Tuesday, August 13, 2019
4:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and refreshments will be served.
A rosary will be recited at 7:30PM.
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.
Doctors Without Borders USA
P.O. Box 5030
Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030
1 World Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72202
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Carl “Rusty” Wahmhoff, it is easy to see that his heart beat to serve the Lord. He was a man of integrity and honor who never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Carl’s deep devotion to his family was easy to see, and he was filled with joy beyond measure to become a grandfather and great-grandfather later in life. Although he will be deeply missed, Carl leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will forever carry on in his footsteps.
Life was anything but easy during the 1930s as the crash of the stock market in October of 1929 sent our nation and much of the world spiraling down into the depths of the Great Depression. The years that followed were plagued by a soaring unemployment rate that touched nearly every city, community, and family all across our great land. Despite the trials around them, Carl and Mildred (Hesseling) Wahmhoff were filled with great joy as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Carl on August 31, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. The oldest of 12, he was joined in his family by his siblings, John (“Fr. Andrew”), Marie, Gerry, Bob, Ann, Joni, Ellie, Joe, Lucy, Rita, and Barb.
In many ways Carl was a young boy of his generation. Carl was a member of the Boy Scouts, and his family was very devout in their Catholic faith. Carl’s father established the Wahmhoff Tree Farm in the early 1950s, and prior to that they had an onion farm. Everyone worked on the family farm, and Carl also attended a one-room schoolhouse for a part of his education. He attended military school for one year as well. It was during this time when his red hair earned him the nickname “Rusty”, and it stuck. He went on to graduate from Delton High School in 1949. Sadly, his mother passed away in 1950 at a young age.
Throughout his life Rusty was someone who was committed to being his very best. He attended Aquinas College, but not long after Rusty enlisted in the Army. Although the Korean Conflict ended while he was in boot camp, Rusty still became a paratrooper and was sent to Japan for a tour of duty. With his military duties fulfilled, he finished his degree at Aquinas College. Rusty then got a scholarship to the University of Michigan for his master’s degree.
Life was forever changed for Rusty when he met a young woman. Her name was Wanda, and they were married after falling in love. Together they welcomed 10 children including Susan, Karen, Dan, Ken, Ellen, Betsy, Myrna, Ron, Naomi, and Tom into their hearts and home. In the mid 1980’s, Mutsuko, an exchange student, was welcomed into the family. As a young father, Rusty left school while pursuing his master’s degree as his father had passed away and the family farm needed to be tended to. Their growing family moved back to Grand Junction where Rusty took over the business. In addition, Rusty and Wanda helped raise his last five siblings amid growing their own family. Although their marriage ended in divorce after more than 30 years, Rusty was always grateful for the children they shared.
Later, Rusty through the help of his Uncle Stan, met Shirley Sanders on October 10, 1987. They soon fell in love and were married on October 8, 1988, in Sacred Heart Church in Bangor. The couple took a pre-honeymoon trip to a Christmas tree grower convention in Bangor, Maine, as Christmas tree harvesting starts at the end of October. Over the years, Rusty only traveled for work conventions or to see family. Shirley brought to the marriage two daughters, Tara and Bobbie. As his children grew older, he was so proud to pass the family business on to two of his sons after 40 years of running the farm on his own. Rusty and Shirley were an amazing team together, and they both supported one another in their ministries as well. They took a memorable 18-day trip to Mexico and Guatemala before Shirley was ordained as a minister. Rusty attended many of the events that his children and grandchildren were a part of, and greatly enjoyed watching them grow.
Over the years, Rusty was one to keep busy. Ask any of his family or friends and they would tell you of Rusty’s love for golf. He started off golfing with his brothers, and he later became an investor in Heritage Glen Golf Course in Paw Paw. Rusty could usually be found out on the golf course from that point forward. He started the Senior Drop-in group and ran it for over 20 years; he genuinely loved this group of men. As the years went by, Rusty loosened up quite a bit. In fact, he went from someone who was a serious businessman to someone who loved to have fun. In his early days Rusty almost always wore a suit while he wore golf shirts throughout his retirement years. Within his community Rusty was president of the Bloomingdale School Board for many years and ran a co-op for Christmas tree growers. Rusty was very much a giver who served in various leadership roles all over his community including through his church and business. He loved reading, and he wasn’t too picky as he usually read whatever his sister could get him for free, and this was an indication of his frugal nature.
Sadly, Rusty and his loved ones were given a tough pill to swallow when he was diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago. He underwent radiation just so he could play golf this spring, which he did. Rusty kept hitting them straight even though he could hardly stand on his last golf day, June 24th of this year. Over the past year, his health began to rapidly decline.
Through the life he lived each day, Carl “Rusty” Wahmhoff was such an inspiration to others. He was gracious and kind with a love for his family that was truly unmatched. Rusty was a man of honor who was loyal to a fault, and a friend of Rusty’s was a friend for life. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Carl “Rusty” Wahmhoff, of Portage, died August 8, 2019, at his home with his family at his side. Members of his family include his wife of 30 years, Shirley Wahmhoff; children: Susan (Richard) Starbuck, Karen (Drew) Chapple, Dan (Lorie) Wahmhoff, Ken Wahmhoff, Ellen (Richard) Nelson, Betsy (Eusebio) Perales, Myrna (Andrew) Molinari, Ron (Rinda) Wahmhoff, Naomi Alora, Tom (Precious) Wahmhoff, Tara Sternaman, Bobbie (Joe) Van Bruggen and Mutsuko (Brian) Kwitchoff; 43 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; 7 siblings: Marie Walker, Gerry (Fran) Wahmhoff, Ellie (Dan) Krezenski, Lucy (Gerry) Remington, Joseph (Linda) Wahmhoff, Rita Wahmhoff and Barb (Bill) Maury and many nieces and nephews. Rusty was preceded in death by his first wife, Wanda, 4 siblings: Fr. Andrew Wahmhoff, Ann Clayton, Joni Detzler, Robert Wahmhoff and a grandson, Aaron Cossey. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, from 4-8 p.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI (269) 375-2900. A Catholic Mass will be celebrated Wednesday, August 14, 2019, at 11 a.m. at St. Catherine of Siena Church (1150 W. Centre Ave.) A lunch will follow in the church hall. Cremation will take place with burial at Mt. Home Cemetery, Otsego. Please visit Rusty’s personal memory page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial Contributions may be made to Doctors without Borders or Heifer International.