Life Story Visitation
Thursday, February 2, 2023
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where Stories will be shared.
Thursday, February 2, 2023
1:30 PM EST
West Oshtemo Cemetery
Life Story / Obituary
Beautiful, loving, and kind-hearted Mary Ann Dark lived a life devoted to her family. A woman who embodied the principles she believed in, Mary led by example, rooting her family in the values of leading with the heart, sharing, getting along with others, having a strong work ethic, and nurturing strong family connections. Her strength and support were evident in the way she compassionately listened, reflected the goodness in others, and created a warm sense of home. A devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, Mary was a powerful role model for how to live a full and contented life. Cherished by many, Mary will long be remembered and so very missed.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, the power of hope undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there more hope for the future than in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as Antonie and Marie (Koelman) Wilgenhof welcomed their daughter Mary Ann into their hearts and home on December 4, 1932.
The fourth of the six Wilgenhof kids, Mary grew up on the east side of the city. Her siblings, Garrett, Anthony, Egbert, Betty, and Sally, were her first friends, and her childhood was filled with lots of neighborhood fun. Even in the face of the hardships resulting from the Depression, she and the neighbor kids found ways to have a good time, especially during the cold winters when ice skating on the old mill pond.
As an eighth grader, Mary first met the love of her life, Kenneth Dark. When he ran into her while riding his bike and stopped to help her up, she instantly knew that she would marry him someday. A few years later, they met again when they were both working on the same farm. They began dating and were soon planning their future together. On July 19, 1950, at the local courthouse, Mary and Ken exchanged their marriage vows and officially began their 53-year adventure.
In time, the happy couple welcomed ten children to their family, five daughters and five sons. Sadly, their son Howard F. died at birth. Mary and Ken worked hard to provide their children with a loving and supportive home and the things they did not have during their earliest years. While Ken worked as a welder at James River Paper Company, Mary tended to the home and the kids.
Mary and Ken were a true team, working together with mutuality and respect and instilling their children with discipline, integrity, and strong family connections. To keep the household running smoothly, Mary created and enforced clear and consistent household rules which the kids were expected to follow. She cooked, cleaned, and made sure the kids' needs were met. She became a skillful cook, mastering the wood-burning stove in the kitchen, doing a lot of canning, and making delicious stew and chilis for her large family. The kids also had chores they were responsible for completing, including caring for the animals and garden and making sure there was wood for the woodstove.
The family moved to their forever home on 4th street in 1962. The home was where Mary felt most comfortable and the cornerstone of many treasured memories. Mary was the rock of the Dark household, always available for her children, lovingly tending to their emotional and physical needs. With a large family, she often had to play Dr. Mom so Vicks Vapor Rub and Epsom Salts were staples in the medicine cabinet and the cure to many ailments.
While their children were still home, the family enjoyed camping up north at Acme, Michigan, where Mary's brother Bert owned a campground. As the kids grew older, the family came to enjoy traveling to Chicago Lake in the Upper Peninsula, where Mary enjoyed the fun of fishing, swimming, and watching everyone from her lawn chair. Holidays were always an important time to gather as a large family. The home was never warmer and more delighted in than during the Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas seasons.
Mary and Ken were exceptionally resourceful and creative. Ken was a master woodworker who crafted wooden toys for the growing family. Mary would lovingly paint each toy to bring them to life. Mary also enjoyed crocheting, cross stitching, and quilting, welcoming every baby into the family with a special quilt. She also made sure each of the adults had a lap quilt.
In quiet times, Mary enjoyed watching her soap operas, The Young and Restless, Guiding Light, and The Bold and the Beautiful, and reminiscing about the good old days. She kept her family's history alive, fondly recalling the stories of important events like when her parents immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. As we continue to tell her stories, gather for holidays, and foster the close family bonds Mary created, we will ensure that Mary's strong spirit and unwavering love will continue to inspire those she dearly loved.
Mary Ann Dark, age 90, of Kalamazoo, died in the comforts of her home, the place where she loved, on Saturday, January 28, 2023. She is survived by her 7 children Roy Dark, Montana (Terry) Maury, Clay (Becky) Dark, Vicky (Pete) Anderson, Rebecca Dark, Howard (Lisa) Dark, Tonette (Gary) Richie; 2 sisters: Betty Tomlinson, Sally (Paul) Tomlinson; 27 grandchildren, more than 70 great-grandchildren, and many great-great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth, in 2003, and 3 children: a son Howard Frank Dark, a son Kenneth Dark, Jr., and a daughter Mary Gorsline. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where stories will be shared on Thursday (Feb 2) from 11-1 pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Graveside services will be held at West Oshtemo Cemetery immediately following the visitation. Visit Mary's webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook.