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.
SPCA of SW Michigan
6955 West KL Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Remarkably successful, Max Heckelman modeled a lifetime of hard work and commitment to the family he loved. A generous and loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather he treasured the time he spent with his family building memories over the years. Nothing brought him greater joy than being around people. His warm spirit and soft-hearted ways will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by his many special friends and loved ones for generations to come.
The 1920s saw large-scale industrial growth and significant changes in our nation’s culture. At a time when Lou Gehrig and Amelia Earhart were household names, Wayne and Viola (Maul) Heckelman welcomed home their newborn son, Max, on November 27, 1928, in Three Rivers, Michigan. Born the youngest of three children, he brought great hope and promise to his parents during an exciting time in our nation’s history.
Max’s strong work ethic was noticed at an early age. With both parents working outside the family home, he was known to pitch in and help out. As a young adolescent, he held a job washing out milk bottles at a local dairy before walking himself to school. He played the trombone in the marching band for Three Rivers High School where he graduated with the Class of 1947. Fresh out of school, he went to work at Southerland Paper where he met the woman who would change the course of his life forever, Mable Chase! They dated for three short months before joining in marriage on October 14, 1950. After the wedding, they moved to New Jersey where Max was stationed in the United States Army. Later they returned to Michigan where together they raised their three wonderful children: Bruce, Brad, and Bonnie.
As a father, he was always very supportive. A steadfast provider, he worked long hours at the paper mill and often held a second job to ensure his family’s needs were met. Luckily, he was very handy and could easily pick up a wide variety of jobs on the side. He and Mable instilled in their children strong moral values and to treat others the way you want to be treated. Their greatest gift to their growing children was the love they modeled between them. As a family, they enjoyed countless day trips including visits to Deer Forest, Chicago, many area zoos, and Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Many years later, they purchased a cabin in Bruce’s Crossing where the family enjoyed hunting and enjoyed the beautiful natural setting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
When the children were grown and on their own, Max took advantage of an offer to run a paper mill for Southerland Paper in Yakima, Washington. He and Mable both enjoyed the mountain views of Washington but were eager to settle down in Tucson, Arizona once he retired. Although they enjoyed the warmer climate of Arizona and looked forward to the visits from their grandchildren each year, by 2007, they made their way back to Michigan to be closer to their loving family.
Although being a father was a role he took on with great pride, there was no doubt that he and Mable were meant to be together as she was his greatest treasure. When he suffered a serious heart attack at the age of forty-seven, the doctors didn’t give him much of a promising outlook saying he wouldn’t live much after fifty. Yet with the tender loving care of his lovely bride, Mable, he defied the odds. Sharing many specials interests together, the two of them bowled on the same league for twenty years and were a phenomenal pair of square dancers. For the most part, they lived near or on a golf course, learning the rules of the game and bonding along the fairways. Many of their retirement years were spent golfing with friends. Golfing was a passion that Max favored out of all his special hobbies which also included fishing, woodworking, and playing cards. He and Mable also enjoyed traveling and made many memorable moments with their daughter, Bonnie, and son-in-law, Mike going on cruises. They were happy to have their son Brad and daughter in law Linda join them on the cruise to the Caribbean, which made it extra special. Each, and every week, they had a standing Euchre game where it was always the men against the women! They also survived the loss of their son, Bruce which was a difficult time in their lives yet made them stronger.
Grateful for the life they had together, he and his wife of nearly sixty-nine years never took a moment for granted. On October 8, 2016, he made a public testimony of his love for Mable. Gathered with more than twelve hundred other couples to set a world record, they renewed their wedding vows at the Western Michigan University sponsored event. It was a beautiful day surrounded by their family and a highlight of their special memories together. Blessed with an abundant family who loved him dearly, Max leaves behind a remarkable legacy of living life to the fullest and modeling a lifetime of loving unconditionally.
Max Eugene Heckelman, age 90, of Kalamazoo, Michigan died on Friday, June 21, 2019, at Rose Arbor Hospice. Members of his family include his wife, Mable, two children; Brad (Linda) Heckelman, Bonnie (Mike) Birdsall, 11 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Bruce, a sister, Nola Bowlby, and a brother, Delton Heckelman. Visit with family and friends on Monday from 4-7 pm at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where services will be held at 11 am on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Cremation will take place after the service. Please visit Max’s personal web page at www.betzlerlifestory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Rose Arbor Hospice or the SPCA of SW Michigan.