlind and Leslie and Alyssa Hamilton; and his best friend, Chase Young. He was preceded in death by his father, Scott Hamilton. Donations may go to the family to establish a scholarship in his name. Visit Brennan’s page at

Shirley Ann Hart, Vicksburg, passed away on May 26. She was born April 27, 1938 in Montcalm, WV, one of two children, and is survived by her elder brother, Lloyd Eller Jr. Shirley was preceded in death by her husband of 43 years, Claude Ray Hart Sr., as well as great grandchild Ray Michael. Shirley is survived by sons Claude Ray Hart Jr., Mark David Hart and Brian Kenneth Hart, as well as her grandchildren, Brandy, Mark Jr, Breanne, Miranda, Teddie, Travis and Brent; and great-grandchildren Ellawyn, Aurora, Rayley, Benjamin. Shirley and Claude were married November 19, 1955 in Bluefield, WV while Claude was in his final year of his Navy commitment and Shirley was in her final year at Bramwell High School. Shirley and the family moved to the Vicksburg area in 1966. While Shirley was a “stay at home mom,” she kept the family busy with the garden and various livestock as well as preparing the harvest. Shirley began doing ceramics in the 1970s and in short order had her own kilns, molds and ceramic shop. She started at H&R Block in 2009 where she worked as a tax preparer and eventually office manager. Shirley continued at H&R Block on a seasonal basis until 2014. She started at the local Sam’s club shortly after it opened and was soon running the payroll and working with the HR department. Donations may go to Kairos Dwelling. Visit Shirley’s page at

Thomas Hastings Sr., 86, Portage, passed away May 28, surrounded by his family. Tom was born on July 13, 1931, to Aloysius and Margaret Hastings. Tom’s family includes his children, Tom (Sharon) Hastings Jr. of Alabama, Maggie (Tim) Corbin of Tennessee, Ann (Tom) Hahn of Lowell, Mich.; grandchildren Molly and Hannah Blatt of South Carolina; a sister, Karen Hastings; a cousin, Bruce (Joan) McPherson; and a close friend, Dick (Jean) Schmitt. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 65 years, Dorothy Hastings, who passed away this February, and a son, Timothy, who died at birth. Tom ran the Root Beer Stand in Kalamazoo for many years. Tom had a great sense of humor and was a very good tennis player. A celebration of his life is being planned for this summer. Visit Tom’s page at

Mason William Heikes, 2, Vicksburg, passed away May 9. He was born on August 26, 2015 to William and Kristen Heikes. He filled the hearts of those around him with unending love. Known for his bright smile and sparkling eyes, one could sense Mason’s warm soul. His young heart was pure and full of wonder. He loved to sit and cuddle, and with his chocolate milk in hand, he’d even check the bottom of the cup to make sure it was made with enough chocolate, or he’d send it back for more! He is survived by his parents, a brother, Carter; maternal grandparents, Dawn (David) Hamberg, of Vicksburg; paternal grandparents Burt (Penney Melchoir) Heikes, of Vicksburg; Candi (Clarence) Ewert, of Kalamazoo; Noreen “Noni” Heikes, of Vicksburg; great-grandma Bonnie Childers, of Alabama; great-grandpa Kenneth Heikes, of Vicksburg; Rick and Esther Randall, of Parchment; Nancy Lowe, of Portage; Pat Ewert, of Kalamazoo. He is also survived by aunts and uncles Kayla (Mickey McManus) Hough, of Vicksburg; Chris Hamberg, of Vicksburg; Cassandra “Cassi” (Wyatt) Taylor, of Lawton; Elizabeth Heikes, of Vicksburg; Chris (Shannon) Ewert, of Hastings; cousins Lexi Hough, and one on the way; great-aunts and uncles Lisa (Leroy) Heikes, of Plainwell; Michelle (Jason) Hall, of Paw Paw; Staci Randall, of Arizona; Chuck (Amy) Childers, of Alabama; Richard (Tiffany) Childers, of Alabama; Sandy Plowman, of Alabama; Lynette (Jay) Dolen, of Kentucky. Mason was preceded in death by his great-grandma, Sue Heikes; great-grandpa, Peter Lowe; great-grandma, Judy Hiatt; great-grandpa, Charles Childers; great great-grandma, Reba Baker; and great-uncle, Steve Randall. Visit Mason’s page at Donations may go to a memorial fund being set up at the Kalamazoo County State Bank.

Emily Keenan, 21, passed away unexpectedly May 10. She was born on October 2, 1996 to Chris and Stephanie Keenan, the year after their business, Kalamazoo Kingdom, was started. Her father introduced her to a soccer ball before she could walk. She had a true talent and love for the game. Her father built a special bond through soccer as he had the privilege to coach her during her club season at Kingdom Soccer Club. She had the unique gift of being able to shoot with both feet and her Dad described her left-foot shots as “an absolute rocket”. As with everything in her life, she threw her whole self into every game, so much so that it wasn’t unusual for her to have an injury afterward. Once she was finished with high school, she became a Certified Nurse Assistant. She loved caring for her elders and creating joy, laughter and a social life where there was often a void before. She adored finding ways to create new memories for her patients and often considered them dear friends. A few years ago, her family moved to Indian Lake where they discovered a love for lake life and a new lease on Keenan family life. Emily absolutely loved being in nature and took every opportunity to spend time on the kayak and to go swimming or fishing. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Tuesday, May 15, at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Portage. Visit her page at Donations may go to Gryphon Place.

Robert “Bob” J. Klein, 91, Schoolcraft, passed away at Rose Arbor Hospice Residence May 8. Bob was born in Mendon on June 4, 1926, the son of the late John and Elizabeth (Higgens) Klein. He owned his barber shop in Kalamazoo for many years. After retirement, Bob and his wife, Patricia, moved to Schoolcraft where he returned to his passion for farming and woodworking. Bob and Pat made life-long friendships with their Schoolcraft neighbors. He was known for his dedicated work ethic, was a “jack of all trades” and could fix or jerry-rig anything. Bob’s family was always at the center of his life and he was proud of his children’s and grandchildren’s accomplishments. On February 18, 1950, he was united in marriage to the former Patricia A. Kirkendall, who preceded him in death on November 15, 2016 after 66 years of marriage. Bob was also preceded in death by two brothers and five sisters. He is survived by his children, Jim (Jennifer Roque) Klein, Pamela (Dr. Charles) Zeller, Kelley Hiemstra and Kathy Klein; grandchildren Joel (Jodi) Klein, Matthew Roque, Brendon (Rachel) Erickson, Erika (Dr. Daniel Krcelic) Steele-Krcelic, Jessica (Travis Hargrove) Hiemstra, Jennifer Hiemstra and Erik Eichorn; great-grandchildren Joelle, Isadora and Halle and sister-in-law, Kathleen Prochaska. In accordance with his wishes, cremation has taken place and a private family service will be held. Donations may go to Rose Arbor Hospice Residence or the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. Visit his page at

Willard Minnis
, 77, Fulton, passed away May 16 at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Willard was born on March 1, 1941 to Robert and Cleo (Homan) Minnis. Services took place on Saturday, May 19. Willard’s family includes his wife of 57 years, Lois; his children, Willard Herbert (Cathy Bunce) Minnis, LouAnn (Forester) Prater; LeAnn Prater and Lori Grinage; grandchildren Sara, Brian, TJ, Amanda, Brady and Heather; 15 great grandchildren; his brother, Norman (Lois) and his sister in law, Phyllis, as well as several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Robert and Ronald, and his grandson, Matthew. Willard served his country proudly in the National Guard. Visit Willard’s page at Donations may go to the Wakeshma Community Church or the Humane Society of Kalamazoo.

Jay E. Rantz, 73, Vicksburg, formerly of Plainwell, passed away May 2. He was born to Clifford and Clarabelle (Holcomb) Rantz on June 11, 1944. Jay possessed a natural curiosity for how things worked. He was especially drawn to cars, speed and anything mechanical. A hands-on guy, Jay never feared exploring the inner workings of things, and loved the challenge of discovering a successful fix to a seemingly impossible problem. After graduating from Plainwell High School, Jay attended trade school for a year in Chicago. He returned to western Michigan, where he worked for many years as a machinist for a local tool and die company; Midwest Gage in Climax. Eventually, Jay formed his own company; J & J Machine. He is survived by his sweetheart of 21 years, Sandy; a daughter, Christine Rantz, of Kalamazoo; a sister, Patsy (Steve) Singleton, of Florida; stepchildren Scott (Kristy) Breed, of New Jersey and Beth Breed, of Kalamazoo; grandchildren Connor Jay, Aaron, Adam, Christian, Michael and Kaleb. He was preceded in death by two children: Kelly Rantz-Johnson and Sonya Rantz. Services were held at McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes, Marshall-Gren Chapel, Plainwell on Monday, May 7. Burial was at the Hillside Cemetery in Plainwell. The procession was lead by his friends in the classic cars they all loved. Visit Jay’s page at Donations may go to the West Michigan Cancer Center.

Wilma A. Sportel, Kalamazoo, passed away May 1. Wilma was born September 27, 1933 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of the late Steven and Adrianna (VanDyke) VanZanten. Prior to her retirement she was employed for several years with KVISD (KRESA) in the accounting department. She was a member of Second Christian Reformed Church. Wilma was preceded in death by her first husband, Nelson Groenheide, on September 1, 1953. On June 24, 1955 she was united in marriage to Adrian Sportel, who preceded her in death on December 13, 2003. Also preceding her in death was her sister, Carol Modderman. Wilma is survived by her children, Tom (Penny) Sportel, Teri (Mike) Benthin; grandchildren Shaun (Jenny) Sportel, Matt (Liz) Sportel, Tori Wellington; great-grandchildren Sienna, Sawyer and Mason; and many nieces and nephews. A memorial service was held on Thursday, May 10 at the Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Westside Chapel. Private family interment was in Boughton Cemetery in Scotts. Donations may go to the Galesburg-Augusta High School and Schoolcraft High School Athletic Departments. Visit her page at

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