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Life Story / Obituary
Ken Dickie lived a life rich in family and friends. A natural teacher, who truly believed that meaningful relationships were the key to a fulfilled life, Ken generously shared his time and talents. He inspired others to be their best selves and provided a safe harbor in the face of life’s uncertainties. Ken had a tremendous work ethic, learned from his father and sought to balance that with his commitments to family and friends. With grace, humility and compassion, Ken lived each day to the fullest. He met each moment with a warm smile, unwavering faith and a terrific sense of humor. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin and teacher, Ken was an inspiration to all who were blessed to know him.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1934 gave birth to many celebrated firsts. Flash Gordon made his debut, and Fuji Film was established. The Three Stooges took center stage in their first short while the nation met Donald Duck. The year marked the turning point in the Great Depression as the rays of hope peeked through the clouds of despair throughout North America. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, as Ewen and Ethel (James) Dickie welcomed their son, Ken, into their hearts and home on October 16.
Ken’s father worked for the railroad which necessitated moving the family around western Canada. They lived in Regina for most of Ken’s growing up years and then moved to Vancouver. Ken’s mother was a homemaker who dedicated herself to creating a loving and supportive home for Ken and his sister, Eileen, who was seven years older. As a boy Ken played hockey, curled and skated with his dad on the lakes and rivers around Regina. He saw his cousin Gordon when they visited the family farm in Winnipeg. The boys were only a few months apart in age and remained good friends throughout their lives. As a teen Ken was more interested in experiencing life than achieving in school. As a result he spent time in the work force before moving on to college.
One of Ken’s first jobs was working as the youngest member of the water testing crew of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline that ran from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. After walking the many miles of the pipeline, Ken decided that there must be a better way to make a living and began to look at colleges. His high school industrial arts teacher recommended Stout State College (now part of the University of Wisconsin). Ken applied and was accepted. Driven to show his parents what he was really capable of, Ken graduated at the top of his class, earning both a Bachelor of Science and a Masters degree.
While working on his degrees, Ken met his first wife, Marilyn. Married for 28 years, the couple was blessed with two beautiful children. Mike was born in Menomonie, Wisconsin and Cathy was born in Athens, Ohio when Ken was teaching at Ohio University and working on his doctorate at Indiana University. Ken took great pleasure in sharing his love of the outdoors, the arts and education with his children, encouraging them to be all they could be. To this day Mike and Ken shared a love of photography. Mike has gone on to make his love of sports and nature a business in his retirement.
After earning his Ed.D., in 1967 Ken began teaching in the Educational Resource Center at Western Michigan University. Eventually, he moved to the Educational Leadership department and was instrumental in developing a curriculum in Human Resource Development at the Master and Doctor levels. This curriculum prepared students to work in business and industry in the area of training and development. Ken empowered hundreds of students to impact the productivity of companies throughout the world.
Ken met his second wife, Ruth, while teaching at the University. The couple married on June 21, 1986 in Grand Rapids. Ken received the additional gift of welcoming Ruth’s son, Matt, a high school student at the time, into his heart and family. When Ken retired in 1992, the couple moved to Sarasota, Florida and became immersed in the community. During their years in Florida, Ken worked as a kayak guide and a ranger at a local country club. He was very active in the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota and served on their board for a number of years. The couple was also involved in a photography project with fourth and fifth graders at an at-risk elementary school in Sarasota. The project went on for many years with exhibitions at the Meadows Community Center, Ringling School of Art and Design and Marie Selby Gardens. While in Florida Ken discovered his love of sketching. He sketched houses, local flora, Sarasota buildings and eventually began to sketch children. He also began to sculpt in stone. Many of his sketches were made into notecards which he sold at art fairs and in galleries.
Being Canadian, hockey was in Ken’s blood. Not only did he play hockey in a senior league in Kalamazoo, but he also invested himself for many years in Western Michigan University’s hockey program. His association with the team began back in the 1960’s when he came to know the coaches Harry Lawson and Ed Edwards while working in Ohio as a referee during the program’s club years. From 1979 – 1982, he was the voice of the Bronco Hockey team on WMUK radio. In 2005, Ken began helping the organization as a CCHA off-ice official, spending much of his time in the visiting team’s penalty box counseling wayward players. In 2012, he enthusiastically became the hockey program’s Volunteer Alumni and Special Events Coordinator. In this role, Ken worked closely with the team’s business manager, coaching staff, student assistants and players to promote alumni involvement and team/community events. Ken took on the responsibilities of publishing monthly alumni and Blue Line Club newsletters, organizing the annual Friends and Alumni Golf weekend and serving as the Selection Committee Chair for the Bronco Hockey Ring of Honor. Ken was also the heart and driving force of many other annual events, including the Ice Duchenne (a fundraising event for Duchenne muscular dystrophy), Meet the Team night, pizza skates, Parents Breakfast, Senior Breakfast and the team holiday dinner. In recognition of Ken’s contributions to WMU athletics, he was awarded the W Club ‘Man of the Year’ in 2016. He was also inducted into the Bronco Hockey Ring of Honor in 2019.
In addition to Bronco Hockey, Ken found time to support the community in which he lived. He realized a lifelong ambition of chasing fire trucks when he volunteered with the Oshtemo Fire Department through the Fire Corps program. Ken was the photographer for the department for many years. He was given a pager so he could respond to the callouts 24/7 – and he did. Ken also supported the Oshtemo Rotary Club with graphic support on many of the club’s projects and even agreed to open our empty nester home to host a foreign exchange student, Remi, for six months. Remi became part of the family and we still correspond with him.
While Ken was contented to give his time and talents in service to various organizations, nothing brought him greater joy than his family. Whether celebrating holidays, cheering on his children’s or grandchildren’s activities in sports or the arts, or taking a Caribbean cruise together, Ken was happiest sharing life’s experiences with those he loved. He stayed in close touch with his sister Eileen, his nephew, Jim and niece, Kate and his cousins in Canada. Many trips to Toronto and western Canada over the years helped to keep everyone close.
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life without Ken’s bright and steadfast presence. May we find comfort in our many treasured memories and in the privilege of carrying his legacy forward. When we greet a stranger as a friend, welcome each moment as a treasure, give of our talents in service of others, and encourage others to embrace their greatness, we celebrate the many ways Ken gifted our lives. In so doing, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired each of us.
Kenneth E. Dickie of Kalamazoo, age 86, died peacefully on March 16, 2021, in the comfort of his home. Members of his family include his wife of 35 years, Ruth Dickie; 3 children: Mike (Juanita) Dickie, Cathy Weirick and Matt (Heidi) Hoppe; 7 grandchildren: Meghan, Kristen, Josh, Matt, Caity, Ben and Christopher; 3 great-grandchildren: Kennedy, Jaxon, and Kyla; his sister, Eileen Sanderson, first wife, Marilyn Holmes and many cousins, nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. Please visit Ken’s Personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can read his life story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to https://wmualumni.org/hockey . Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49009 (269) 375-2900.