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First Methodist Church of Kalamazoo
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Life Story / Obituary
Doris Lininger of Kalamazoo died peacefully on February 3, 2021 at the age of 101. She was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, September 21, 1919 during the latter portion of the Spanish Flu pandemic and lived to endure the COVID pandemic of 2020. She grew up an only child, the daughter of May Irene (Smith) and Henry Farrand Miller. Her father was a chemist and bacteriologist employed cooperatively by the City of Kenosha and the state of Wisconsin. He was responsible for the Public Health laboratory. He ushered in the practice of pasteurization of milk at Wisconsin dairy farms by educating the farmers and the public through newspaper articles and lectures in schools. As one might expect Doris became very “germ conscious” as a child, and when her friends would pool their resources to buy one cup of Coca-Cola to share among themselves, she would decline claiming she was not thirsty. New clothes were her favorite gift as a child and photos of the 1920s and 30s often show her modeling her latest outfits. At age 12 she can be seen wearing her “Sunday” dress and hat with one foot on the running board of the family’s new 1930 Model A Ford. She worked diligently in school and was the salutatorian of her high school class of 369 students in 1937. In 1941 she graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Science degree. That fall she began a year of teaching home economics in Beloit, Wisconsin in the junior high school.
Just weeks after Pearl Harbor, and 2 years after her mother died of cancer, Doris visited her aunt in Huntington, Indiana for Christmas. At the Methodist church on Sunday, she caught the eye of Dick Lininger who was home from medical school at Northwestern University. He immediately inquired as to who this beautiful girl was and called her for a date that evening. Thus began their romance, and they exchanged letters daily for the next six months. Several visits by train between Beloit and Chicago occurred during this time, and Dick convinced Doris to move to Evanston for the summer. By summer’s end they were engaged and were married on September 6, 1942.
For the next four years Doris worked to support them while Dick finished medical school, internship, and one year of residency before the army called him for active duty. After the army and another two years of residency Doris and Dick relocated to southwest Michigan where Dick would establish pathology departments at Mercy and Memorial Hospitals in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. By 1952 Doris was working full time raising 3 boys, Tom, Jim, and John. In 1956, she and Dick designed and built their home in St. Joseph on Highland Court, a street with 11 lots created from the grounds of the D’Andrea estate that had connections to the Chicago mobster, Al Capone. The neighbors who built homes there would become close friends of Doris for the next 47 years.
Doris and Dick loved the small-town atmosphere of St. Joseph. Doris was a social person often entertaining and being entertained by the many friends they had. She volunteered and raised funds for the medical auxiliary and became a volunteer at the Krasl Art Center. Her interest in art led to lectures and photos of 19th and 20th century artists and their works which she would present at the local grade schools to foster an appreciation of the arts. Travel was also important to the Liningers, and in the 1950s and 60s the automobile was becoming a popular mode of sightseeing. Family trips, some encompassing thousands of miles with three boys in the back seat of a car that had no air-conditioning, extended to east and west coasts, and included visits to National Parks, Monuments, and historical sites in major cities. The boys would pick motels along the way from the AAA tour guide, knowing that on arrival Doris would ask to see the room and inspect it for cleanliness before we could stay. Later Doris and Dick expanded their travels overseas enjoying the history, museums, and cathedrals of Europe, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries.
In 1976, Doris became a grandmother, and she would ultimately have 7 grandchildren which would be a focus and joy of her life from then on. In 2009 she was blessed with her first great-grandchild and in January 2021 her 11th great-grandchild was born. She traveled to see her family over the years, and it became a family tradition to come back to see her especially at Christmas. In 1998 after 56 years of marriage, Dick preceded Doris in death, and in 2003 at the age of 84 she moved to the Fountains retirement home in Kalamazoo where she could be closer to family. There she enjoyed the many activities available, especially excursions to Miller Auditorium for Broadway productions, concerts by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and exhibits at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. She worshiped every Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo. While she was still able to drive, she enjoyed shopping in Kalamazoo. It was later that her family discovered she was on a first name basis with the staff at Talbots.
Doris will forever be remembered by her family for her kind and generous spirit and her good sense of humor. At the Fountains, she participated in a Reminiscent Writing class, writing a new story each week to read to the group. These many stories included memories of childhood, marriage, and life with family, and contain insights and details that are a treasure for her family. An unexpected benefit of these stories occurred during this past year of COVID as Doris’s memory diminished and nursing home restrictions prevented excursions and family visits. Members of the family called her daily and reading her reminiscent writings would connect her with her past and the many wonderful experiences that defined her life. For the past seven years Doris has resided in the nursing home at Bronson Place and it has been gratifying to hear from the staff how much they appreciated her sweet disposition and sense of humor. She touched the lives of all who knew her. We should all be so fortunate to live a life as full and rewarding as Doris has.
Doris is survived by her three sons: Thomas (Margy) Lininger, James (Enola) Lininger, and John (Bridget) Lininger, and a daughter-in-law, Joann Lininger; 7 grandchildren: Todd (Shawna) Lininger, Katherine (Josh) Dunn, Christopher (Monica) Lininger, Michael (Molly) Lininger, Bradley (Abigail) Lininger, Jeffrey Lininger, and Karen (Kevin) Lehmann; and 11 great-grandchildren ages 11 years to 1 month: Quinn, Ruby, Nora, Taylor, Ewan, Wyatt, Jordyn, Henry, Charlie, Graham, and baby Blake. Cremation has taken place. Services with entombment at Riverview Cemetery in St. Joseph will take place at a later date. Pease visit Doris’ personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can read her life story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Krasl Art Center, St. Joseph, or First United Methodist Church, Kalamazoo. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.