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Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society
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Life Story / Obituary
No matter whom you asked, Leonard Wilcox could be characterized as someone who deeply loved and looked after his family and those closest to him. Leonard provided an example to others of taking joy in the small things that life has to offer, as those small moments were what mattered the most. Len’s humor, gentleness, and kind-hearted personality will be greatly missed by so many, and remembered fondly by those who had the blessing to know and love him.
Towards the end of the 1930’s, America was booming with success and innovation. The Toll House chocolate chip cookie was invented and the spray can for whipped cream arrived on grocery store shelves. President Roosevelt was continuing to provide support to the nation with his fireside chats, and was a time for families to come together at the end of the day. The popular comic book superhero, Superman made his debut, and celebrities such as Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire were admired by many. As the decade was coming to a close, the Wilcox family was eagerly waiting for the arrival of their baby boy. As the youngest of six children, he was the only child to be born in a hospital. Guy and Arlene Wilcox welcomed their son on September 25th, 1938. In many ways, Leonard was a humble and simple boy, who often shied away from attention. His older brother was the one who was more outgoing and often playing jokes on others. Leonard also enjoyed spending time with his four older sisters, who adored and supported him. Leonard liked the outdoors, playing with his older brother and friends in the woods or at the nearby creek, and being around animals.
During his middle school years, Len played softball with his brother and friends for the Portage Methodist Church. Although, not all was fun and games, as part of his responsibilities were to pay for his school clothes, which he was able to do through his job at the celery fields. Some of his tasks included growing the celery seeds in the greenhouse, and then transplanting the seedlings to the fields. Len attended Portage Central High School, where he played center and linebacker on the football team, in addition to wrestling. While in high school, Len drove a 1940’s Chevy Coup that he received from his older sister Louise. During high school, Len earned money from his sisters, who paid him a dollar to do the dishes for them. However, Len held an official job at Town and Country as a bagger before moving to the meat department working as a butcher. It was there where Len frequented the bakery to satisfy his sweet tooth, and also to win over a young lady working behind the counter who had caught his eye. Len started going steady with Pat Wheeler, who had nine younger siblings that often accompanied them on their dates.
After high school, Len landed a job at National Foods as a meat cutter, which was a position he held for eight years. Len was surrounded by a great group of coworkers and maintained friendships with them long after he left. At the age of thirty, Len began working at Upjohn Company as a Chemical Operator and remained employed there for the next thirty years. Similar to National Foods, Len continued to establish wonderful friendships through his years at Upjohn. In 1999, Len retired from Upjohn, and dedicated even more time to his wife, children, and grandchildren.
After a couple years of dating Len asked his girlfriend Pat to marry him. The two tied the knot at Saint Joseph Church on June 27th, 1959. In 1961, Len and Pat welcomed their first child, a son named Richard Guy, followed by Kelli Ann in 1962, and Kathleen Irene in 1968. The family enjoyed several dogs over the years including King, Sasha, and Amber. In 1992, Len and Pat were blessed with three grandchildren, two fraternal twins named Ariana Grace and Aaron Michael, and older brother, Mario Rafael. The family grew again in 1995, when another grandchild, Ayelish Marie was born. Len and Pat welcomed three more grandchildren in 1996, with the arrival of Thea Elizabeth, and two older brothers, Emmet Preston, and Caleb Michael.
Throughout the years, Leonard and his family went on many trips. Several summer vacations were spent up North camping. However through the 1970’s, the Wilcox family took three memorable trips. They first travelled to Kentucky to see the famous Mammoth Cave, a second trip was a weeks’ vacation spent visiting Niagara Falls and camping in the area, and a third summer the family took a road trip to California to visit family. The highlights of their trip were Lake Tahoe, the Golden Gate Bridge, China Town and a tour of Universal Studios. To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, Len and Pat went to Quebec, Canada. Upon retiring, Len and his wife travelled to Ireland where they visited Trinity College, Christ Church in Dublin, and kissed the Blarney Stone. The two also drove cross country to California, stopping to see friends and family and famous landmarks along the way, such as the Grand Canyon, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Their most recent adventure was in September to celebrate Pat and Lens birthdays. Their daughters surprised them with a stay at an amazing rustic inn which included a day trip to a beautiful centennial dairy farm. Other summer activities included the memorable pig roasts that were held at the Dunshee’s. Many years around the Christmas holiday, Leonard and his siblings would gather to enjoy each other’s company and a well-supplied table of food. At some point in time it became a tradition among the siblings to gift each other with their specialty food item. Len was famous for and never disappointed in supplying each one of them with a coffee cake. Len and Pat mastered the gift of hospitality as many Thanksgivings, post-Christmas gatherings, baby showers, wedding showers, and graduation parties were hosted at the Wilcox house.
Len was a man that liked to keep busy. He took great joy in baking and cooking, earning him the title of “Chef Lenny.” Occasionally, he would pull up a chair to the counter, and let his children and grandchildren assist him in making food and once done, would often lick the spoon a few times himself, before handing it off to his little ones. Some of his most famous dishes included his cinnamon bread, coffee cakes, German chocolate cake, French bread, Hawaiian Chicken, and enchilada bake. If Len was not in the kitchen, you could always find him out in the yard. His landscaping skills were admired by many, and something he took great pride in. Another skill of Len’s was his handiwork, as he was always there to help a friend or family member, whether it was with painting a room, or fixing an appliance, Len was determined to fix it and get the job done well. For 20 years, Len volunteered for the Meals on Wheels in Portage with his friend Ed and wife, and occasionally his grandchildren would accompany him. Len liked a good card game, and would invite his brother and friends from high school over for a few rounds of low stake poker. Len was also a big supporter of his children and grandchildren, and would attend every concert, recital, or sporting event.
Len was a simple man and preferred to spend his time outdoors, making food, or being with his friends or family. When anyone turned on the radio or T.V. or referenced a book, Len was always appreciative of the entertainment regardless of what genre it was. However, over the years, Len has been drawn towards certain music and T.V. This involved Johnny Cash, John Denver, Mr. Ed, The Andy Griffith Show, and Lawrence Welk. In addition to this, Len had no regard to a specific sports team, as Leonard was more focused towards watching a well-played game, while enjoying the company of others.
Leonard was the epitome of dad jokes. At any given moment, Leonard could crack a joke that was often subtle in nature and made off the top of his head that those in his company were brought to tears. While Leonard never openly expressed his philosophy on life, he exhibited it through his actions. This included adopting a simple yet meaningful lifestyle, that was centered on appreciating the little things that life has to offer, while enjoying the opportunities and moments God gave him with those he loved most. Leonard can be best described as supportive, gentle, caring, humble, and loving. Leonard is loved, missed, and remembered by many.
Leonard died peacefully at his home in the presence of his wife, on March 10, 2021, age 82. The youngest son of Guy and Arlene (Crowell) Wilcox, Leonard was born September 25, 1938 in Kalamazoo, MI. Leonard was a meat cutter for eight years at National Foods, before being hired by the UpJohn Company where he worked as a Chemical Operator for over thirty years. Leonard was preceded in death by his son Richard in 2004 and by his five siblings: Virginia Spicketts, Frances Lint, Louise Gipson, Bernita Dunshee and Howard Wilcox. Members of his family include his wife of 62 years, Patricia Wilcox; two daughters: Kelli (Steve) Pattullo and Kathleen Wilcox; four grandchildren: Ariana (Doug) Williams, Aaron Wilcox, Ayelish Pattullo, and Thea Wilcox: and is expecting two great grandchildren later this spring and summer. Other family includes his sister-in-law Delores Wilcox and brother-in-law Richard Dunshee, followed by many nieces, nephews, and friends. Cremation will take place. A Life Story Visitation will be held on Thursday March 18th from 4pm-7pm at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Services will be held Friday March 19th, at 10:00 am. Leonard will be laid to rest at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Please visit Leonard’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, or a charity of your choice.
When I die, give what’s left of me away
To children and old people who wait to die.
If you need to cry,
Cry for your brother and sister
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me,
Put your arms around anyone and
Give them what you need to give to me.
I want to leave you something,
Something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved.
If you cannot give me away,
At least let me live in your eyes,
And not in your mind.
You can love me most
By letting hands touch hands,
By letting hearts touch hearts,
And by letting go of
Spirits who need to be free.
Love does not die, bodies do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love,
Give me away.