Life Story Visitation
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Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools
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Life Story / Obituary
Fun-loving and warm-spirited, Gary Arnson modeled a lifetime of being fully present and sincerely compassionate by helping others. A loving and supportive husband, father, grandfather, and a cherished friend to many, he lived his life enjoying the water and spending time with his family. Gary’s genuine kindness and loyal friendship will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
It was no surprise that his love of the water started at an early age, growing up in Muskegon along the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. His close relationships with his grandparents were a core memory of his happy childhood. His grandfather spent part of his career planning and overseeing the construction of the Mackinaw Bridge. Gary fondly remembered several trips up north to check on the progress. In addition to playing football for the Muskegon Big Reds and playing golf in high school, he spent the majority of his teen years sailing on Muskegon Lake. When his grandfather passed, Gary used his small inheritance to purchase a twelve-foot butterfly sailboat named Arnie’s Ark. For several years he and his close childhood friend, Bob, used to sail on Muskegon Lake where Gary first learned to race.
After high school, Gary set off for college at WMU where he made many lasting friendships with the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta, better known as the FIJI’s. This past year, he was awarded the 50-Year Owl Award, recognizing his fifty years of membership. When asked for any highlights during these years, Gary declared that his FIJI brothers were a large part of creating the best of those times. He enjoyed many trips down to Florida on their spring breaks together. Following his senior year, he began working towards his Master’s degree. He and four friends went on a trip out west on horseback to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. They camped out for a week relying on their daily catch for food.
At WMU, Gary met the love of his life and his future bride, Marcy. Together they worked with Western Michigan University’s student orientation program. She was drawn to his sense of humor, kind spirit and outgoing personality. They married November 19, 1977 at St. Robert Church in Ada, Michigan. Together they welcomed two wonderful daughters, Christy and Katy. Being parents was the highlight of their lives.
Gary’s career was the backdrop to his family and passions. He started out selling business forms, primarily in the medical field. His passion for cooking led to a career change where he worked in the fast-paced industry including Zazios in downtown Kalamazoo, Aries in Plainwell, Baypointe on Gun Lake, and at the Gun Lake Casino. He thoroughly enjoyed hosting Sunday Fundays at home where friends and family would gather for outdoor barbeques and relaxation. He savored his time in the kitchen and especially enjoyed sharing meals with his family over the years.
As a dad, Gary was incredibly hands-on. His girls remember him making up songs to wake them in the morning and bringing them balloons and making them root beer floats to share with their classmates on their birthdays. As a family, they loved skiing. Gary and Marcy never missed taking their kids to Ski Club at Timber Ridge on Thursdays and spending long weekends up north at Boyne with family and friends. He loved to spoil his girls and dote on them. Gary was truly a family man through and through.
When he was later blessed with grandchildren, Gary was thrilled to start the next chapter of his life as “Bampi”. He loved taking them to the movies, out to the local fish hatchery but mostly setting sail on Lake Michigan together. His grandchildren never questioned his love for them as he always made them feel special in his presence. Gary also loved his little dog Max, who he affectionately called “Little Guy”. The two were inseparable and Gary’s wife and daughters have even snuck in the little guy to visit him in the hospital.
In addition to his family, Gary never wavered from his love of sailing. He raced sailboats with his good friend, John Turuta, and John's son, Brian. Almost every year, they took first place at Tower Harbor Yacht Club in Saugatuck. One highlight was the time John, Brian and he crossed Lake Michigan without any electronics and just a magnetic compass during the night! Gary’s steadfast support gave them the confidence to remarkably sail across the lake from Waukegan to Saugatuck.
Gary and Marcy were elated to buy a sailboat in May of 2014, named Sunshine. Gary had the adventure of a lifetime when he sailed Sunshine from St. Clair Shores to South Haven. When the first glimpse of the Mackinac Bridge was in view, it brought tears to his eyes as he reflected on the memories spent with his grandfather. Passing under the bridge and entering Lake Michigan felt like coming home. Christy was apprehensive, but Gary was determined. He left on a seventy-degree day with an expected four to five day trip. Rain and cold temperature settled in soon after he set sail and two weeks later he arrived in South Haven to his cheering family members on the dock! At every port he stopped for rest, he was sure to make a friend or two. Gary was very proud to have mastered the waters yet again as sailing always gave him a new perspective on life. One highlight was while vacationing in St. Maarten, he enjoyed an excursion sailing on the America’s Cup boat, Canada II, where he had the opportunity to take the helm and sail the boat. It was an unforgettable experience.
Gary and Marcy lived a truly beautiful life together. They enjoyed traveling over the years to Florida and went on several cruises. Reflecting on his life, Gary’s unconditional love for his family will be the greatest gift he leaves behind.
Gary Robert Arnson died peacefully on January 21, 2024 at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was born March 27, 1954 in Muskegon, Michigan to Robert and Jane (Fuller) Arnson. Surviving are wife Marcy (Mueller) Arnson; daughters Christy (Matt) Riley and Katy Arnson; grandsons Mason, Connor, and Carter, niece Emily (Abby) and nephew Nick (Krista); and many friends and family. A Life Story Visitation will be held Thursday, January 25 from 4 to 7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49009 (269) 375-2900 with Mass on Friday, January 26 at 12 noon at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Battle Creek. A luncheon will follow in the Parish Center. Visit Gary’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools.