Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Michael Payne

July 27, 1945 - October 26, 2023
Kalamazoo, MI



Friday, April 26, 2024
11:00 AM EDT
First Congregational Church UCC
345 West Michigan
Kalamazoo, MI
Web Site


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.

Music Department at First Congregational Church UCC
345 W Michigan
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Web Site

Kalamazoo Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited
7138 Leawood Ave
Portage, MI 49024
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Michael Payne was a devoted husband, uncle, godfather, and friend to many. A hard worker and a lover of all people, Michael was sincere and generous with his time and resources and no one was ever a stranger. He had a special way of making everyone he met feel comfortable in his presence. Michael’s wonderful spirit and genuine interest in having fun will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.

In 1945, George and Ruth (Chapman) Payne welcomed home their firstborn son, Michael, on July 27th in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Michael’s arrival brought great joy to the family home.

His life was one of adventure and exploration at an early age. Michael attended Parkwood Upjohn Elementary and enjoyed riding his bike around the Westnedge Hill neighborhood. He and his two younger brothers, Tom and George, spent time fishing with their dad. Much of his childhood was filled with the outdoors and an appreciation for spending time with extended family. His dad taught industrial arts classes at Kalamazoo Central High School leading Michael to an interest in woodworking. Mike and his brothers built and raced soap box derby cars.

After high school, Michael attended Western Michigan University where he met the love of his life, Nancy Cousins. They were both on a ski trip to Boyne Mountain during a break and hit it off right from the start! Michael later left school to enlist in the Navy. He trained at Naval Station Great Lakes and married his sweetheart in a small ceremony in Detroit before leaving for Vietnam. While Michael was working as a medic aboard the USS Indra, Nancy remained a steadfast source of love and encouragement until they were reunited. San Diego became their home for two years while Michael completed his time in the Navy. Nancy taught school in the area but they eventually made their way back to Kalamazoo to be closer to family. With the help of the GI Bill, Michael successfully finished his education at Western Michigan University, earning a Bachelor’s in Business Management.

Ambitious as well as knowledgeable, Michael co-authored a paper on diabetes with another professor from WMU. The article helped land him a position in hospital administration with Videre Healthcare Management. He later worked for Forest View Psychiatric Hospital in Grand Rapids and Lakeview Hospital in Paw Paw. Michael was recruited to work for Michigan Office Environments and advanced to Vice President. He later started his own business and worked as an independent furniture manufacturing representative. He represented companies from Spain, Italy, and Germany. During this part of his career, he consulted with hospitals, restaurants, and office buildings, helping them design their furnishings. Anything he set his mind to doing, he always did with great passion.

Aside from work, Michael enjoyed a wide variety of activities. He was an avid cyclist and was involved in many community organizations. His love of creating continued and expanded to include glass blowing, welding and sculpture at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Being outdoors, especially on the water, offered solace for Michael. He travelled as far as Alaska, Montana, and Key West with friends in search of fishing adventures. Fishing Michigan rivers with his brother-in-law Garnet was a popular pastime. The Allegan Forest was a favorite spot for duck hunting. In addition to the woods, rivers, and streams, he had a love of the Great Lakes. He took sailing lessons and became an excellent sailor. He had studied nearly everything about fishing and sailing, so any trip mishap could easily be tended to whether it was a fish hook through a finger or the boat taking on water.

He and Nancy shared a beautiful life together. They both enjoyed traveling which included trips throughout the United States and Europe. Santa Fe’s rich and thriving art scene made it a favorite destination. They also enjoyed taking in the local music scene and were very supportive of the arts in Kalamazoo. Above all else, Michael enjoyed his community of friends. With no children of their own, Michael and Nancy were honored to be godparents to their friend's children. Michael even officiated at his goddaughter's wedding.

Michael enjoyed being surrounded by his loved ones as well as the many special friends in his life. He never complained or had a negative word to say about anyone and enjoyed his life to the fullest. Michael’s caring ways and generous acts touched the lives of many over the years. May his loved ones cherish the special memories they made together and may those memories be eternal.

Michael Payne of Kalamazoo, age 78, died on October 26, 2023. Cremation has taken place and a service will be held at 11 am on Friday, April 26, 2024 at the First Congregational Church, 345 West Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo. A lunch will be held immediately following the service in the church atrium. Visit Michael’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and to sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be directed to the music department at First Congregational Church or the Kalamazoo Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.