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Hamilton Grange Hall
P.O. Box 35
Decatur, MI 49045
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Life Story / Obituary
They say laughter is good for the soul and it can cure a multitude of ills. For Bob Wilder, the ability to find the “funny” in most situations and bring a lighthearted laugh to those around him was his passion. Postive in nature, Bob had a wonderful sense of humor and along with his generous heart and kind ways, he was a friend of many. Most importantly, and as his family can attest, Bob loved unconditionally and with a full heart.
Bob’s story began at a time when the decade of the 1950s sculpted the culture of America. Although conservative in nature, everything from music to movies, art and media to beloved comic strips and cartoons introduced households to a whole new way of life. With manufacturing and home construction on the rise, the economy boomed as the suburban dream was being realized. Indeed a time of change, this was especially true for Harold and Acenith (Johnson) Wilder when on June 12, 1951, they welcomed the birth of their son, Robert.
A typical child of the 1950s, Bob enjoyed all the adventures and activities of a young boy at a time when life revolved around family, responsibility, and hope for the future. Having been born in the rural community of Paw Paw, Michigan, he enjoyed life on his family farm in nearby Lawton. The third of eventually four children in his family, Bob along with his siblings, Kenneth, Carolyn, and Marlene had their share of household and farm chores. It no less taught Bob the value of hard work and a tremendous work ethic.
During his youth, Bob was actively involved in the local 4H program and showed his prized cows at the county fair each year. He attended the area schools, and in high school he played football before graduating from Lawton High School in 1969. Like many young men, Bob had a penchant for motorcycles early on.
Times changed dramatically over the course of Bob’s teen years. The Vietnam War was on the hearts and minds of all, and anti-war demonstrations and the civil rights movement was news of the day. Following high school, Bob felt the call to duty and joined the U.S. Army. For the next three years, he proudly served his country, mainly in Europe. Upon his honorable discharge from the service, Bob returned home to Michigan, settling in Paw Paw where he began working for Contech, a manufacturer of auto parts located in Dowagiac. From his beginnings as a foundry worker, through the years Bob worked his way into becoming a hard working machinist.
While working at Contech, Bob met Sue Abshagen who worked in the office there. They shared a mutual attraction, and before long they began a dating relationship. They were married in 1983, and even though their marriage eventually came to an end, Bob counted the greatest day of his life as the day he and Sue welcomed the birth of their little girl, Jennie into their hearts.
Jennie was the delight of Bob’s life only to be equaled with the addition of two granddaughters he dearly loved some years later. Bob and his beloved Jennie enjoyed times spent together camping and snowmobiling which to this day hold special memories for Jennie. These favorite memories especially include camping trips in Petoskey, Michigan and camping at Leisure Valley which was only ten minutes from Bob’s home.
Always daddy’s little girl, Jennie remained close to Bob well into her later years and he continued to be very protective of her. With his kind and loving nature, Bob took his son-in-law, James under his wing, guiding him and teaching him a multitude of things. Bob especially enjoyed following his granddaughters in their many activities such as school events, soccer, and dance recitals. He was extremely proud of them, and seldom missed their birthday or other important events in their lives. Just as giving, Bob never hesitated to slip Jennie or James a little extra gas money, coupons for the store, or picking up little things for them that he knew were needed or could be helpful.
Bob was quite talented in the kitchen. He was a great cook and he loved baking pies and cookies. Some of his other specialties also included his delicious macaroni salad, and his baked beans were simply the best. In his free time, Bob liked hunting, and woodchucks were open season whenever they ventured into his yard! When it came to sports, he liked football and was especially fond of his favorite teams, the University of Michigan and the Detroit Lions. Bob always had a desire to be a reserve deputy. When the opportunity presented itself, he jumped at the chance and worked for a while as a reserve sheriff’s deputy for Cass County. As always, enjoying a good ride on his Harley and being on the open road gave Bob a sense of adventure and brought him much contentment.
It was simply a joy to be in Bob’s company with his great sense of humor and his love for laughter. He possessed an even keel temperament, and it took a lot to ruffle his feathers. Bob was always one to look on the bright side of things. Even in unfortunate circumstances, he was like a bright light in any given situation; he kept his cool and offered a steady anchor.
When Bob developed health issues and was forced to retire in 2009, even then he kept a good and positive outlook on life. One of Bob’s greatest qualities was his ability to remain constant in the lives of those closest to him. He was generous with his time and talents, and his loving kindness knew no bounds. Although deeply missed, may the memory of his remarkable love for a good laugh and his loving kindness be what is remembered most.
Robert Wilder, age 65, of Paw Paw died on Tuesday, August 23, 2016. Learn more about Bob and visit with his family and friends on Sunday from 2-5 pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw (657-3870), where services will be held on Monday, 11:00 am with a lunch to follow at the funeral home. Burial of his cremated remains will be in Prospect Hill Cemetery.
Bob is survived by his daughter, Jennie (James) Torbet of Dowagiac; his brother and sisters: Kenneth (Carol) Wilder of Lawton, Carolyn (Barry) Kitzmiller of Gobles, and Marlene (Ed) Newington of East Jordan; two grandchildren: Sara and Jillian; and his former wife, Sue Wilder. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Please visit Bob’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo of him and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to the Hamilton Grange Hall, Wounded Warrior Project, or a charity of your choice.