Life Story Visitation
Life Story Service
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Park Bench Memorial for Joe Hegedus
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Life Story / Obituary
Hardworking, reliable, and heart-centered, Joe Hegedus lived a life rich in family and friends. Joe believed in doing things right the first time and finding the value hidden below the surface. His commitment to excellence was only exceeded by his playful nature that was evident in the mischief he was often the center of. His infectious, fun personality and wonderful way with kids made him a joy to be around. He often laughed so hard his face would wrinkle, and his talent for stringing a long set of obscenities together was unrivaled. In his company, every joy was greater, and there was no hardship that could not be lessened. Joe’s legacy of love and commitment will long live in our hearts and lives.
1956 proved a year of vibrant growth, with consumerism taking off in unimaginable ways. For the first time in history, seven out of ten families in the U.S. owned an automobile, and laws were created requiring seat belts be installed on all new cars. The housing market exploded in growth while the baby boom continued to proliferate. McDonald’s, TV dinners, cans of Coca-Cola, Lego, Velcro, and The Mickey Mouse Club all became household mainstays. At the same time, Rock and Roll music continued to grow in popularity with more idols, including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry, and The Platters. This time of peace and plenty grew especially bright in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as Casper and Stella (Payne) Hegedus welcomed their son, Joe, into their family on August 11.
Growing up in West Michigan during the 60s, Joe’s foundational years were firmly rooted in the values of the times; family, hard work, and integrity. He also inherited a love for the outdoors, camping, and canine companionship. His father converted an old school bus into a camper, and the family made great memories camping at Baseline Lake. It was there that Joe cut his toe off when he caught it in the rim of a rusty barrel. His siblings tried to find it and give it back to Joe and although it certainly was not a fun moment, it made a story to recall over the years with a hearty chuckle. His favorite dog, Tangy, also proved to be a wonderful friend whose love and loyalty inspired many more pets throughout Joe’s life.
As a student at Kalamazoo Central, Joe worked in the print shop where he had the good fortune of working with a great mentor who influenced and encouraged Joe to pursue his natural talents. He caught on fast and was so good at the printing processes he decided to make a career in it. He earned his associate’s degree at Ferris State and began a 40-year career in the printing industry. Meticulous about his press, Joe took immense pride in his machine and his craft. He carefully planned each project, cleaned and operated the press with great care, and ensured every job was done correctly. For much of his career, Joe thoroughly enjoyed working as a four-color press operator at Standard Printing. He was honored to be a part of a great company that felt much like a family, often participating in softball and golf leagues together. It didn’t matter to Joe that he was bad at golf; time on the course was simply about enjoying time outdoors, relationships with friends, and sharing a few laughs.
Joe’s greatest joy was his family. He and his first wife, Teri, shared two beautiful daughters, Jenee and Trina. Though they later divorced, Joe and Teri always stayed on good terms, sharing an unwavering commitment to the good care of their children. An engaged and supportive father, Joe relished being a parent. He loved when his daughters helped with his projects, giving them the all-important job of holding the flashlight for him. Friday nights centered around going to the Stagecoach with friends; the only time the girls were allowed to drink Coke. Joe proudly coached their soccer teams as well. By his own example, Joe encouraged his children to be themselves, trust their values, and not worry about what others thought.
Every year, the family vacationed in Ludington. Days were spent enjoying one another’s companionship, the outdoors, and riding bicycles. Joe loved his family’s traditional beach day and pedaling up the infamous quarter-mile hill. Joe loved the area so much he never wanted to vacation anywhere else. As his family grew to include grandchildren, Joe cherished passing on these traditions. He was a wonderful grandfather and a big kid at heart who never hesitated to play, act silly, and create memories. His grandkids came to love pulling his hat off, ensuring grandpa would chase them and make a game of it, laughing all the while.
A person who understood the value in the simple things, Joe enjoyed the accomplishment of simply getting things done. Frugal and resourceful, many things he owned were old and painstakingly repaired dozens of times over. Because they were so old, his projects would take much longer than he anticipated. The more layers he peeled back on a project, the farther he’d go to fix things. His kids loved watching him work, witnessing his incredible work ethic. Regardless of whether a job was big or small, Joe approached everything with a rock solid determination to get it done right the first time, understanding that one plan is never enough and the importance of being prepared with alternatives. Although his to-do list may have been long, Joe never started a project he couldn’t finish and poured his soul into every facet of his work.
While Joe’s family has countless treasured memories, some of their favorites include him mowing the lawn in shorts, extremely short shorts for that matter, and enjoying the rewards of a Miller High Life once the job was complete. His infamous ride on Teri’s minibike when he caught a wire in the wheels and set the whole field on fire is the stuff of legend. How could anyone forget how he watched out the window, petrified every day that someone would come for him? Always an animal lover, Joe’s dogs, Shelby and Lacey, were lucky to have him as their trusted companion. His bottle collection was well renowned. While walking his dogs, he’d never pass up a bottle on the side of the road, eventually collection enough to even fund a trip to Las Vegas. He had a love of finding excellent deals and it gave him great satisfaction to save money with a coupon. These are just few testaments to his frugality and resourcefulness. His love for the outdoors led to him trying to learn to hunt, but he killed more deer with his car than anything else and preferred putting corn in the backyard for them instead. Joe enjoyed playing Dragon Warrior on his original Nintendo where he slayed the Dragon Lord many times over the years. Whether telling stories about the Camaro he bought for just $1700 or enjoying a trip to the A&W Root Beer Stand, Joe embraced every moment and every conversation as a gift.
Without a doubt, the world feels less certain in the absence of Joe’s steadfast presence. May deep comfort be found in the knowledge that we carry the best of Joe’s legacy forward. With each challenge we meet, camping trip we take, and hearty laugh we share, we celebrate the many ways Joe gifted our lives. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.
Joe Hegedus, age 65, died on October 4, 2021. Joe was preceded in death by his parents. Surviving are his children: Jenee (Chuck) Kirkham and Trina (Stephen) Hegedus-Wimsatt; grandchildren: Cadence and Christian; siblings: Lester (Ginny) Hegedus, Ron (Connie) Hegedus, Victoria Livingston, Steve Hegedus, and Tony Hegedus; Papa Joe's special kids: Breauna, Tyler, Bailey, Chase, and Cole; several nieces and nephews; and the mother of his daughters, Teri Vaden. Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation 5-7 PM Thursday (OCT 14) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. A funeral service will be held 11 AM Friday (OCT 15) also at the funeral home. Visit Joe’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign his guestbook. Memorial donations may be made to the Park Bench Memorial for Joe Hegedus via GoFundMe for a bench to be placed in Ludington, Joe’s home away from home. Following his funeral, a gathering will take place at Ron and Connie's home at 8304 West O Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49009.