Life Story Visitation
Life Story Service
Life Story Reception
Friday, July 14, 2023
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
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.
Ken Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Ken Smith was a wonderful husband, a loving father and grandfather, and beloved for his uplifting and optimistic personality, genuine spirit, and way of always making things fun. He was a craftsman whose vision was large and bright, while still in tune with the most minuscule details. He understood the importance of being present with family and nature, and also that life is more thrilling when you go fast.
1967, the year motocross was officially recognized as a sport by the American Motorcyclist Association, Ken Smith simply had to join this world, and he was born into the hands of Rene and Larry Smith on December 5th in Linton, Indiana on a farm that Ken considered to be paradise.
Ken recognized the peacefulness and beauty on his family's farm when he was very young. By the time he was five, he already had quite a bit of experience exploring on his own. Unbeknownst to his parents, he would frequently ride his three-wheeler to the pond. When Ken was nine, the family left the farm and moved to Union, Michigan. His parents acquired a marina, and many of Ken's summers involved helping out with the family business. He learned how to fix boats, and this sparked his lifelong passion for taking something in disrepair and making it new again.
Ken graduated from White Pigeon High School, and later enrolled at Southern Michigan College, took some courses, but ultimately found the most joy in trades, and before long he had fallen in love with building and construction. The work came to him naturally. Most people look at a complicated situation and only see the problems. Ken always saw the solutions. Whether he had to move a wall or just improve a building's layout in the subtlest ways, the course of action was always, more or less, simple for him. Many of his designs began as sketches on a legal notepad when inspiration came off the cuff, and the ideas needed to flow. He built many houses along the Lake Michigan shoreline, especially in New Buffalo.
He loved to share stories about his early parenting years. He wanted Tyler to have a love of motorcycles just like him. However, Tyler was not as enthusiastic about two wheels and speed. Ken found that Tyler had offered to give his dirt bike to his friend rather than ride it. Brooklynn was always touching everything. Whether at home or in public, Ken said she had to be watched to make sure she didn’t lose a finger. Alexandra was his work buddy. Even if it took three times as long to fix or build something, she was by his side “helping” him.
His love of building led Ken to the love of his life when he constructed a house for Mari. The two found a spark together, fostered it into a bright, steady blaze, and in 2005, they married. They merged their families and children from previous relationships, and Ken recognized her children as his very own. The term "step-children" never came out of his mouth. He always embodied a pure and loving father. He exuded extreme patience and tolerance. At one point, their household consisted of five teenage girls, Brooklynn, Alexandra, Ariel, Claudia & Chloe, and even a female dog, but Ken embraced the highs and lows that came with them. He loved teaching all of his children how to drive and how to ride four-wheelers. Of course, his workshop was always there to escape to when necessary and he had Tyler and Zach to help balance the female stress.
Mari loved flipping houses with Ken and took joy in witnessing him in his element. He had the subtle gift of recognizing the best parts of a bad property. Together, they would bring the best parts out, and by the end, a home that had been old and disheveled was beautiful and loved.
Ken spent much of his free time at home with Mari. He loved the woods, fresh air, and nature’s calming atmosphere where every spring, he and Mari would go out and hunt for morels. Both Ken and Mari cherished traveling with each other. Road trips were their favorite. In the driver's and passenger's seats, lighthearted conversation and laughter never prohibited their keen eyes from spotting wildlife along the roads like lizards, moose, and bear.
It always brought a smile to Ken's face when his grandchildren were around. He let Hunter be a little boy while simultaneously fostering his growth into a strong young man, instilling good manners and values of honesty and respect for women. And Ken loved to dote on Riley and watching her grow into a beautiful young lady. He always made it to his grandchildren's events, and he wouldn't allow anything to stop him from attending whatever game or program was next, not even cancer. Ken wanted to support them more than anything in the world, no matter what.
Ken's peaceful and patient side never prohibited his lifelong thrill of speed. He always owned a Harley, and he frequently made tracks and jumps for dirt bikes. He was especially fond of riding with Mari on his Harley to breakfast on cool summer mornings. He savored the wind whipping across his face, and the growl and vibration of the engine. Ken liked going fast! He was always safe, but . . . it's fair to assume no one has more speeding tickets than Ken.
Ken and Mari took the time to find joy in the other's passions. They could see different aspects of the world with each other. Through him, she learned to like NASCAR, and she taught him how to enjoy football. Their bond was so apparent, for the entirety of their eighteen wonderful years together they would hear comments from complete strangers about how deeply in love they appear to be. Ken's face had a way of lighting up every time Mari walked into the room. It was just as bright from the very first time to the very last. They cooked together all the time, but Sunday breakfast was their ritual. The two were notorious for leaving parties and social gatherings early just to spend time alone together. Hours and hours were devoted to jigsaw puzzles and backgammon—over 8000 games recorded. Just last week, Mari was finally able to pull ahead on their ongoing scorecard.
Ken Smith was always positive. He never stopped taking on projects. He never complained. Even in the most dire circumstance. Even though the perilous battle against cancer. Ken always kept his sense of humor. He knew how important laughter was, for him, and for everyone. Remember when you craft something, remember when you're patient and genuine, remember when you're present with loved ones, but especially when you might be going a little too fast remember, and you'll remember Ken.
Kenneth Smith of Paw Paw, age 55, died on July 6, 2023. He was preceded in death by his father, Larry. Surviving are his wife, Mari; children: Tyler, Brooklynn (Michael), Alexandra, Zachary, Ariel, Claudia, and Chloe; grandchildren: Riley and Hunter; sister, Gale; and his mother, Rene.
Please join us at a Life Story Service Friday, July 14 at 4 PM, at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Visitation will begin one-hour prior. A reception will follow in the Life Story Center where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
Visit Ken’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ken Smith Memorial Scholarship at https://gofund.me/23f5b4c4.