LIFE STORY VISITATION
Friday, September 16, 2022
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Please join us for a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
Saturday, September 17, 2022
11:00 AM EDT
6339 ATLANTIC AVE.
KALAMAZOO, MI 49009
A reception will follow in the church hall.
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 Humane Society
2272 River St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
Life Story / Obituary
Loving and hard-working husband, father, and grandfather, Dale Phelps, modeled a life of building relationships and selflessly giving of his time and resources in support of others. Without a doubt, his family and friends meant the world to him. Dale will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered.
On June 8th 1950 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, proud parents Clayton and Wilma (Bill) Phelps welcomed home their baby boy, Dale. Born the middle child, his birth brought much joy and happiness to the family home.
Dale was born with innate ambition. From an early age, he maintained one of the larger newspaper routes in the neighborhood and eventually saved enough money for his first car. His car was his pride and joy and as a result, he would wake early to wash the car every day before leaving for school. He and his close buddies enjoyed fishing in nearby creeks in Vicksburg and they all benefited from his parents baking their own fresh bread and pies every Saturday. He spent time playing with his siblings, Ken and Mark, and causing about as much trouble as you would expect three young boys to. Dale enjoyed these years building friendships with others who shared a passion for sports cars. They were even known to shut down a local street now and then for a quick race, hopefully without drawing too much attention!
During his time working at Montgomery Ward, he met Karen Wojciechowski who fell easily for his sense of humor. The two of them shared many commonalities and joined in marriage in 1974. Wanting to save up for their future, Karen’s father, who worked for the WMU Police Department, encouraged Dale to apply to be a Police Dispatcher. Dale enjoyed his work as a dispatcher for several years. In addition to this role, he also coordinated college students with building grounds projects. He remained interested in his students' lives and careers long after they graduated and was proud to hear their stories of success, including one student who went on to play professional football for the Raiders!
Dale and Karen started their family in the home they built, raised two children, Kristin and Matt, and always had a house full of pets. In the early years, he supported Karen in cross country competitive horse rides and enjoyed caring for horses on their farm. They bred Labradors and Dale often brought a Red Flyer wagon full of puppies to school for their kids’ show and tell. Once, he also took their African Grey parrot. Active throughout their lives, Dale enjoyed supporting both his kids’ activities including coaching his daughter's soccer team. As a new and inexperienced coach, they won their AYSO Division in 1995! He loved attending his son’s high school football games, where you could often find him cheering from the stands. As a family, they spent many summers camping with friends, visiting the lakeshore, and traveling across the country visiting national parks in their motorhome.
He and Karen were proud to open the first America’s Country Store (a Purina Mills and Hardware Wholesalers, Inc. retail store) in the nation. They were all glad to share their story with like-minded entrepreneurs, but always focused their attention to building long lasting relationships with customers. The business evolved into founding Oak Ridge Feed and Pet Salon 25 years ago, which their children continue to operate today. During the course of their years in business and partnerships with local shelters, they helped over 4,000 pets find their forever home. Dale had a real knack for people. One of his greatest joys was simply visiting with customers and getting to know their families. Dale will forever be remembered for dressing up as Santa and taking photos with pets during their annual Pet Pictures with Santa, supporting local pet rescue organizations through the creation of Dog-O-Ween events, as well as attending many of the Kalamazoo Humane Society Dog Walk events.
Once retired, Dale leaned into his many special hobbies and interests. His son Matt took over the store, but Dale still mowed the lawn and came in to chat with customers and tease the employees. He treasured the relationships with his Oak Ridge Feed family and had nicknames for each of them.
He was an avid woodworker and enjoyed carving wood art. Over the years he built much of the furniture in their home. He attended several woodcarving classes and was proud of the awards he earned for his carvings, including a special carving of a bluebird. Dale could carve just about anything in amazing detail including replica antique fishing lures, bark houses, bark Santas, and of course, all of the grandkids had a special carving just for them. He recently began exploring painting and created several pieces in classes with Karen.
Dale and Karen enjoyed their lives as snowbirds, wintering in Sebring, Florida. They were both members of and participated in shows with the Lake Placid Art League. They treasured visits from family and friends and enjoyed sharing their favorite places with them, among them the Bok Tower Gardens and the Cherry Pocket Steak n Seafood Shak. Often, they’d simply hop in their car and just see where the road led them, discovering new places and restaurants. They especially enjoyed finding mom and pop restaurants serving fresh fish. With his family always on his mind, Dale made sure they always brought home special trinkets for their kids and grandkids who were his pride and joy. Nothing compared to time at the lake with family and Dale embraced his role as Captain Papa on their pontoon. A habitual planner, he’d time the day perfectly to come off the boat just as the roast he prepared was ready. Rides around the Scott Lake Campground in the golf cart and taking the grandkids for ice cream capped off some of their favorite moments. Dale’s extraordinary life will surely live on as a legacy in the hearts and minds of his loved ones as well as the many special people he influenced over the years.
Dale Phelps, age 72, of Kalamazoo, MI, died on September 3, 2022. Dale was preceded in death by his brother, Mark Phelps. Surviving is his wife, Karen; children: Kristin (Matthew) O’Leary and Matt (Cameo) Phelps; grandchildren: Lillian, Maeve, Abraham, and Jolene; and brother, Ken (Judy) Phelps. Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Friday (SEPT 16) from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Services will be held Saturday (SEPT 17) at 11 AM at Voyage Church. A reception will follow in the church hall. Visit Dale’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and to sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Humane Society.