LIFE STORY VISITATION
LIFE STORY SERVICE
Monday, July 10, 2023
1:30 PM EDT
Texas corners farmers market pavilion
7110 Q Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
The reception will begin immediately following the graveside services.
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
If you knew our mother you were one of the luckiest people in the world. If you didn’t, buckle up because you are about to realize just how much you missed out!
Darlene Davis popped her head into the world On November 4, 1945 and said, look out world here I am! We are pretty sure her parents, Henry and Ruth (Heckman) Barnard, had no idea what a gift they gave this world.
Our mom grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan where she was very studious and active in girl scouts. She would tell stories of getting in a car every summer and driving around the entire country. As an adult she would roll her eyes at the thought of travel because of those trips. She visited every state multiple times with her family. Every big tourist site in every state she was there, usually standing on a big rock with her big red curls glistening in the sun. In middle school she met our father Thomas Davis, and that my friends is where she says her life began.
Thom and Darlene would walk to school together, study in the library and do all the dating things that movies are made of, share a shake at the soda shop, drive in movies, school dances and the like. Thom went off to college and Darlene finished high school then went to college herself. A little time apart proved to be just the incentive Thom needed to show up at her dorm with a ring and a promise. On September 3, 1966 they got married. They quickly bought a tiny house in Ypsilanti and spent the first few years learning how to fix that house into something they could be proud of, replacing walls and fixing plumbing; the two worked hard together and created a beautiful home. Three years later their first child Henry was born. Life changed quickly after that. About a year later finding herself pregnant with her second child she said we need to get something a little bigger than this house so they searched and found their next project house and shortly before their second son Shaun was born they moved to Ann Arbor. They made this house livable for the moment while mom got the boys on their way to being active toddlers. Clearly they saved the best for last and shortly welcomed their little girl Mariah. Family complete, they tore this house up and rebuilt it, bigger projects and more of them. Darlene wanted a fireplace and Thom agreed. So while he pulled out a saw and cut up the hardwood floor, she stood outside and laid the bricks for the chimney, two toddlers and an infant right by her side. Clearly she had eyes in the back of her head. She also had an eye for reusing things. That hardwood floor would be fashioned into a dining room table expandable to twelve places, and she served us dinner on that table every single night after it was built.
Her life was devoted to her children. She ran a strict, clean house, but her kids got all her attention. Every birthday there was a special cake made in the form of a rocket ship, covered in clowns, or a barbie doll in a beautifully decorated cake dress. She learned to decorate cakes just to make her kids' day. She sewed clothes and Halloween costumes to rival anything you could buy at a store. Yes, we were each the purple clown for Halloween when it was our turn to fit in the costume. As we would grow up and get into sports there was not a game, recital or competition she missed. She would say she had bleacher butt from attending our events and sometimes she would run from Henry's race, pick Mariah up from practice, just to show up at Shaun’s game with two sweaty kids in tow. When Henry's navy ship pulled into port there she stood in a line of bright yellow shirts spelling out his name so he wouldn’t miss them in the crowd. Her devotion to her children never faded and to her dying moment they meant everything to her.
When it was time Darlene and Thom would sell the house in Ann Arbor and buy some land in Saline. It was 1979 and after their grand plans were cleared through the architect the market collapsed and they were in a bind. They reworked the house and together they built the house, hiring only that which they could not do together. As kids we watched them hauling lumber and installing windows while we played on the vacant land that used to grow corn. The kids were charged with many chores but the boys got to help put the roof on that house, a very upset little girl was not allowed on the roof but she got to nail in some floor boards. This is how you instill a work ethic in your children! Since the land had been farm land it didn’t have any gardens and Darlene was about to change that. She created the most beautiful flower and herb gardens all around the house. Typical red head quick to burn in the sun she would weed those gardens in the shade on the west side of the house in the morning and east side in the evening, but there were fresh herbs in every summer dinner and dried ones in the winter. Raising three kids in the 80’s on a piece of land was no joke and we soon had a two acre vegetable garden and a one acre fruit garden, as well as an apple orchard in the front yard. Clearly this means more lessons for the kids about weeding and growing things but also in the kitchen, canning and preserving them. She kept an amazing fruit cellar full of canned veggies and apples in every possible form. Darlene instilled in her children to accept challenges and to look for the good in others. She wanted them to be independent thinkers and responsible for achieving their own destiny in life. Always offering her unwavering support, her children never doubted her love for them. When asked about it later in life she would say you ate good clean food didn’t you? Why yes, we did mom, but we still can't look at apples like everyone else does.
With her children raised and on their way she would focus on a new journey with Thom and they would buy rental property in Kalamazoo around WMU’s campus starting in 1991. There they met Pat O’brien and would work closely to create an amazing rental portfolio. His guidance was vital to making it a successful business. Darlene and Thom would drive up every single weekend and sleep on the floor of Mariah’s apartment so they could repair and rebuild many historic homes in Kalamazoo. One of their favorite jobs was rebuilding a house originally owned by members of the Upjohn family that had decayed and turned into a drug house over the years. She made a game of trying to figure out the original floor plans of some of the houses that had been cut up into rentals. Their experience rebuilding houses would serve them well in this venture. Pat would teach Mariah how to screen tenants and manage the property so Darlene and Thom could focus on acquiring and fixing those houses. In 1997 Thom would retire from Ford and they would move to Kalamazoo to “retire” and be closer to their rentals. If you think this means they slowed down you would be sorely mistaken. In fact they ramped up the rentals and Darlene would shoot off a new real estate venture, She did the most meticulous research on foreclosure properties you have ever seen. She was so proud of it and it would prove to be a wonderful addition to their portfolio. Over the years she was the newsletter editor and later the president of the Kalamazoo Area Rental Housing Association. Sadly a year after moving to Kalamazoo Thom would die. Darlene never wavered in her love for him and would only sadly say, when you have had a man like your father what can anyone ever offer you more?
She and Mariah would maintain and grow the rental business together for years after Thom’s death in 1998 and only recently decided she had worked enough in this life. Shortly after Thom’s death, Darlene would decide she wanted to try something new, so she picked up a pistol and learned how to shoot. Her first competitive event was a candy cane shoot where they taped a candy cane and she had to stand behind a line and shatter the candy cane. Among several more experienced shooters she was the first to hit it. She was hooked, her competitive edge came out. She would meet Sheila Hoekstra and together they would take on the shooting world in south west Michigan. She shot in gallery matches and that grew into weekend matches. The pair would travel to Pennsylvania and Louisiana among other big matches to test their skills and adventure. The two would create a monthly ladies day event where they would teach hundreds of women gun safety and how to shoot. It was wonderful to watch her grow into something outside her dedication to her children. Darlene and Sheila would finish each others sentences in safety trainings, and with their complimentary training styles would bounce students to each other if the student needed something else. Soon enough Sheila would be invited to teach at a national training camp, Babes With Bullets, and she would take her best friend along to help out on many of those camps. In 2014 Darlene and Sheila would be invited to teach at Hillsdale College with their Ladies for Liberty program. On the first night she lit up like a Christmas tree, gushing about how nice it was to be able to work with this group of women and have in depth conversations with people who thought like she did. Every year she would gleefully tell Mariah which weeks she would have to watch the dog because she was going to be changing lives and living her best life at Hillsdale. Every time she would come home happy as can be, recharged and excited with life. Those weeks and those people meant so much to her in the later part of her life. Being able to take a woman scared of a gun and turn her into a confident shooter was a thrill for Darlene.
Full of integrity and kindness Darlene left a glow on anyone’s heart she touched. One of the lessons she left engrained in her children was the ability to pick up and move forward. Whenever she had a question in how to respond to a challenge she would go with whatever made it so she could sleep at night. When her children would ask for guidance she would ask them if that choice could let them sleep at night. Darlene’s loving presence and sense of humor will be deeply missed. She was blessed with living a life of simple pleasures. It was evident to all who knew her that she enjoyed spending time with her family. Sadly, she is gone, yet leaves behind a rich collection of memories that will be eternally etched on the hearts of her loved ones forevermore.
Darlene Davis, age 77, died suddenly on Saturday, July 1, 2023. She is survived by her 3 children: Henry, Shaun (Melissa), and Mariah Davis; and 2 grandchildren: Justin and Shelby Davis. She was preceded in death by her husband, Thom Davis.
Life Story Services will be held Monday, July 10, 2023 at 12 noon, at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Visit Darlene’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and to sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Hillsdale College Shooting Sports.