Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Ben Kanipe

March 25, 1933 - May 24, 2022
Kalamazoo, MI



Tuesday, May 31, 2022
4:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

A reception will follow in the Life Story Center where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.

Driving Directions


Wednesday, June 1, 2022
1:30 PM EDT
Fort Custer National Cemetery
15501 Dickman Rd
Augusta, MI 49012
(269) 731-4164


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.

Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries
448 N Burdick St
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-2974
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


A quiet, gentle man, Ben Kanipe lived a life rich in faith and family. Ben humbly greeted each day as a gift and every person as a friend. With a gentle spirit, he got along well with others and never said a bad word about anyone. He was compassionate, kind, loyal, and a bit of a charmer. People felt at ease in his company and always knew they were safe in his heart. His dry sense of humor often afforded much-needed levity and his unwavering faith proved a comfort for many. An inspiration to all who were blessed to know him, Ben will long be remembered and greatly missed.

Despite the challenges of the Great Depression, the power of hope undulated in the hearts of many throughout the 1930s. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there more hope for the future than in Beckley, West Virginia, as Howard and Joanna (Ailstock) Kanipe welcomed their son Ben into their hearts and home on March 25, 1933.

An only child, Ben grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina. He was the star of his high school football team, and after graduating from Dallas High School, he went on to play football in college. Like many in his generation, Ben answered the call to serve his country and joined the U.S. Navy in 1954. During his four years of service, he worked as a chief storekeeper while stationed in New Port, Rhode, Island, and served on the USS Coolbaugh.

While docked in Boston, Ben had the very good fortune of being invited to a local party. There, he was introduced to the love of his life, Lily Kryklywec, a Boston native. Instantly smitten by Lily, Ben set his heart on courting her. Despite Lily being a bit more cautious than Ben, she agreed to a date, and the pair quickly became a couple. With their hearts set on sharing the future, they became engaged in 1957 and married on August 10, 1958.

The couple made their home in Marion, Indiana, where Ben began working for General Motors. In 1959, they were delighted to welcome their daughter Teresa to their family. Teresa was the center of Ben's world, and he proudly dedicated himself to providing well for his family. He was a true family man who found contentment in the simple things, like showering his only and favorite child with love. Ben always affectionately called his daughter "Pumpkin" and supported her in every possible way.

One of the first people hired at the new GM plant on Sprinkle Road in Kalamazoo, Ben and Lily moved their family to Kalamazoo for the opportunity. For over 30 years, Ben worked as a tool and die maker. A skilled tradesman with an engineer's mindset, he made many suggestions for improvements, and some of his patent ideas were adopted by the company and credited to him. Regarded as a dedicated, hard worker, Ben retired from GM at the age of 59.

People of all ages were drawn to Ben's innate kindness. He was well-loved by the kids in the neighborhood, who he patiently taught to swim in his backyard pool. He also taught each of them how to shoot pool. Ben also enjoyed spending time with his cousins, Christopher and Nicholes, especially beating them at a game of 8-ball. For several years, his cousin Robert lived with him and Lily. Together, they helped raise Robert when he was a young boy, and he was as close as a son to them. He still often visits.

While Ben didn't have many hobbies, he loved to read and travel to visit family. Faith was central in his life. He knew his bible well and enjoyed reading Christian books. Over his lifetime he created a private library with more than a thousand books. He also attended Lake Center Bible Church for over 30 years, where he generously taught Sunday school. His coworkers at GM fondly nicknamed him Billy Graham in honor of his gift for quoting scripture passages in times of need. One of Ben's longtime dreams was to visit the Holy Land and Jerusalem. In time, he was blessed to fulfill his dream when he traveled with the church. During the trip, he witnessed many wonders, including people being baptized in the Red Sea and riding a camel.

Typically a quiet, solitary man, Ben was also a fun-loving grandpa. His grandchildren filled his life with joy, and he relished every moment he shared with them. For over ten years, he made a tradition of playing Santa Claus for Jonathon and Emily. He supported their academic pursuits and encouraged each of their unique interests. He even taught his granddaughter Emily how to drive. He started with her on his lap when she was little and kept teaching her until she passed her road test as a teenager.

One of the greatest gifts Ben gave his family was the marriage he shared with his wife. He and Lily built a wonderful life together, and though he typically shied away from the spotlight, he absolutely beamed with pride and affection when they took to the floor for a delightful square dance. Family was truly most important. Whether playing Santa Clause, shooting pool, or traveling to San Francisco to visit Sonia and family, sharing time together with those closest to him was the foundation of his life. Without a doubt, Ben's legacy of faith, love, and devotion will live on in the hearts and lives of those he so dearly loved.

Ben Kanipe of Kalamazoo, age 89, died on May 24, 2022. Ben was preceded in death by his parents; and his uncle, Pete. Surviving are his beloved wife, ­­­­Lily; daughter, Teresa Kanipe; grandchildren: Jonathon and Emily; cousin, Robert (Lisa) Ailstock, and his children: Nicholas and Christopher; sister-in-law, Sonia Bollinger, and her children: Dean, John, Nicole, and Jason; and several extended family members.

A Life Story Service will be held at 4 PM Tuesday (MAY 31) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900, with a reception following in the Life Story Center where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. Burial at Fort Custer National Cemetery, 1:30 PM Wednesday (JUN 1). Visit Ben's webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories and photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries.