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P.O. Box 508
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Life Story / Obituary
Daniel Robert Gehl loved his wife. He loved his two sons, his daughter-in-law, and his grandson. He loved traveling, wine, and golf. He loved playing games with his friends and visiting his neighbors on his boat. He loved cheesy jokes and puns. He loved his work as a financial planner, and his clients. He loved conservative politics. He loved the University of Michigan. He loved a well-kept lawn and house. He died on August 26, 2016.
Dan was born on April 26, 1951 to Geraldine (Geri) and Leo Gehl in West Branch, Michigan. His twin, John, was born minutes later, and within a few years Dan had more siblings, Chris, Mike, and Rick. He played football and baseball at Bentley High School in Burton, Michigan, while his father worked for General Motors. He graduated and went to the University of Michigan. There, he wore his hair and beard long and studied pharmacology. More importantly, he met Pamela Hansen. He asked her out on a date: "If you've got a quarter," he said, "we can go play pinball."
As that should make clear, Dan was pretty poor in college. But he had some skills: shooting pool and playing poker. To make ends meet, Dan would make bets, and win. To the day he died, he remained a formidable card player, although he didn't gamble nearly as much as in his college days.
Despite Dan being poor, he was charming. Pam and Dan were married in 1973. Their honeymoon was a luxurious trip to a state forest in Northern Michigan in a $20 Meijer's tent. It rained every night, and the young couple found it hard to make coffee on campfires. They tried – and failed – to wash their pans with sand, and so had to beg a nearby resident the use of a sink. Dan made Pam a promise: in 20 years, he would take her to Europe to make up for that trip.
He began his career as a financial planner in 1976, working for John Hancock financial services for the next 20 years. He rose to prominence in Southwest Michigan's professional circles and was elected to the presidency of several financial planning societies. In 1996, he joined The Wiser Financial Group where he worked until his death.
1979 to 1982 were very good years for Dan, because his sons were born and Ronald Reagan won the White House. Rob, his oldest son, was born in May of 1979; Steve in November 1982, and of course Reagan was elected in between.
Dan often joked about his humble youth. One day, while visiting his parents Leo and Geri, he saw his sons playing rock, paper, scissors. "My brothers and I would have loved to have played that game," he told his sons, "But we couldn't afford the scissors."
Determined to be able to afford scissors, Dan worked for many hours, often leaving before dawn and coming home late at night after driving all across Michigan to meet with clients. Some of those clients he met in the 1970s were with him to this day.
When Dan worked those 12 hour days, Rob and Steve would wait up for him, listening for the door for a familiar song. "Who's the greatest dad we know?" Dan would sing. The boys would sing back, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy-o!" and run to give their dad a hug.
But when the boys were old enough for after-school activities, Dan cut back on work. He volunteered on behalf of his children, refereeing AYSO and high school soccer games and coaching Rotary League baseball teams. He'd encourage his players to hit the ball by saying, "Ducks on a pond!" His coaching worked. The Rotary League teams he coached won.
He and Pam started traveling the world in the early 1980s and never let up. They visited Hawaii, Australia, Israel, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Belize. He also kept good on his honeymoon promise: they traveled to England, Germany, Scotland, and Austria. They traveled all over the United States, too, from wine country in Michigan to national parks in Wyoming to golf courses in South Carolina. In their house, there's a map, titled "There and Back Again: Dan and Pam's Travels." The map is dotted with red pins (for places they've been) and a handful of green pins (places they dreamed of going – Egypt, Brazil, Zimbabwe).
He lived his last years in a lakeside house in Paw Paw, Michigan, a place he and Pam designed as a dream home. Dan, who used to get seasick on even the calmest seas, took a chance and got a pontoon boat. He went from being seasick to a captain on School Section Lake, taking the tiller of the boat and slowly circling the lake.
For a decade, Dan and Pam hosted Bocce Parties at the lake house, inviting other couples to compete for the "Highly Coveted Bocce Cup." The style of bocce ball played at these tournaments was "Extreme Bocce," a test of skill well beyond that of normal bocce. The winners of the tournament were required to prominently display the Bocce Cup in their home for a full calendar year. The Cup currently resides with Dan and Pam.
In the basement of the lake house, there's a box full of Dan's trophies, including a 1988 City of Kalamazoo Softball League champion trophy a collection of trophies commemorating high bowling scores. But as anyone who knew him would tell you, Dan's game was golf. And he was quite good at it. Whatever game he played – whatever he did in life, really – he practiced it, he worked hard at it, he studied it. And he excelled.
Dan's grandson, Teddy, was born in March of 2009, and the two became very good buddies. Dan would spend lake summers with his sons, daughter-in-law Jessica Houf, and Teddy. While the boys, Jesse, and Pam were cleaning up after dinner, Dan and Ted would gleefully escape the dishwashing and jump into a golf cart to drive around the neighborhood. "Let's go, Ted!" Dan would enthusiastically say. Dan and Ted also played games and watched documentaries. And they waded out into the lake together, Dan up to his waist, Ted up to his neck, side by side in the water.
He died in his sleep in that home by the lake, with work undone, places not seen, but in balance a very full, beautiful life.
Visit with family and friends on Wednesday (Aug. 31) from 5-8 PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900, where services will be held on Thursday at 11 AM. Luncheon will follow in the Life Story Center. Interment Almena Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Lakeview Foundation or the American Cancer Society. Visit Dan’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo of him and sign his online guestbook.