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Dave Kelley

August 6, 1938 - April 26, 2020
Kalamazoo, MI



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 North Burdick Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
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Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
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Life Story / Obituary


Tenacious, persevering, and principled, Dave Kelley chose to live each day with faith and integrity. Though private and stoic, Dave was a generous man who respected others greatly. He had no room for gossip or criticism, and he never compromised the confidences of others. Without a doubt, Dave was a survivor. And, despite the many, many challenges he faced, he accepted what life gave him and never gave up. Though a man of few words, Dave's actions spoke volumes. They spoke of his unwavering devotion to his family and his willingness to dedicate his life to their excellent care. Husband, father, grandfather, and servant, Dave was cherished by those he loved.

1938 held much to note. President Roosevelt's signing of The Fair Standards Act, Hollywood's film version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and Seabiscuit's astonishing "Race of the Century" win, the continued challenges of the Great Depression coupled with the systematic persecution of Jews in Europe, spread concern and fear across the globe. The obvious gloom of the Great Depression and the growing conflict in Europe, weighed heavy on the hearts and minds of many families. Facing the hardship of an unplanned pregnancy, Dave's mother unsuccessfully sought out an illegal abortion. Too far along in her pregnancy for an abortion, she carried her child to term. After a long and difficult labor, David entered the world on August 6th, on the south side of Chicago.

In time, David was placed in foster care where abuse was suspected. Eventually, his grandfather was awarded full custody of little David. With his grandfather at the head of the household, the large family faced the challenges of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, when David was just eight years old, his grandfather was struck and killed by lightning while working on a telephone pole. As he was the glue that held the family together, they were torn apart by his death.

Sadly, this was not the only hardship Dave faced. The boys in school often bullied him. After many altercations, he finally realized he had to stand up and fight them. Eventually, in 8th grade, he was moved to a Catholic school where he was welcomed and accepted by his peers. He made fast friends and often hung out at the home of his best friend, Bob. Bob's little sister, Barbara, soon caught Dave's attention. A year younger than Dave, she was 12 years old when they went on the first date. They took a bus to the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon. It was to be their only date until Barbara's senior year in high school.

Dave loved playing pool in city pool halls and going to movies. However, his mother was a sick woman, and her medical needs resulted in quite a bit of debt. Unable to pay them herself, Dave, an only child, felt called to quit high school and find work to pay them. He worked three jobs at three different grocery stores by day and finished high school at night. Dave was very driven to work and save and save and save. As a young child, he saved his quarters. As a teen, his earnings supported his family. Incredibly loyal and faithful, he cared for his mother, and her sister Do, until the end of their lives.

Both a man of few words and with little time to date, Dave was SHOCKED to receive an unexpected phone call from Barbara. Finding herself in need of a date for the prom, and knowing Dave would be willing to take her, Barbara called and proposed the date. In his shock, Dave replied by saying, "Let me check my calendar." He left her waiting on the phone for a long, long time before telling her, "I can do that." They married a year later, officially beginning their 62-year adventure together.

At the age of 20, Dave became a father when his daughter Catherine was born. Barbara's labor and delivery was very long and difficult. Unbelievably, the doctor and nurses assisting Barbara forgot about Dave, who was anxiously waiting to hear news of his wife and child. Fortunately, he knew what to expect when daughter Trish was born. After graduating from high school, Dave began working at Western Union, where his mother worked. He continued to work part-time at A&P for another 20 years. Because he was alone as a boy, he didn't want his wife working and leaving their daughters. Eventually, his overtime hours with Western Union increased his income enough to give up the grocery store.

As a result of not having a father growing up and being raised by his mother, her sister, and his uncle, Dave was very stoic and didn't know how to express love verbally. He was a man of action, not words. And, while his daughters didn't hear "I love you" until they were well into adulthood, he poured himself into providing for his wife and children. Despite the long hours, he never missed a day of work! The family took their first family vacation when they drove to Florida and explored Disney World, and family holidays were always a favorite for Dave. At the age of 65, Dave retired. Wanting to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren in Michigan, he and Barbara sold their Chicago home. They were delighted by how much they sold it for and how it allowed them to buy a beautiful home in rural West Michigan. Never one for crowds or social situations, Dave loved his home and country living.

Dave and Barbara shared many wonderful traditions and interests. They took an annual vacation together, including twice to Hawaii. Their favorite trip to the islands was for their 25th wedding anniversary. They also loved vacationing in Canada and the West Coast. Dave spent many evenings playing Pinochle with Barbara's parents too. Dave was an incessant reader of the Chicago daily newspapers, loved crossword puzzles and movies, and faithfully cheered on his Chicago sports teams. When it came to television, Dave preferred watching old John Wayne Westerns. Many good memories were made watching the shows of the times with his daughters. These included the Rockford Files, Star Trek, and The Twilight Zone. While he was away working too much to get to know the dogs of his children's youth, in retirement, he came to enjoy the gift of canine companionship. First, there was his Collie, Cheyenne, then his current Collie, Joy.

A man of deep faith, Dave's spiritual journey became more clear after witnessing the dramatic change in his daughter after she found true salvation. Moved by her experience, Dave came to know the living Christ on Father's Day, 1982. With his faith as the foundation of his life, Dave continued to meet each day with gratitude. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma/low grade the year he retired, years later, his oncologist asked in amazement what Dave attributed to his cancer remaining at bay. Without hesitation, Dave replied, "My faith in God, and I'm so happy."

Without a doubt, Dave's life is a testimony to the human spirit. Regardless of the day's circumstances and challenges, Dave chose to live with grace and gratitude. While his words were few, his love and care were obvious in his actions. He never missed a holiday or special event and gave all he had to give to those he loved. His steadfast presence, integrity, perseverance, faith, and companionship will long be remembered and ever so missed.

Age 81, died April 26, 2020 at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo. Private services will be held. Visit Dave’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.