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Life Story / Obituary
A scientist, an avid outdoorsman, and a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend, Carleton Van Maltby, known to all as “Van,” lived his life according to the lesson he instilled in his children, “Do the right thing.”
Van was born on May 12, 1956, in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Kathlyne and Charles Maltby. He would be later joined by his brother, Patrick, and his twin sisters, Sarah and Teresa.
Van enjoyed a happy childhood, with his parents fostering a life-long love of nature and the outdoors. The family spent many days camping, walking in the woods, and exploring all that nature has to offer. A particularly beloved spot was Wilderness State Park, on the Straits of Mackinac.
Van attended St. Augustine Cathedral School and graduated from Hackett Catholic Prep School in 1974. During high school, Van volunteered at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, a position that was a perfect fit for him. He went on to attend Western Michigan University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and, a few years later, his Master of Science degree in Earth Science (Environmental).
While attending Hackett, Van met Joan Hendriksen, a lovely and talented young woman who was first friends with his brother, Patrick. Van and Joan dated throughout college and were married at Kalamazoo’s St. Joseph Catholic Church on August 22, 1981. Van and Joan were thrilled when their family grew with the births of three children: John, Carolyn, and Elizabeth (Lizzy).
Van began his career at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) in 1980. It was a career he loved and in which he excelled. Over 36 years, he rose from research technician to research scientist to project leader to regional manager—while building a dedicated network of colleagues and students. The work he did in the laboratory and in the field for NCASI was designed to establish best practices and regulations regarding ground water quality for the pulp and paper industry, which has strong roots in western Michigan and, in particular, at Western Michigan University.
During this time, Van earned his pilot’s license—thus fulfilling a life’s dream. He also served as president of the St. Augustine School Board, as well as vice president and then president of the Southern Michigan Gun Club. He also enjoyed singing in the St. Joseph Church choir.
While work and volunteer activities were important to Van, his family was always central. He and Joan ensured that their children grew up in a circle of extended family and close friends while being raised with love, patience, and respect. Some of their children’s best memories are the days spent fishing and boating on Sugarloaf Lake in Portage and the annual family trip to Wilderness State Park, a tradition that Van continued from his own childhood.
As a father, Van was immensely supportive of his children’s endeavors. While they were students at Hackett Catholic Prep School, he twice accompanied soccer teams to Mexico on service trips. He loved attending their sporting events, their dance and musical theater performances, and their art exhibits. He was involved in Boy Scouts with John, and he enjoyed taking Carolyn to horseback riding lessons and tinkering with Lizzy in his well-stocked and well-organized workshop.
Van had a lively but understated sense of humor. He loved to recount stories, many of which became embellished over time. One example was the story he told about the strategies employed to adopt a family cat—when everyone was in agreement about that adoption except Joan. The cat, Pune, quickly became a treasured member of the family (and loved Joan the most).
Van embraced adventure and travel. He once traveled to Malaysia to be present at the wedding of a NCASI graduate student, and trips on his BMW motorcycle were some of his favorite times. He rode his motorcycle from Michigan to Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and took several riding/camping trips as well on the Lake Superior and Lake Huron Circle Tours. He frequently enjoyed local rides around the area on evenings and weekends.
Further afield, Van and Joan enjoyed annual trips to fish in Yellowstone and, often with his parents, hiking trips to Sedona, Arizona. With their adventurous spirit, the Maltbys took two memorable family trips to Italy and elsewhere in Europe during their children’s college years, and then a trip to South Korea to visit Lizzy in 2014.
In his quieter moments, Van could be found reading one of his favorite science fiction or spy novels, as well as historical novels based during World War II.
After 36 years at NCASI, Van retired in 2016. While certainly able to spend more time on travel and fishing, true to his generous spirit and love of nature, he also became a volunteer at Pretty Lake Camp, a non-profit community organization that provides a cost-free summer camp experience to Kalamazoo County youth most in need. Van was also known to offer up his help to neighbors with their home repairs, earning him the affectionate title of “Superintendent of the Neighborhood.”
Sadly, in 2018, Van was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Van was able to continue with many of his favorite activities through the love and dedication of many—Joan; John, Carolyn, and Lizzy and their spouses and partners; Van’s siblings; Joan’s family; and friends and neighbors. One activity he continued to enjoy was the annual family trip to Wilderness State Park. Of special note, Patrick, and his wife, Deb, provided help and support that allowed the two couples to travel even within the last two years to Florida, Gettysburg, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and the Bruce Peninsula in Canada.
During his illness, Van was thrilled to welcome grandchildren, Willa (born 2020) and Forest (born 2021) to the family. The hours he spent with Willa and Forest were a great comfort and joy.
The Maltby family is grateful to all the family and friends who loved and supported Van, and for the compassionate care extended to him during his last months by the staff at North Woods Village in Kalamazoo and Compassus Hospice.
Van was happiest when surrounded by those he loved. Though his passing leaves a huge void in our lives, we can carry his legacy forward each time we revel in the beauty of nature, lend a hand to a neighbor, or appreciate the importance of family. His memory will live on in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.
Van Maltby, age 67, of Kalamazoo died on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. Members of his family include his wife Joan; three children: John (Elise) Maltby, Carolyn (Benjamin Sneddon) Maltby, Lizzy (Taylor) Maltby; two grandchildren: Willa and Forest; three siblings: Patrick (Deborah) Maltby, Teresa (Bruce) Weiderman, Sarah (Jeff) Pfost; Mother-in-law Margaret Hendriksen; four sisters-in-law: Anne (Martin) Puchala, Mary Hendriksen (Dwight King), Paula Hendriksen (Kevin Bennett), and Nancy Hendriksen (Mike Conway). He is also survived by many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Cremation has taken place and private services will be held.
Visit Van’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign his guestbook.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Kalamazoo Nature Center or Pretty Lake Camp. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.