Life Story Visitation
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
4:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Join us for a Life Story visitation where food, drinks and stories will be shared.
Mass of Christian Burial
Thursday, June 24, 2021
10:00 AM EDT
St. Thomas More Parish
421 Monroe Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
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.
Michigan News Agency
308 W Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Martin R. “Joe” Gagie was the ultimate “people person.” This might have seemed unusual given his upbringing as an only child of his Irish mother, Rose Catherine Agnes Quinn and Scotch-Irish father, Martin Joseph Gagie. His parents both worked for the Gannett newspaper, Rochester Democrat Chronicle. Martin was the Sports Editor and Rose worked in advertising, often modeling hats. Before the age of 2, Joe needed glasses. The ophthalmologist said he was looking through “pea soup fog.” Children in glasses were rare back then, especially for a two-year-old. Later, the glasses provided some entertainment in school as he could actually start a fire with sun through the thick lenses. Joe’s dad never really got over what he considered a defect. He always said it must have come from Rose’s “shady Irish” side of the family.
Mart spent 41 months of Joe’s preschool years on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II. Rose, her mother, and Joe spent those months together. Joe always laughed about grandma teaching him to play checkers, but she always let him win. When he invited an elderly neighbor to play, the gentleman beat the pants off Joe! That was an unforgettable experience. Joe never let his own six kids win at anything unless they earned it. When Mart was honorably discharged and returned home, he called his son “Joe” after GI Joe and the name stuck forever.
When Joe was 11, the Gannett company sent Mart to Danville, Illinois where it was the only newspaper in the Midwest. In seventh grade, Joe was chosen to represent his school with the Junior Red Cross. He met Sandra Sue Clary there and the two immediately struck up a friendship. About twice a month they enjoyed filling Red Cross boxes with other kids for soldiers overseas. Of course, there was a friendly competition over whose school could fill the most boxes with donated toothpaste, soap, small stationery, and pencils. Sandra and Joe rarely ever ran into each other again until college, as Joe attended Catholic schools and Sandra public.
While attending Schlarman Catholic High School, Joe worked for the sports department at Danville Commercial News covering football and basketball on the weekends. He learned to keep stats and do write ups. He played on his High School golf team. Joe always laughed about digging trenches during PE classes for his school to build a gym, which is still in use today. Joe’s love of sports and writing about it led him to major in journalism at Southern Illinois University. He and Sandra married in college and had fond memories living in the new married housing there, even though a Catholic boy marrying a Methodist girl displeased their parents. That was before we had our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, and all the controversy over that election.
Joe was sports editor for the Daily Egyptian at SIU. The friends made there are still friends today. One couple introduced the family to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. Every summer our families traveled there to Rock River Beach Cottages for a couple of weeks. Our family grew to love the woods, the lake, and the Michigan skies and eventually bought property there. After graduating from SIU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism, Joe enjoyed covering the St. Louis Cardinal Baseball Team for small daily newspapers in Granite City and Edwardsville areas. He had been a Cardinal fan since childhood and was especially excited to cover Stan Musial’s last game.
Joe always supported Sandra in her schooling and anything she wanted to pursue. He cared for the children while she finished college at night to get her teaching certificate. Sandra’s first teaching job was in Edwardsville where Joe worked for the Intelligencer. A highlight there was writing the story of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination. Everyone had gone to lunch leaving Joe and one other young journalist to put out that news. The two changed the whole front of the paper and were commended for the job they did.
A family friend at the University of Illinois invited Joe to take a job in Public Information at the University of Illinois. That was Joe’s entry into higher education. They encouraged him to get his Master’s Degree in Communications at their cost, which he earned in 1965. He loved the excitement of a Big Ten experience. He wrote about new research and new programs to let the world know about that great institution.
Sandra and Joe were raising a family of six children; three girls and three boys while both working. It was always a mutual admiration society. They helped each other succeed. It was not always work. Joe loved to golf and always found time for it, especially when the family moved to Macomb, Illinois and Western Illinois University, where Joe was in charge of Public Relations and Executive Assistant to the President.
By chance, one of Joe’s friends from SIU, Larry, was at WIU and the two worked together again. Larry covering and writing sports and Joe in charge of all other information. What a great five years there. The small Macomb Country Club provided such fun for our whole family. Joe played golf every spare moment. One friend, Bill Colliflower, and Joe played 67 days in a row one summer (after work of course). One Saturday morning, Joe, Bill, and two others teed off and on hole #2, Bill teased, “Well, beat that Joe!” Joe teed off and the ball went in the hole - a hole in one! Joe of course boasted, “There you go Bill!” Often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons the two couples golfed while the children swam, except for Greg – he was a preschooler, so he rode in the cart and enjoyed hitting his small club now and then.
Joe coached YMCA Flag Football and Basketball for Tim and Jeff. What fun watching those Saturday games. Winning was always a big part of the agenda for Coach Joe, even though he knew other aspects were really more important. Macomb provided five years of friends, a great job, golf, and bridge. Sandra always said it was a miracle their marriage withstood her learning to play bridge. Joe grew up playing many card games; Sandra’s family played Rook. For all their years together, especially after moving to Kalamazoo, they enjoyed dinner and bridge with friends, particularly Pat and Ken nearly every weekend. Gin and Blackjack provided fun with grandchildren and each other. Joe’s love of golf was only superseded by cards. He absolutely loved cards and had cut-throat games of euchre with his oldest granddaughter, Sandra, and daughter in law, Hannah, as his partner. Conversations particularly about golf and card games will never die. And of course, Joe loved to go to the casino here in Michigan and he was quite lucky.
Uniquely he came to Michigan through Western Michigan University without ever seeing the University or Kalamazoo. Past President Dr. John T. Bernhard invited Joe to join him at WMU after serving with John five of six years at WIU. At WMU his duties included community service. Joe had a natural gift for remembering people and was often called upon to introduce guests at the President’s dinners, sometimes over a hundred guests in an evening. These relationships lead to great town and gown relations between the University and City of Kalamazoo. He also served as Chairman or President of The Red Cross, Kalamazoo Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Kalamazoo Country Club, and was active in many more.
Joe retired from WMU in 1996. He spent his entire professional life working in College Administration at University of Illinois, Western Illinois University, and Western Michigan University. During retirement, he was the Athletic Director at Gagie School, arranging school trips for tours of Michigan and Washington, DC. He kept statistics and ran the scoreboard for all Gagie athletic events and banking. An avid card player, he loved teaching students to play cards on the UP trips. Joe loved people and had an ardent desire to know names and about their lives.
Joe read at least six newspapers every day and regularly delivered articles of interest to friends. He had a great relationship with the Michigan News Agency; they saved all his papers when he was on trips. He worried about their lack of business since people do not realize the value of newspapers in society. Joe asked for support for Dean and her Michigan News Agency. Please go there, enjoy the wide variety of books, magazines and newspapers. Please support paper print. It is a unique spot in Kalamazoo.
Martin R. “Joe” Gagie, died June 20, after a ten-week battle with a staph infection. He was born February 3, 1938, in Rochester, NY. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sandra, and their six children: Laura (Virgil), Tim, Jeff, Marta (Bill), Sara (Ron), Greg (Hannah); sixteen grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation to share stories, memories, and laughter to remember Joe. Visitation 4-8 PM Wednesday (JUNE 23) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 AM on Thursday (JUNE 24) at St. Thomas More Parish. Please visit Joe’s personal web page at BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Michigan News Agency.