Friday, November 23, 2018
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and drinks will be served.
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Ronald Stephens would agree that he was a natural leader, not because he spoke the loudest in a group, but because he listened so carefully. Though he seldom spoke about himself, he had a gift for drawing people out because he was so curious and interested in others’ experiences. He was a man of honor and high moral convictions, and his spirit of generosity was easy to see. Ron made no secret of the fact that he was married to his best friend, and together they raised an amazing family. Deeply rooted in the community he loved, he touched the lives of so many. Although he will be dearly missed, Ron leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever cherish.
The 1930s were some of the most trying days we have ever faced as a nation as the entire decade was held firmly in the grip of the Great Depression. A soaring unemployment rate and the widespread loss of jobs gave way to countless American families losing their homes. Despite the challenges around them, it was a day to celebrate in Newberry, Michigan, on November 1, 1936, as C. Bruce and Mary (Perrier) Stephens announced the birth of the baby boy they named Ronald B. He was the third of six children to be raised in the family home around Newberry and Dollarville in the Upper Peninsula as he joined his siblings Gerald and Janet, soon to be followed by Matthew, Sharon, and Robert.
In many ways Ron was a typical young boy of his generation. He experienced a simple childhood and was an active kid. Ron’s father had a store and gas station in Dollarville and his mother was a partner in these businesses. He attended local schools including Newberry High School where he played center on the football team despite being smaller in stature. Ron also played basketball, although not on the team, and with a lifelong love for the Tigers he listened to most of their games on the radio. Ron was homecoming king, and he went on to graduate from high school in 1954.
As a young man, Ron worked toward his dream of attending college with the determination that characterized him throughout his life. He joined the Air Force for four years so that he could have access to an education through the GI Bill. Because he scored highest in his cadet class, he was selected to be a cryptographer with a top-secret security clearance. Ron was stationed in Omaha, Nebraska, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, and was also sent to the Philippines for over a year. He later moved to Kalamazoo with his family.
In Kalamazoo, the direction of his life changed again when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Harriet Howard, and they met through his sister, Sharon. Ron couldn't help but notice her long legs in her basketball team picture, and for the rest of his life he always spoke of how important it is to marry a beautiful woman! At the time Ron was studying business marketing and advertising at Western Michigan University. They eloped to St. Joseph Church in Mishawaka, Indiana, and were married on December 28, 1960. Harriet transferred from St. Mary’s College, and they both graduated from WMU in 1962. Ron went to work for Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati, and it was there that they started a family. They were blessed with three children, Becky, Terri, and Mark.
As someone who valued hard work and education, Ron worked in a few industries until he found the perfect fit. Their family moved back to Kalamazoo, and he worked for his father-in-law at Casper Haas Company. That business was soon sold so Ron ended up selling real estate while also studying law at the University of Michigan. Making the commute back and forth to Ann Arbor each week, he continued studying and graduated from U of M in 1972. Ron then started with Bennett, Palmer, Lewis, and LaParl law firm in Kalamazoo, and in 1982 went to Miller Johnson where he spent the rest of his 30-year career. He focused on business, corporate, and real estate law. Ron also taught a business law class for a few years at WMU and was a member of the American Bar Association. Within his community he was a member of the Kalamazoo Country Club where he was also on the board, as well as serving on the boards of the Catholic Family Charities and MRC Industries; if he saw that someone had a need he would quietly address it and he would never turn away a request for help from his family and friends—including giving them free legal advice.
Ron was a man of many interests who liked to be busy. Once he retired, he and a fellow attorney went to visit their friend and fellow attorney, Roger Allen, in the nursing home every week for years. Ron was an avid tennis player, often playing with Tom Sullivan. He had a love/hate relationship with golf, and for years he went skiing out west with a group of buddies and also made trips up north with family. They had a place at The Homestead where they did plenty of biking, cross-country skiing, and walks. Ron traveled extensively, including all over Europe. He especially enjoyed visiting Scotland, Paris, and England and participating in a memorable WWII tour where they saw Normandy and all the beaches. Ron loved watching sports and was a huge supporter of Western Michigan University athletics. He collected Sports Illustrated, and thanks to his father-in-law, he even had some of the earliest copies of the magazine. Ron loved sharing his love of sports and did some coaching. Ron was an avid reader, especially history, and he took piano lessons after he retired. Although he wasn’t a cook, he knew what he liked, which was anything Harriet made, hearty soups and salads, and cherry pie.
In everything he did, Ron was all about family. He cherished his wife, and they were best friends. He was there to support her in her work and in continuing her education, and they also had fun together taking bike rides, playing tennis and golf, and making the time for date nights on a regular basis. They spent their winters in Naples, Florida, for 16 years, although they were deeply rooted in Kalamazoo. Ron was a proud father and grandfather, and he was very involved in the lives of his grandchildren. He continued to be very healthy and active until his recent diagnosis with leukemia.
Honest, unassuming, and genuine, Ronald Stephens was a blessing in the lives of so many. He was an amazing listener and gave the best advice, perhaps because he learned so much about life in the mistakes he made along the way. Ron was a family man through and through, and his marriage exemplified what real love truly is. Dearly loved, he will never be forgotten.
Ronald B. Stephens, of Portage, age 82, died November 7, 2018. Ron’s family includes his wife, Harriet Stephens; 3 children: Rebecca Stephens (John Woitinnek), Theresa (David) Luzenske and Mark Stephens; grandson, A. Alexander (Dayna) Popkey; 3 siblings: Janet Wehner, Sharon McManus and Robert Stephens and many nieces and nephews and a special great-nephew, Christopher Briggs. Ron was preceded in death by a granddaughter, Samantha Popkey; and by 2 brothers: Matthew and Gerald Stephens. Cremation will take place. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and drinks on Friday, November 23rd from 5-8 p.m. at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where services will be held Saturday, November 24th at 11 a.m. A luncheon will follow the services in the Life Story Center. Please visit Ron’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to West Michigan Cancer Center or Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo.