Life Story Visitation
Friday, August 11, 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.
If you viewing the service online, push the live button on the page after following the link.
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.
Department of Spanish at Western Michigan University FBO Professor Michael Millar Scholarship
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Michael Millar was a man beloved by all who knew him. His dedication to those around him served as a shining example of what it means to be a father, son, teacher, friend, and community member. Throughout his life, Michael made it his mission to support those around him and create community. Those who knew him best recall his devotion to family and friends, intense excitement for life, and amazing sense of humor.
In the winter of 1972, John Millar was finishing his Ph.D. at MSU while his wife, Joyce Millar, worked as a nurse at Sparrow Hospital. It was on March 1st, in Lansing, Michigan that the two had their second son Michael. In his early years, Michael moved around the country to places such as Olympia, Washington where he loved to explore the woods on Mt. Rainier, and Erie, Pennsylvania where he enjoyed visiting the dairy farms and playing with his friends. During his childhood, he cherished such activities as fishing and doing Indian guides with his father. Every summer Mike and his family would travel to Blueberry Hill campground in Wildwood, New Jersey, to spend time with his grandparents Lillian and “Mickey” Vickers.
Going into his 5th-grade year, Michael and his family moved to Tiffin, Ohio where he eventually graduated from Tiffin Columbian High School with academic honors. During his time at Tiffin Columbian, Mike was a superstar athlete and a talented musician. A lifelong soccer player, Michael joined the soccer team at his high school and was Team Captain as well as a 2-year MVP. Mike lettered in both Soccer and Wrestling, which was his other athletic passion. A music lover as well, Mike was always singing or listening to music. While at Tiffin Columbian, he sang in the 4 M’s Quartet and the Choristers under the direction of Curtis King who fostered his love of music and the community that it creates. While still in high school, Mike had the unique opportunity to join the All American Collegiate Choir with whom he toured Europe. Those who knew Mike in high school remember him for his outgoing personality, sense of humor, and kindness toward others.
After graduating high school he attended Denison University where he majored in Spanish and Education. While attending, he met Dr. William Clamurro, who inspired his interest in Spanish literature as well as the cultures and histories of Spanish speaking countries. Michael pursued this interest with vigor and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain his Junior year. Additionally, while in college, Michael pursued his passion for music by joining the Dennison Singers which allowed him to travel to such places as Venezuela.
After graduating from college with a bachelor of arts, Michael took a gap year working for the Seneca County Department of Human Services as a court interpreter for the migrant workers in the area. During this time, he found his love for helping his community and using Spanish as a way to connect with people from all over the world.
Michael then continued his education at the University of Michigan pursuing a master's in Spanish literature. It was here he met his future wife, Katherine, who was a graduate instructor in the same program. As they got to know one another, Katherine fell in love with his sense of humor as well as their shared interest in languages and serving the Spanish speaking communities. Katherine remembers the support they gave one another and the love that helped them navigate the obstacles of working, teaching, and going to classes. During this especially challenging time in their lives, Katherine and Michael were blessed to create a lifelong connection with friends called the “Ann Arbor Crew” with whom they went on adventures, had parties, and enjoyed life as young adults. Michael and Katherine's love was further strengthened when Michael proposed, and they later married in August 1997 surrounded by friends and family. In their early years of marriage, the young couple enjoyed camping together as well as going on paddles in their canoe. A talented writer, Michael also expressed his love through poems he would write to his wife and shared his ideas through short stories published in the Ann Arbor Observer. His most famous story called “Three Pennies” won him a literature contest and a small table which he prided as his “major award.”
After finishing their master's degrees, the young couple decided to pursue their mutual love of travel and live in Costa Rica. Being young adults, and because money was tight, the pair worked as English instructors at the Instituto Britanico for the Intel corporation to fund their adventures. On their free weekends, the couple would hop on the bus with their two-man tent and camp on the beaches and in the rainforests of the small nation just enjoying the natural beauty of the country and one another's company.
When they returned home, Michael continued his education by pursuing a Ph.D in Central American studies; this would allow him to become a professor at the university level. Those who remember him best know that Michael could do it all and do it well. So, the week Katherine gave birth to their daughter, Marysol, he successfully defended his dissertation and signed for their new house in Kalamazoo. Three years later, they had a son named Keenan while building a life in Kalamazoo, where he resided until his passing.
Michael was a loving and devoted father. He always went above and beyond to make his family feel special. Marysol remembers that for her third birthday party, he went every week to collect old refrigerator boxes until he had enough to build her a princess castle. Michael coached her soccer team, and when Marysol decided that singing was a better fit, he showed up at every single one of her concerts from Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus through her University Voice Recital, even sneaking backstage with flowers on occasion. As an avid fisherman, Michael enjoyed teaching this hobby to his son, Keenan, especially at the family house on Torch Lake. It was here where Mike would drive the boat, refuse to get in the cold water until August, and work on projects. A soccer player his whole life, Michael also coached Keenan throughout elementary school and supported him at the state premier level instilling Keenan with a love of what he called “the beautiful game.” Being good with tools Michael put his woodworking skills to good use by helping build the sets of the musicals for both of his children. Michael and Stephen continued the annual family tradition of going to Wildwood with their families where Mike enjoyed boogie boarding, winning prizes for his family in squirt gun races, and taking sunrise beach walks with his kids. One of the many things his children will miss is how intensely loving, supportive, and present he was.
For many people, work is just a thing to do for income; this was not the case for Mike. His love of teaching and devotion to students found him a career as a professor and advisor in the Spanish department at Western Michigan University for 20 years. Mike was known for instilling a love of Spanish language and culture in students, convincing them to add a major or minor, and encouraging them to study abroad. He loved his colleagues too, whether it was playing on the Mambo Kings Softball team or the annual Christmas party, the department always felt like a family. Mike was especially grateful to his mentors, Drs. Jorge Febles, John Benson, and Bob Felkel, and to one of his best friends Dr. Pablo Pastrana. It was at WMU that Mike developed an award winning service learning program that partnered with multiple community organizations to give students real life experience; he also created a study abroad program in Costa Rica, a place that he felt so connected to. His work with Spanish and the community also gave him the opportunity to work as an interpreter for Rigoberta Menchu Túm, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, with whom he developed a close relationship. Mike was a published author and won many awards for his outstanding work as an educator. He was adored by students and faculty alike and his absence at WMU will be felt by the many whose lives he touched.
There is much to still be said about Michael, but only so much space on a page. We must continue his story in our own hearts and memories shared. From being a son, to a husband, to a father, or professor, he always acted with love and dedication. Michael was exciting to be around and excited to be with those he loved. Even in the hard moments of his life he remained committed to showing up for his family and community. There are no words for this kind of loss, but the depth of this grief is matched by the joy and love his life brought to those who surrounded him. May we all find solace in those memories and remain deeply grateful for the multitude of ways in which he impacted each and every one of us.
Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Friday, August 11, from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. A Memorial Service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Kalamazoo on Saturday, September 9 at 1 PM with a reception following. The service will be livestreamed as well as recorded.
Visit Michael’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Department of Spanish at Western Michigan University to establish the “Professor Michael Millar Scholarship” in the Department of Spanish. Please note on your contribution that it is to be designated for the Professor Michael Millar Scholarship.