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Life Story / Obituary
Humble, hardworking, patient, and loyal, Richard Derhammer Sr. lived a life rich in faith and family. A lifelong farmer, who loved working the fields, Richard welcomed each day as a gift and made the most of each moment. A proud husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather Richard approached life with a steadfastness that inspired all who knew him. Revered by many, Richard will long be held in the hearts and lives of those he loved.
The 1920s were marked by tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts. The economy boomed, wages rose for most Americans and prices fell, resulting in a higher standard of living for most. With the inventions of the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, self-winding watch, bulldozer, the instant camera, drive-in restaurants, Band-Aids, and the convertible, the post-war era marked significant advancement and morale flourished throughout the land. This vibrant time grew even more brilliant in Kalamazoo, Michigan as Leslie and Dorothy (Stickney) Derhammer welcomed their son Richard into their hearts and home on June 6, 1927.
Growing up on the family farm in Texas Corners, from his earliest days, Richard worked picking potatoes and parsnips and raising cattle. Along with his siblings Marion, Jeanette, Gert, Bob, and Esther, Richard was raised with strong family values as well as an undauntable work ethic. He also grew up learning the importance of balancing hard work with good fun. The family enjoyed playing cards every weekend and made homemade ice cream. They also took part in Harvest Farmer to Farmer Place.
At the age of 15, Richard quit school to work for his neighbor, Art. A great mentor and firm believer in Richard, Art took him to get his first loan for his very own farm equipment to include a 419N Ford tractor, 52” combine and cultivator. With signature commitment, Richard saved up for his very first car, a '35 Ford decked out with squirrel tails on the antennas, and multicolored tassels hung around the inner ceiling.
While farming was his passion, Richard also wanted to graduate from high school. He returned to school to finish his senior year and graduate with the Mattawan High School class of 1948. Not only did Richard acquire his diploma when he returned to school, he also had the good fortune of meeting the love of his life, Phyllis Klobucher.
Instantly smitten, Richard and Phyllis were soon a serious couple setting their eyes on a future spent together. On June 18, 1951, Richard and Phyllis were married; it was the best day of Richard's life.
Like many men in his generation, Richard was drafted into the Army. During his service from 1951-1953, Richard worked as an electrician on the Landing Craft Boats (LCM) in Panama. While serving in Panama, he was quickly befriended by a spider monkey, who loved banana and inside of coconuts, and became his pet. Later in his service, Richard was transferred to Greenland where he worked 12 hours on and 12 hours off during the 24-hour daylight to help build the airstrip in Thule.
Once his service was complete, Richard and Phyllis returned to West Michigan. Richard continued to give to his country for the next five years as a soldier in the Army Reserves.
Upon returning home, Richard and Phyllis bought their 40 acre fruit farm. They also purchased a grape picker in 1970 that was used to harvest their 30 acres of grapes under Welch’s contract. Plus 270 acres of other farmers that were under Welch’s contract also.
Over time, the happy couple was blessed to welcome four children into their family. Being a father to Jan, Jodie, Richard, and Ronald and creating a loving home with Phyllis were Richard’s greatest joys. He loved his family fiercely and unconditionally, valuing nothing more than his relationships and time with those he loved.
When not working the farm, Richard could be found exploring many of his interests. For 25 years he and Phyllis both drove the school bus for Mattawan. He enjoyed Deep-sea fishing, snowmobiling, waterskiing, and camping. When the kids were young, the family visited almost every state, taking great trips during the wintertime. He made the best homemade fudge (no recipes) and popcorn. He and Phyllis were great dancers and loved hitting the floor with their well-synchronized steps. They were often the source of much inspiration at family weddings; no one danced the Polka better than the Derhammers! Quick to give of his time and talents, Richard served as a Deacon at the church and served for ten years as a youth leader. Richard enjoyed country music and western movies; his TV was always turned to the Grit channel.
As his children grew into adulthood and had families of their own, Richard was blessed with the gift of grandchildren. Janelle, Jessica, Jacob, Jaclyn, Keith, Paige, Blake, Ashley, Holly and his 14 great-grandchildren were truly his heart’s delight. In each of their eyes he could easily see the spark of his legacy and the flicker of his greatest hopes for the future.
Any time spent in the good company of his family was always held as a gift in Richard's heart. While every moment was special, he held the memories of holiday gatherings, celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with the whole family on a Disney Cruise, and taking the entire family to Hawaii for Christmas one year especially dear.
A man who fully embodied his beliefs, Richard was loving, kind, patient, humble, forgiving, and accepting. In being so, he was an inspiration to all who were blessed to share time with him. And while difficult to imagine life in the absence of his steadfast presence, it is with honor that his family will carry his legacy forward.
Richard V. Derhammer, Sr., went home to be with his Lord on August 17, 2019, at his home surrounded by his family. Richard was preceded in death by a son, Ronald Derhammer and by 3 siblings: Bob Derhammer, Esther Cavanaugh and Jeanette Pontious. Members of his family include his wife of 68 years, Phyllis Derhammer; 3 children: Jan (Joe) Dragicevich, Jodie (Bruce) Harrison and Richard (Gail) Derhammer; daughter-in-law, Sally Derhammer; grandchildren: Janelle (Tony) Chadwick, Jessica (Matt) Motter, Jacob (Lindsay) Dragicevich, Jaclyn (Tony) Vohwinkle,, Keith Derhammer, Paige Derhammer and Blake Derhammer, Ashley (Dustin) Worden, Holly Harrison; 14 great-grandchildren; 2 siblings: Marion Hobaugh and Gert Galich; many nieces and nephews and, his loyal fur baby “Sammie”. Visit with family and friends on Saturday from 10AM until service time at 12Noon at Mattawan Community Church (23680 Front Ave.). Burial at Harwick Cemetery with military honors. A luncheon will follow the burial at the church’s hall. Please visit Richard’s personal memory page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Paralyzed Veterans of America. Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40; Paw Paw (269) 657-3870.