At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
David Ray Hinkel lived a life rich in family and service to others. Open and honest, curious and innovative, intelligent, and optimistic, David embodied the principles of his faith. He welcomed each day as a gift and every person he met as a friend. He listened with sincerity, saw the best in everyone, and made others feel that they were the most valued person he had ever met. With unwavering devotion, David embraced marriage, fatherhood, career, and community with humility, conviction, and commitment. In so doing, he gifted each of us with a role model for how to live an authentic and heart-centered life. An inspiration to all who were blessed to know him, David will long be remembered and ever so missed.
1963 was a year of many changes. As the Civil Rights movement gathered momentum, the nation continued to invest in its goal of putting a man on the moon. American homes were filled with the sounds of the Beatles and the sense of loyalty inspired by its favorite dog, Lassie. Nowhere was there more hope for the future than in the home of Raymond and Judith (Kauffman) Hinkel as they welcomed their son David into their hearts on November 14, 1963.
Growing up in Wooster, Ohio, which was known as an agricultural center, “industry of education,” and home of advanced manufacturing, David’s childhood was firmly grounded in the values of faith, family, hard work, and service to others. While his father provided for the family by working as a salesman for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Mansfield, Ohio, his mother worked as a distributor for Sysco Foods. The oldest of the Hinkels’ three children, David carried himself as a natural leader from his earliest days; he was a proud older brother to his siblings, Michael and Diane. His fondest childhood memories were of the times he spent on his grandparents’ dairy farm where he learned the value and science of organic gardening and farming from his Grandpa Jay.
David attended Triway High School where he played basketball, baseball and ran cross country. In addition to his sports and studies, he worked at a local pharmacy.
After graduating from high school with the class of 1982, David worked at Coca Cola a year before attending college. During his earlier days, he washed bottles and trucks. Eventually, he worked as a salesman. His time at Coca Cola provided David with a wide perspective on manufacturing, sales, and business that nourished his enterprising spirit. Along with his faith and family values, this knowledge proved a firm foundation upon which he consciously built the rest of his life.
In the fall of 1983, David enrolled at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. Here he attended seminary for a time but soon recognized his calling to become a teacher. David played baseball and was a pitcher for four years and voted by his peers as Most Inspirational. With signature entrepreneurial vision, David continued to hone his business skills at Grace by selling Coke at his dorm where he wisely installed a vending machine.
While at Grace, David was blessed to meet the love of his life, Cindy Wagner, a nursing student in the year ahead of his. Not only were the pair fellow students they also shared the same group of friends. One fateful day as he was in the cafeteria line Cindy worked, David decided to make his move. As he reached her station, he met her eyes and with his infectious smile asked for two scoops of corn. Without hesitation, Cindy met his request, and soon they were setting their sights on a future spent together. David used his carbonated beverage sales to buy Cindy a diamond engagement ring. He proposed to her with the aid of the Sweet Comfort Band’s “Just Like Me” and promised Cindy “never a dull moment.”
Cindy graduated from nursing school in the spring of 1986. A few short weeks later, on June 7, 1986, in the witness of family and friends, David and Cindy exchanged marriage vows at Lansing Grace Brethren officially beginning their 32 plus year adventure together.
After honeymooning in Traverse City and Mackinac Island, the happy couple settled into married life in a 10’ x 55’ simple trailer near Grace College. In the spring of 1987, David graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree. With degree in hand and the intentions of helping start a church with another couple, David and Cindy set off for Oregon. Though the church never manifested, David earned his teaching certification at Western Oregon State and began his teaching career in Salem. Because he looked so young, the staff presumed he was a student. He quickly became beloved, and his students donned him the nickname “Shepherd.”
In 1991, David and Cindy were blessed by the birth of their son Jay, and their world quickly became even more focused on family. David relished in family life and felt no stronger calling than to be a great husband and father. As their family continued to grow with births of their three daughters--Elley, in 1992, Sarah in 1994, and Claire in 1996--so too did David’s joy and his commitment providing for his family. Though they loved Oregon and lived there for five years, their growing family inspired a desire to be closer to family.
David and Cindy decided to move to the Kalamazoo area where David found work as a program director for Junior Achievement (JA). They made their home on TU Ave in Mattawan for almost 20 years where David was a hands-on dad who enjoyed every stage of his children’s lives. David was resourceful and creative and welcomed challenging home projects. Over the years, as his children’s interests grew, he built a baseball field in the front yard, a basketball court, and a soccer training wall where they could practice hitting balls. David often coached his kids’ teams and loved the opportunity to help them “unwrap their gifts.” His steadfast faith in each of them was evident in his encouragement, and even in the way he chose to use humor to critique the areas they needed to grow. His girls will long remember when he was coaching soccer and lamented, “I need a Batman and I have a bunch of Robins!” Reflecting his own good humor, the girls responded by wearing Batman shirts at the next practice, and Cindy’s car officially became the Batmobile.
A man who believed in structure, David was very strict and protective of his kids. He made sure what they saw was appropriate, and that information was historically correct. While David supported each of his children’s endeavors, he guided them to pursue their interests with the discipline and planning that would ensure their success. When the kids expressed the desire to have a hobby farm, David responded with enthusiasm and expertise. Soon, their summers were spent in the gardens, hay fields, and tending 250 chickens. The kids each had a time card to document their labors, and like everything else, their work was tracked on a spreadsheet. They grew everything organically just as David’s Grandpa Jay first taught him, and they sold their bounty at the Texas Corners Farmers Market. Instilling the importance of investing their money wisely, David taught his children to follow the formula he lived by; they are always to give 10% to the Lord, save 50%, and live their daily lives on the 40% that is left.
In 1996 David was hired by Mattawan Schools where he was proud to bring and build the district’s JA program. For the next 21 years, David passionately gave of himself to the Mattawan community as educator, mentor, leader, and friend. He believed his first and most important responsibility was to always remember that he “was a teacher of students” and there was no content more important than the relationships he nurtured with each and every young person he served. Though an expert in economics, psychology, and sociology, his true mastery was in the school of Life. David recognized the potential power of his influence and never lost sight of his commitment to empowering others. His consistent good nature, warm smile, silly sense of humor, and insistence in always finding the gold in every moment provided fertile ground from which each and every person who was blessed to share time with him was sure to grow.
Revered by his colleagues as a “wise old soul,” David was often sought out by his peers for advice. He welcomed their inquiries with a sense of honor and offered his perspectives with humility and compassion. David led with his heart and reflected other’s greatness with ease. His care and commitment were unwavering and his efforts to make everyone’s day brighter and happier were undeniable. Whether encouraging a rookie or a veteran to trust they were enough to meet the challenges of the day, sharing his latest creative idea for inventing revenue, leading spirit days, or nourishing others with his delicious Golden Ladle winning crockpot creation, David gave freely and fully of himself. In June of 2017, David “graduated” from high school a second time after 21 years in the classroom. He donned his graduation shirt proudly and made sure everyone knew that he wasn’t retiring, he was graduating!
Intelligent, driven, and committed to continual growth, David was always actively learning and giving of himself. For three years he had the opportunity to train teachers in effective teaching strategies in Hong Kong. He also earned an MBA from Davenport and a Masters in Education from Western Oregon State. He became a certified financial advisor and worked part-time for Prudential for a few years and full time for one. David found deep satisfaction in helping others plan for their futures and being a part of making dreams--reality. He was very active in his church community and served in many leadership roles over the year including time as head elder.
Leisure time included family vacation to Florida, visiting family, and drives to Louisiana, Northern Michigan, and back to Oregon. Many wonderful memories were made at Higgins Lake where Cindy’s parents had a cottage. David was a devoted sports fan of the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers, and Browns, and THE Ohio State Buckeyes. He enjoyed listening to Christian contemporary music of the 80’s and the songs of Mercy Me and for King and Country. David enjoyed the competition of a good game of Catan or Monopoly on the board that still holds his childhood calculations on the probabilities of landing on specific properties. Homemade pizza on Friday nights and his signature scratch hash browns and pancakes with surprises inside (corn, squash…something healthy and from the garden) were well-loved traditions. Thanksgivings were about his deep fried turkey, and birthdays included a Coke in glass bottles tradition where everyone gave the gift of saying something nice. David put considerable thought into every gift he gave and enjoyed the entire process of planning, giving, and witnessing the recipients’ reveal. He was a great hugger and loved being at school with his kids and having them as students. Bonfires, tractors, garden tools, and chopping firewood always afforded a sense of contentment as did everything that involved his family.
Two years ago, as David and Cindy became empty nesters, they moved to Paw Paw Lake in Mattawan. The new home still had a barn and land for Dave as well as the beauty of the lake. David and Cindy enjoyed entertaining others in their home and sharing their many blessings. It was a time to enjoy the fruits of their labors, watching their grown children capture their dreams, and look forward to growing old with one another. It was a time for Cindy to continue to tell David “I love you more” and for David to remind her “I loved you first.”
Without warning, David began to suffer excruciating stomach pain just a few short months ago, and on September 13 he was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. As he had never been sick before, the diagnosis was even more shocking. Despite efforts to treat the disease, it progressed quickly, and on October 13th David was enrolled in hospice. With traditional Hinkel spirit, David’s family enveloped him in the love and devotion that he so freely gave them, and in the face of his greatest challenge and tremendous pain, he found comfort and peace.
Clearly, it is hard to imagine a world absent of David’s steadfast calm and wisdom. His lovable cheesy jests, goofy SnapChat icons, unwavering faith, and loyal friendship will be missed beyond measure. And, while his days with us were far too few, may we find comfort in knowing that with each moment we listen with our hearts, greet another with a warm “Good, happy morning,” give freely of our time and talents, enjoy a cold Coke, lean into our faith in a life everlasting, and “enjoy the sunshine,” we carry David’s loving legacy forward in our own lives. In so doing, David’s love and light will continue to inspire countless others as he has so inspired us.
David Ray Hinkel, Age 54, died peacefully in the comforts of his home on November 3, 2018. Dave was born November 14, 1963 in Wooster, OH, the son of Raymond and Judith (Kauffman) Hinkel. Dave was preceded in death by his mother, Judith Cherry and brother Michael Hinkel. Surviving are his wife of 32 years, Cindy (Wagner) Hinkel; 4 children: Jay (Mary) Hinkel; Elley Hinkel, Sarah Hinkel and Claire Hinkel; sister, Diana (Patrick) Tucker and many cousins, nieces and nephews. Private burial will take place at Hope Cemetery. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Wednesday from 5 – 8 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Services will be held Thursday 11AM at New Hope Fellowship Church (201 W. Michigan Ave, Paw Paw) followed by a luncheon in the church hall. Please visit Dave’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to New Hope Fellowship Church.