Life Story / Obituary
Honest and approachable, people were naturally drawn in by Richard Cagney’s warm personality and friendly demeanor. A man of many talents, he achieved so much during in his long lifetime but if you asked him what he was most proud of, undoubtedly his answer would be, “his family.”
As the Roaring 20s began winding down, Americans usured in a period of prosperity and change. We watched as the first television, a Daven, sold at a cost of just $75. We marveled over the discovery of the first effective antibiotic, penicillin, which saved millions of lives. Also during this hopeful time, Lester and Catherine (Gahley) Cagney looked forward to big changes of their own as they welcomed their son, Richard into their loving home on February 14, 1928.
Growing up in the Kalamazoo area Dick reveled in a childhood that was typical of his generation. In school, he enjoyed performing in dramas or acting in school plays. During his free time, Dick could usually be found at the roller rink or playing a round of golf with his buddies. He was naturally a hard worker and as soon as his mother allowed it, he went in search of a job. At the age of 14, he began working at Rosenbaum Shoe Store stocking shoes and helping with odd jobs. The store was only a few blocks from his home which was ideal, both in his eyes and his mother’s!
After graduating from St. Augustine High School, Dick went on to attend Western Michigan University. Sadly, while attending Western, Dick’s mother passed away forcing him to sell the family home. With no place to live, he opted to join the Navy Reserves, serving on the USS Midway. After returning home, Dick found employment at International Paper while continuing to work at Rosenbaum Shoe Store. As fate would have it, in the 1970s, Mr. Rosenbaum looked towards retirement. It was only natural for Dick to purchase the business he loved so much. Dick was a natural salesperson and much of his business came to him by word of mouth. He successfully owned and operated the store for over 25 years.
Along with owning the shoe store, Dick put his passion for photography to good use, creating a substantial side business for over 40 years. This was the perfect complement for a shoe salesman. He worked with wedding parties to select and tint their shoes custom colors and he would even schedule the wedding venue, musician, minister, and order the cake! He was more like a party planner than a wedding photographer!
During this time, Dick would take another big step in his life when he met and married Virginia Clearwater. Though their marriage would end in divorce, the birth of their son Tim was one of the most important events in Dick’s life. Family was always important to Dick and he strived to live his life as a good example for his son. He delighted in sharing his many talents with Tim. Working side-by-side, Dick and Tim built a dock, shed, and even a garage at Tim’s home. Whether splitting wood or working on a project, the two relished in their time together.
In 1976, Dick was fortunate to find love a second time when he reconnected with Sue Smith. The two married and combined their two families. They enjoyed many years together before she passed away in 2005. Dick’s role as Grandpa undoubtedly helped him through difficult times and brought him much fulfillment. With his love of creating and building, Dick always saved a few big boxes to build forts with his grandkids. As a result, they fondly referred to him as “Box Grandpa”.
Never one to be idle, Dick found many ways to fill his time. He was good with his hands and never without a project – always making or fixing something. He even helped build St. Catherine’s Catholic Church and offered a helping hand whenever maintenance was required. Outgoing and social by nature, Dick was known to frequent garage sales just for the opportunity to meet and talk with new people. True to his Irish heritage, he was open and relatable, and people were drawn to his infectious personality. He loved any big band or Irish music and never turned down the opportunity to dance!
Not surprisingly, Dick’s favorite holiday was St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, he would celebrate with the traditional green beer, corned beef, and cabbage. He made several trips to Ireland in his lifetime to see where his ancestors came from. In his travels, he even came across an Irish pub that was owned by Cagney family relatives! Almost as if by design, Dick passed away on St. Patrick's Day. Surely, friends and family will always remember how much we owe to Dick Cagney. May his legacy of love, kindness, and friendship carry on in those he leaves behind. From an Irish good luck blessing: “May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load, may the mist of Irish magic shorten every road, may you taste the sweetest pleasures that fortune ere bestowed, and may all your friends remember all the favors you are owed.”
Richard “Dick” Cagney, age 93 died, on March 17, 2021. Dick was preceded in death by his first wife, Virginia Clearwater; second wife, Suzanne Smith; and step-grandson, Ben Smith. Surviving are his son, Tim (Robin) Cagney; grandchildren: Heather Timmer and Chase (Lindsay) Cagney; great-grandchildren: Harper, Chandler, Dawson, and Cohen; step-children: Lorrie (Bill) Martin, Karen (Erik) Jonasen, Gary (Mary) Smith, Linda (Tom) Farrell, and Steve (Carrie) Smith; 8 step-grandchildren; and 3 step-great-grandchildren. Private services will be held with burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit Dick’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo, (269) 375-2900.