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
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Karl Barden was an extraordinary man to know and love. He worked hard in everything he did, and his passion for his work was easy to see. A loving husband and father, Karl was blessed to witness his family tree blossom to include the grandchildren who made him so very proud. A true gentleman who took everything in stride, he was a calm and steady presence in the lives of those around him. Deeply loved, Karl will be forever missed.
Life was anything but easy during the 1930s as the entire decade was plagued with a soaring unemployment rate due to the Great Depression. Things only became more dire when a drought covered our nation’s heartland during this time, adding strain to an already struggling agricultural industry. Despite the trials around them, Donald and Katherine (Fletcher) Barden where able to focus their attention on a time of great joy as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Karl Floyd on December 14, 1936, in South Haven, Michigan. The oldest of three, Karl was joined in his family by his sister, Kathleen, and his baby brother who sadly lived only one day. Karl’s mother was a homemaker while his father was a fruit farmer in South Haven. Karl started helping his parents on the farm when he was just a young boy.
Even as a young boy Karl was known for his strong work ethic. He followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Michigan State Horticulture Society when he was just 14. Both were proud lifetime members. Karl also attended local schools including Tuscan High School in Arizona where he played trombone in the marching band. After graduating from high school in 1955, Karl began farming with his dad and uncle, Ben Barden, on the farm, Barden Brothers Incorporated. It was very important to Karl that he continue his family’s legacy on the farm despite being offered jobs elsewhere. During winter months he took horticulture short courses at Michigan State University. From them on he was a proud Spartan fan and supporter. Karl later joined the Army National Guard, completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
A farmer through and through, Karl was passionate about his work. As he expanded operations, he built a revolutionary packing plant on the farm which didn’t go unnoticed as MSU even came to look at the technology so they could learn and teach others. Being cutting edge allowed the family to continually add more orchards and improve the agricultural industry. At one time, the Barden’s had the largest family owned peach orchard in the area. Wise and proactive, Karl grew several crops to be diversified in case one crop froze or underperformed, and over the years they grew peaches, pears, cherries, apples, plums, and apricots. He was mechanically inclined and could fix anything on the farm, which helped save money. Karl even kept his pliers and a screwdriver in his pocket, but he never remembered where he put them. He enjoyed lending a helping hand to neighboring farmers to fix their tractors and equipment as well. In fact, Karl built his own fire truck for the farm before fire trucks had fancy pumpers. His truck had a huge spray tank that he would fill and use to fight fires on the farm and within the community.
There was never anything that was more important in Karl’s life than his family. It was while playing in the Casco Township Band that he met a fellow band member who proved to be the woman of his dreams. Her name was Novella, and one night he found the courage to ask her out to dance. The quintessential gentleman, Karl always treated her with respect and love, and although he was often busy with work Karl made a bit of free time so they could go to the races in Hartford or take in a show or dinner on the weekend. Early on, he asked Novella to ride with him to Indiana where he was delivering a load of peaches. Both being so young at the time, Karl had to ask Novella’s mother to sign a waiver approving of the trip. Deeply in love, Karl and Novella were married in June of 1963 at First Congregational Church in South Haven. Together they welcomed two children, Brian and Charlie into their hearts and home.
A loving father, Karl was always good with children and was known for taking them on a quick ride into town to find repair parts or to a Halloween party. As a family, Karl and Novella often took their sons to the National Peach Conventions where they saw Lyndon Johnson’s farm, went to Circus World in Florida, and attended races at Daytona, which fueled Karl’s love for NASCAR as he never could turn down a chance to see a race. After the cherry harvest in the summer, they’d often enjoy family trips to Ludington or Traverse City, and he and his boys would find their own adventures walking around town or going to Mackinac Island for the day. Once they got home it was back to work for the peach harvest.
Over the years Karl was never one to be still. He was very active in the community but didn’t seek recognition as he was content just to see a need and find a way to help. Karl served as a deacon at First Congregational Church and was on the board of trustees. Also within his community he was a member of Kiwanis, served on the Casco Zoning Board, and was on the board of directors for the Michigan Cherry Producer’s and the National Peach Council. In addition, Karl was a longtime member of the Casco Fire Department, a group he was most proud to be a part of even serving as Assistant Fire Chief for many years. Karl and Novella over the years ventured on a few extra special trips. For their 40th wedding anniversary, the family gave them a trip to Hawaii where they visited Pearl Harbor and took in the sights and incredible scenery of the volcano’s and ocean views. Alaska was always on his bucket list and one day Novella’s sister surprised them with a trip there as well. He especially enjoyed the bears just coming out of hibernation and watching the moose and whales. Even the lumberjacks were entertaining. They also watched the calving of the icebergs at Glacier Bay. Karl loved apple pie and ice cream and was a firm believer that there was always room for dessert! Never one to skip breakfast, he looked forward to the fireman’s pancake breakfast or a hearty meal at home before he and the boys left to work the farm early in the morning. Karl was a member of the Michigan Flywheelers as well as a lifetime member of the Michigan Horticulture Society, and loved car and tractor shows. In recent years, Karl and Novella also ran Southview Bed and Breakfast, turning their family homestead into an overnight retreat for weary travelers. Karl greatly enjoyed this time as he was one to get along well with everyone.
A generous, compassionate, and hardworking man, Karl Barden blessed the lives of so many around them. His life exemplifies what it means to work hard, but also what true character looks like. Karl taught others to be courteous and to offer love selflessly and without condition, and his family will proudly carry this legacy on in his footsteps.
Karl F. Barden, of South Haven, died peacefully on March 10, 2019. Karl’s family includes his wife, Novella; son: Brian (Claudia) Barden; daughter-in-law: Becky Barden; grandchildren: Adam, Jacob, Alex, Ben, Luke, Megan; sister: Kathleen Merchant; and several nieces and cousins. Karl was preceded in death by his parents; son, Charlie; brother-in-law: Michael Merchant. Visit with family and friends from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturday (MAR 16) at First Congregational Church, 651 Phoenix St, South Haven, where a service will be held at 1 p.m. A luncheon will follow in the church hall. Burial will take place at McDowell Cemetery. Please visit Karl’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to First Congregational Church Bell Fund or Caring Circle Hospice at Home. Special thanks to the Bodfish family, Theresa Conklin, Pam and Mike Bailey, Grace of Douglas, and Caring Circle Hospice at Home. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr Kalamazoo, MI 49009, (269) 375-2900.