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Life Story / Obituary
Norm French lived his life with gratitude and an earnest appreciation for his family. A loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he wanted nothing more than the very best for the family he loved. He loved the Lord and was very active at Faith Baptist Church. A hard-working farmer, he was a jack of all trades. There is no doubt that he will be dearly missed by his many special friends and loved ones.
The year 1932 held many special marks in history. Scotch tape was becoming a household brand, Polaroid photography was invented, and Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong entertained us with their tunes, During an era of tough economic times, Warde and Helen (Moerdyk) French were eager to welcome their newborn baby boy, Norman, on March 8, 1932, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Born the youngest child, his birth brought great joy and happiness.
Growing up on the family farm of 120 acres taught Norm the value of a hard day’s work at a young age. He milked cows and helped maintain the property and equipment over the years.
Norm’s sister had a close friend, Betty Miller, who caught his attention during his teen years. He worked up the courage to ask her out to the Allegan races. She said yes, but the weather had other plans and they decided to visit the beautiful shoreline in Saugatuck instead. Smitten from the start, they later attended prom together and from then on were inseparable! After graduating with the Class of 1950 from Mattawan High School, Norm set off to study agriculture at Michigan State University, graduating in 1952.
Norm and Betty were married on August 23, 1952. They took a romantic honeymoon to Mackinac Island, a popular spot for newlyweds. He was drafted into the United States Army. Norm was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky where he worked with the Military Police of 3rd Armored Division. Though his daily duties had him guarding the vaults, he was excited at the opportunity one day to drive a tank!
After returning home, Norm went into partnership with his dad. During the 1960s, Norm and Betty purchased the Moerdyk farm which included an additional 120 acres. In the 1980s, Norm formed a partnership with his son Roger. Successful in their business deals, at one point they owned and rented more than 1200 acres!
He and Betty built their home on the farm and the mortgage payment was a mere $50 a month. They welcomed home three wonderful children: Roger, Bruce, and Diane. As a family, they made many special memories together. Farming became a part of their lives as well. Always there for his three children, Norm was a strong provider and would do anything for them.
Despite his busy time managing the farm and providing for his family, Norm enjoyed serving his greater community. He served on the Mattawan School Board in the 1960s as well the Kalamazoo County Road Commission for thirteen years during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. He also enjoyed serving on the Soil Conversation Board and was active in the Farm Bureau. His induction into the Michigan Farmer’s Hall of Fame in 1999 was the culmination of a long career and brought him great pride.
It’s hard to believe Norm ever actually retired, because he was always on the go. He continued to help Roger with the farm operations and Bruce in his shop. He also filled his retirement years with hunting, fishing, gardening, and woodworking. His favorite place to spend time was at the cabin he and Betty purchased in 1984 in Baldwin. They loved heading there to relax and unwind. Retirement also afforded him and Betty time to spend with their grandkids. They often took care of them on extended weekends while their parents were away. Norm had a very special way with children. His magnetic connection went beyond just hosting field trips for local schools and teaching Sunday School at Faith Baptist Church. He modeled integrity and taught them the importance of treating others with kindness. Known for his love of all people, his compassion, and understanding, Norm leaves behind a beautiful example of living life selflessly. His unending love and wisdom will surely be missed by his loved ones. May his many special memories live on in their hearts forevermore.
Norman French, age 89, of Kalamazoo, MI, died on December 11, 2021. He was a long-time member of Faith Baptist Church where he served as a Deacon and taught Sunday school. Norm was preceded in death by his son, Roger French; sisters: Eleanor (Paul) Grofvert and Pat (Harry) Moyle; and his infant brother. Surviving are his wife, Betty; children: Bruce (Cheryl) French and Diane (Rick) Oakes; daughter-in-law, Dawn French; grandchildren: Jonathan (Nicole) French, Melissa French, Jeremy (Kayla) Eggers, Aaron (Stacy) French, and Caleb (Jenny) French; and 9 great-grandchildren.
Please join us at a Life Story Visitation 5-7 PM Wednesday (DEC 15) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Funeral services will be held at 11 AM Friday (DEC 17) also at the funeral home. Private burial at Genessee Prairie Cemetery. Visit Norm’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. The family would like to thank Bronson Commons and Centrica Care Navigators for their care and compassion. Memorial contributions may be made to Faith Baptist Church or Centrica Care Navigators (formerly Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan).