Friday, May 3, 2019
4:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
A reception will follow in the Life Story Center.
Saturday, May 4, 2019
1:00 PM EDT
52798 CR 657
Paw Paw, MI 49079
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
It is with deepest sadness to announce the passing of Ronald Keith Derhammer of Mattawan, Michigan, on the morning of April 27, 2019. Ron fought a tremendous battle to stay alive the last nine months with his wife, Sally Sousley Derhammer, at his side, as well as his caregiver, nephew, and friend Matt Motter. The phrase, "He will be missed," is not nearly adequate to describe the impact this wonderful man made on the people who were blessed to know him.
The youngest of four children in his family, Ron, or Ronnie as he was affectionately called by his siblings, was raised in a hard working family of grape farmers. He worked in the grape fields from a young age, and his strong work ethic was born. This was something Ron proudly passed on to his children, Paige and Blake. Ron watched his parents continue to work still at the ages 86 and 91 in the field, tending to approximately 40 acres of vineyards.
In many ways Ronnie was a typical young boy of his generation. Although his childhood was filled with lots of hard work, there were also care-free times spent with his siblings, heading up to the Massey-Furgeson dealership where his father worked so they could play store. Their family also looked forward to their annual trip to Florida where Ronnie was known as the quarter kid because he was always asking for a quarter. Despite being the youngest, he was very protective of his siblings. Ronnie played Little League baseball as well as football at Mattawan High School where he wore #60. Working on the grape vineyard from a young age not only taught him how to work hard, it also taught him how to drive! Ron went on to graduate from high school in 1984.
Ronald Derhammer was a true American Hero. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the United States Army with the hope to travel and see the world. In 1985, Private Derhammer was severely injured in a car accident that left him 100% service connected, disabled, and paralyzed from the neck down. Ron's family fought to get him from Texas back to Michigan. He eventually landed at Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids. Upon his discharge from Mary Free Bed, Ron was welcomed home by the community of Mattawan.
Not to be forgotten during his formative years was Ron’s introduction to the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Sally Sousley, and they met at the age of eleven while camping. They have known each other for over forty years and were true soulmates from the start. They began their married life together on March 9, 1991, at First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo. Together they raised their two children, Paige and Blake. Ron was an attentive father whose family always came first. For instance, if he was in the middle of a conversation with one of his children he thought nothing of calling a client back or ending a meeting if needed. Throughout his life Ron had immeasurable pride in both of his children and talked about them often.
Determined not to let his disability stop him, Ron acquired a wheelchair and conceived a business, Easier Living Inc. This business worked with Michigan insurance companies to evaluate new injuries. At the same time, Ron obtained his bachelor’s degree in history from KVCC and Western Michigan University. Ron and Sally also believed in paying it forward. As a result, Ronald served as a trustee of the Antwerp Town Board and was a State Certified Land Use Planner on the township planning committee for more than 30 years. Ron had to resign in August due to the illness that took his life.
For Ron and Sally, life was an adventure. It started with a small, mail order business that grew into a mail order and retail storefront. Always looking for his next adventure, they sold the business. Convinced he could manufacture neon signs for stores for less than his competitors, they opened Neon Alley. As their business grew, so did the name of the business as it became American Neon and Sign. During the adventure of these businesses, Ron and Sally met so many wonderful people who are still in their lives. Ron's parents have always been supportive of his ideas, and they were there to help each and every time he asked. He always shared with Sally his admiration and appreciation for his parents.
Over the years Ron was a man of many interests. He never let being in a wheelchair stop him from seeking adventure. In fact, he always said that he had a wheelchair, a brain, and determination. Ron went skydiving, was known to sit at the bottom of his pool with his scuba tank on, and enjoyed going to Firekeepers Casino. He was a master collector whose basement was full of all his things like comic books, footballs, antiques, mirrors, and beer steins. Ron enjoyed being around kids, and since he knew some kids would be apprehensive of him because of his wheelchair he took the time to befriend them and educate them. He was always looking for ways he could pay it forward and never lost his positive outlook on life. Ron was a man of faith, and he always knew he would walk again one day. Ron’s family and friends find comfort in knowing that he is walking in heaven.
With a spirit of generosity that knew no bounds, Ron made a significant impact in the lives of so many others. He taught others that limitations don’t have to exist and the importance of looking at what you can do rather than what you can’t do. Ron’s love for his family was easy to see, and there was nothing that he treasured more than being with his family and friends. He could spin a story with the best of them.
Through their 28 years together, Ron and Sally raised two children, built two houses, socialized, and traveled when possible. Ron will always be remembered for his quick wit, pride, strength, generosity, friendship, determination, social gatherings, story-telling and, most of all the love he had for his family. Ron is survived by his wife, Sally; daughter, Paige; son, Blake; parents, Richard and Phyllis Derhammer; sister, Jan Dragicevich, husband, Joe; sister, Jodie Harrison, husband, Bruce; brother, Richard Derhammer, wife, Patricia; father-in-law, Roger Sousley; sister-in-law, Linda Ranville, husband Paul; sister-in-law, Lisa Giacomeli, husband, Doug; brother-in-law, Tim Sousley, wife, Maria Kip; as well as many nieces and nephews, as well as great nieces and great nephews. Ron established deep lasting friendships with many classmates, and they all are deeply saddened by his death. Funeral Services for Ron will be held at 4 PM on Friday, May 3, 2019 at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service and at a reception immediately following the service in the Life Story Center. Please visit Ron’s personal memory page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook online before coming to the funeral home. Contributions may be made to Paralyzed Veterans of America.