Miles Helmer

Dec 8th 1936 - Jun 25th 2009

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Miles D. Helmer was an even tempered man who loved his family with everything he had. To them, he was absolutely the best. His lasting legacy will be for his dedication to the family that he held so dear, and his consistent respect of others. Supportive of those he cared about, Miles was an individual who was always helpful and a friend to many. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

As unemployment, homelessness, drought as well as massive flooding affected the United States from coast to coast, many Americans were offered a ray of hope during the mid 1930s, during the Great Depression. It was during these difficult times that people found refuge from everyday struggles by enjoying a picture show, the publication of the new Life Magazine, or the introduction of a new board game called monopoly. There was new hope for a young couple in Kalamazoo, Michigan when on December 8, 1936, Kenneth and Dorothy (Richards) Helmer Holland celebrated the birth of their son, Miles Dee Helmer.

Although his parents divorced when he was quite young, Miles continued to live with his mother on the East side of Kalamazoo. Many fond memories were formed over the summer months when he went to stay with his Aunt Mercil Simmons on her farm where Miles took in the fresh air, country living and enjoyed childhood adventures. He learned early on, and all too well, the many responsibilities of life, but these experiences offered Miles a strong work ethic that he carried throughout his life. He attended the area schools, graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School with the Class of 1954.

Miles met the love of his life, a young girl named Jackie Booth on a blind date. After the two had dated for about a year, they were joined in marriage as husband and wife on June 15, 1957 in Kalamazoo. In time, they were blessed with four children. Valerie came along in 1958, Doug in 1960, Chris in 1961, followed by their youngest, Greg in 1963. The greatest day of his life was the day each one of his children was born. He loved being a father, and was very supportive. He loved his children, but they were always sure to know where they stood with him. As parents, he and Jackie remained consistent with their household rules and discipline.

They made their family home in a house that Miles built on F Avenue in Alamo Township in rural Kalamazoo. It was here that Miles taught his children how to shoot a gun for hunting and other practical matters such as basic auto maintenance, but he also taught them valuable life lessons as well, like proper manners and the importance of respecting their elders. Miles was a hard worker and provided well for his family with his work at the paper mill in nearby Parchment, Michigan. He remained working there for over 43 years, retiring in 1998 from the Crown Vantage Paper Company.

When grandchildren and great-grandchildren came along, Miles was truly in his element. He found joy in their company, and was especially thankful for Christmas holidays when the entire family came together. As a grandfather, Miles melted, becoming quite a softie at heart.

Over the years, as a hobby and sideline, Miles loved to work on cars. He had quite a talent for auto work, both mechanically and in body work. He was set-up and worked in his garage right at home. Quite handy, Miles had a flair for fixing things and making things run smoothly. His even temperament attested to the care he put into his work, and the quality of his work when it was completed. Another hobby that Miles was quite passionate about was his enjoyment of off-road riding. As a member of the Sundowners 4x4 Club, Miles spent many memorable weekends over the years with the many friends he had established in the club. Miles enjoyed deer hunting for over 50 years at his cabin in the Upper Peninsula, with family and friends. He taught all of his children to hunt and be responsible hunters. He hunted with his children from the time they were legal to hunt.

In 2008, Miles was diagnosed with lung cancer. At the age of 71, after a long and hard fought battle, Miles died during the early morning hours on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at Rose Arbor Hospice with his wife Jackie and Valerie by his side. He will be greatly missed and forever remembered by the lives he touched and by those who knew and loved him.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Jackie; children: Valerie (Tom) Cleveland, Doug (Judy) Helmer, Chris (Penney) Helmer, Greg Helmer and girlfriend Stacey Cool; mother in-law; Bonnie Booth Shively and stepmother, Betty Helmer. Other members of his family include seven grandchildren: Bonnie (Bill) Weston, Nola (Roy) Slack, Christopher J. Helmer, Ross Helmer, Dustin Helmer, Shelby Klaiber and Nick Klaiber; three great-grandchildren: Daytona Slack, Westlee Miles Weston and Shyanne Jacqueline Weston, and his faithful cat, Sam; 3 step grandchildren; and 3 step great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, step father, Robert Holland; Aunt Mercil Simmons; dog, Bo and cat, Babe. Visit with his family and friends and share in light refreshments on Saturday, 6-8 PM and on Sunday, 2-5 PM at the Life Story Funeral Home, Plainwell, 120 S. Woodhams (685-5881). Funeral services will be held at 11:00 AM on Monday, June 29, 2009 at the same location. Please visit where you can submit a favorite memory or photo, sign his memory book online before coming to the funeral home or to make a memorial donation.

Miles Helmer