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WMU Russell - Sumney Baseball Endowment
1903 W. Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
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Life Story / Obituary
In as much as she gave, Char Sumney was loved abundantly and cherished in the hearts of all throughout her long, fulfilling lifetime. A true matriarch, she was the consummate foundation of her family, and with loving admiration, she held high expectations for those she loved and cared about. Generous with both her time and talents, Char carried herself with a grace all her own which endeared her many. Gone but never to be forgotten, she will be fondly missed.
The infamous Roaring Twenties brought forth a time of great change in America. New advancements, new discoveries, and new inventions improved the American way of life in many if not every conceivable way. From the world of fashion, music and to politics, forces clashed to produce the most explosive decade of the century during this age of prohibition. While wages were at an all time high, many indulged in luxuries and entertainment at a time when the atmosphere was filled with hope and good fortune for the future. Amidst these exciting times, the birth of Charlotte K. Cook on March 15, 1921 was an added blessing in the lives of her parents, Grover and Reva (Watkins) Cook.
Born and raised in the close knit village of Lake Odessa, Michigan, Char was the first of eventually six children. As farmers, her parents toiled their land with the help of their children. Although Char enjoyed a childhood typical of her generation, the hardships of the Great Depression cast a shadow of economic struggle for all. From a young age, Char learned the importance of a good work ethic. She was a great help and played an integral role in raising her younger siblings, and became quite good at barking out orders. As the eldest, Char remained the leader and matriarch of her family for the rest of her days.
Char attended the local schools before graduating from Lake Odessa High School with the Class of 1939. During her senior year, however, she met her future husband, Robert E. Bishop, the young man who came to captivate her heart. Char went on to further her education, graduating from Western Michigan University. Young and in love, she and Robert were happily married in 1943 in the home of her parents and were thrilled to begin their new lives together.
With World War II well underway, Char’s beloved Robert had recently graduated from Michigan State University as a music major and was just accepted into the University of Michigan’s medical school program when he was drafted to serve in the Armed Forces. Having enlisted in the Navy, he received his training in North Carolina and opted to serve as a Marine bomber fighter pilot. While he was in training, Char lived on base in San Diego, California while preparing and anticipating the birth of their first child together. Sadly, Char’s worst fears were realized when she received a devastating telegram. With news that Robert’s plane was shot down and he was missing in action, merely two days later on January 19, 1944, she gave birth to their son, Robert, but was never to see her husband again.
Shortly after her husband’s death, Char returned to Lake Odessa, Michigan with her infant son. Although it was a difficult time in her life, the help and support of family and friends, along with her unending tenacity, saw her through. In time Char began working for Ionia County helping the teacher’s association teach new, upcoming teachers. During this time, she also earned her master’s degree in 1948 in psychology. For the next 15 years of her career, Char worked in the psychology department at WMU.
Love was not lost for Char. Around 1950 she met a handsome gentleman named Maurice D. “Suds” Sumney. Married on December 23, 1951 at the Kanley Chapel on the campus of WMU, Suds took on Char’s son and loved him as his own. As a family they lived in Kalamazoo and in 1963 Char began working side-by-side with her husband at his insurance company, the Sumney Agency. Both were very giving as a couple. Suds was instrumental in athletic endeavors, especially at WMU and the students truly took them into their hearts. In 1971, after retiring, they moved to their current home in the Schoolcraft area.
Char made an impeccable home for her husband and son. In her free time she enjoyed baking cakes and decorated them so beautifully they were nearly too fancy to eat. She made the best banana bread, always making tons to share with friends and even her doctor’s office. The holidays were particularly important to Char when she made everything festive and bright for entertaining. A very social woman, Char and Suds were members of the Kalamazoo County Club for many years where they enjoyed numerous dinners and get-togethers with friends. A friend of many, while living at Park Place in Kalamazoo, students from clients to friends were always stopping by to say hello where Char welcomed them with open arms and hospitality.
Through the years they also spent time entertaining at their summer cottage on Crooked Lake Drive. After selling that home, they bought a cottage on Gull Lake until eventually selling it, as well, making their home in Schoolcraft their primary residence. As a couple, Char and Suds had a love for travel which included destinations such as Europe and Alaska. From 1967 to approximately 1974, together they owned a home in Kingston, Jamaica they shared with two other couples.
Aside from taking care of her home, family, and working, Char served for 14 years as a county commissioner in Kalamazoo County and for a time was on the board of the State of Michigan Road Commission. She had a passion for reading literature, and a great love for writing. In fact, Char was in the process of writing her own life story. Always nicely dressed, Char was ultimately dressed to the nines and loved shopping, especially for antiques. Her home graced a variety of antiques and she seemed to always have the perfect spot to place them.
Just like her mother before her, Char liked to can tomatoes and peaches she bought from the market and she did so up to the end of her years. Like many who lived through the depression era and being the hostess that she was, Char’s fridge and freezer was always full. Even though she didn’t garden, she loved house plants and outdoor flowers. Char loved nothing more than making arrangements with cut flowers to enjoy around the house. Until the last of her days, Char remained living on her own.
Char Sumney lived fully and completely at every opportunity. She was generous, and her care of others was without end. Ever loving, Char enjoyed life and all it had to offer. Accepting of all, she was diverse in nature and embraced life and love. She leaves a lasting legacy to behold and will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
Charlotte K. Sumney, age 94, of Schoolcraft, died on Friday, October 2, 2015 in Battle Creek. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Marine Lt. Robert E. Bishop in 1944; her second husband, Maurice D. “Suds” Sumney in 2012; and by three brothers: Robert, Richard and Don Cook. Surviving are a son, Robert Sumney; two granddaughters: Stacey (Dennis) Stickle and Tamara (Thomas) Mack; five great-grandchildren: Paige and Molly Stickle and Tommy, Fletcher and Spencer Mack; two sisters: Dorothy (James) Frey and Marilyn Nicholson; and many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. Services will be held on Friday, October 9, 2015, 11:00 AM at the Life Story Funeral Home-Betzler 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo- 375-2900. Following the service, a luncheon will be held in the Life Story Center. Please visit Charlotte’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to WMU Russell–Sumney Baseball Endowment.