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Life Story / Obituary
Derek Jackson possessed an amazing combination of strength, charisma, passion and faith. If you ever had the privilege of being in his presence, you were able to witness this firsthand. His charm had an overwhelming gravitational pull. His physical power made him an impressive athlete. His love of family and friends was boundless. And as we pause to celebrate Derek’s life in the wake of his tragic and untimely death, we’re comforted knowing that his relationship with God was the most important thing to him.
Derek was born in Chicago on March 31, 1989, to Derek Cleveland and Chiquita Jackson. He had to fight to make into this world. Recalling the details of Derek’s birth, his father often remarks that Derek was bruised, battered and blue in color. The good news for Derek was that his blue-in-color situation was temporary. As a youngster, we remember Derek as a handsome and energetic boy who loved his family to no end.
As a two-year-old, Derek always welcomed his dad home with a warm embrace and all of the excitement and energy that he could muster. And if his dad ever left the house without him, Derek would cry and protest. On a midsummer evening in 1991, Derek decided to try another tactic. When his Dad left the house, Derek managed to find and fearlessly proceed to climb through an open second-story window to reach his dad. The end result was better than you would expect. After falling more than 20 feet, Derek found a soft landing in the bushes planted beneath the windows. Except for a few scratches from the bushes, Derek was left unscathed from the incident and no less fearless.
Derek was one of five siblings--all boys. He had three older brothers, Alan, Dustin, and Blake, and one younger brother, Zelig. As a kid, he was affectionately referred to as “Bubba.” Derek loved to play games and sports with his brothers and the neighborhood kids. Tag and freeze tag were among his early favorites. On the Sega Genesis, he spent way too much time playing Madden NFL Football and Mortal Kombat (Derek’s favorite character was Scorpion). And as he grew bigger and stronger, Derek’s love for playing sports continued to grow.
By the age of five, Derek and his family had relocated from Chicago to Southwest Michigan. Derek attended Allegan during his middle school years and was a member of the football, basketball, and wrestling teams. For his freshman year of high school, Derek transferred to Gobles where he excelled in basketball, football, and track, and also had the opportunity to meet the love of his life.
High school was the perfect setting for the beginnings of Derek’s steady romance with Madeleine (Noonie) Doyle. Derek and Madeleine first met during their freshman year of high school. Even though Derek had a charming personality, sweet smile, and thoughtful manners, that alone wasn’t enough to seal the deal with Madeleine. Believe it or not, it was that goofy and unnecessarily loud laugh of his that helped him to win over Madeleine’s heart. As a stellar athlete, Derek received the Gobles Male Athlete of the Year Award during his senior year in 2007. That same year, Madeleine won the Female Athlete of the Year Award. The two were a perfect match, except that Madeleine could really take it to Derek on the basketball court, which he didn’t always appreciate. Derek hated to be outperformed in anything. At the same time, Madeleine’s fierceness as a competitor was one of the things that Derek always admired about her.
Given his size and athletic ability, it was no surprise when Derek landed a position with the Albion College football team after high school. Derek, or “D Rock” as he was called by his teammates, played for the Britons as a strong safety and outside linebacker for four years. Derek was a captain and defensive starter on the 2011 Albion team that won the MIAA championship. Derek graduated from Albion in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Economics & Management.
Derek continued to pursue football after his college playing days were complete. He continued to train hard and participated in a number of professional tryouts. Several professional scouts expressed interest in Derek as a prospect. He even had the opportunity to play professionally in Canada, but Derek decided against playing there and eventually chose not to pursue a professional football career any further. He had other priorities that he had become more focused on.
On August 2, 2013, Derek and Madeleine welcomed their daughter, Vivian Grace Jackson into the world. It was one of the greatest days of Derek’s life. And once Derek knew that he was going to be a father, he immediately took on a different world outlook. He became more mature and committed to putting some of his old ways behind him and doing the right things for his family.
Driven and excited for what his future held, Derek and Madeleine planned a private wedding ceremony. The two had maintained a long distance dating relationship while she was attending school and playing collegiate basketball in Florida and later in Tennessee. They were united in their love for each other and their daughter, Vivian. The couple wed on April 11, 2015 surrounded by their closest family and friends. The intimate ceremony was hosted on a sun-filled spring day at Madeleine’s childhood home on Sweet Lake.
Derek held a number of sales positions after college, eventually landing a business development position at FC&A in Allegan. Derek loved to talk about the products his company produced, his added responsibilities, and the hard work he was putting in to improve. Sales was a natural fit for Derek, and like a skilled athlete, he often made it look easy. Derek had an intuitive understanding of how to connect with people, but his work ethic is what set him apart. His natural charisma probably helped him a little bit, too.
Derek was a big and strong guy, but the thing that made him such a great man was his incredibly large heart, love of life, love for the people in his life, and his unshakable faith in Jesus Christ. To know Derek was to know a very special person who accepted and believed in everyone. Derek gave his all to invest in others, and he was always able to keep his mind focused on the good in others. No one was a stranger to Derek. His loyalty as a friend and his genuineness as a person made him easy to talk to or seek advice from. He consistently showed others his love for the Lord and spent time investing in his relationship with Jesus. One his favorite passages from the Bible is Ephesians 6: 10-16:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Derek Jackson, age 28, of Gobles, died on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, due to a watercraft accident. A faithful servant, he attended Journey Family Church in Gobles. Members of his surviving family include his wife, Madeleine “Noonie” Jackson, his three-year-old daughter, Vivian Grace and their expected daughter, Charlotte Connor (due in October); his parents, Derek and Chiquita Cleveland; four brothers: Alan Jackson, Dustin (Jen) Jackson, Blake Jackson and Zelig Cleveland; five nieces and nephews: Addy, Austin, Eliza, Aya and Danielle; Father and Mother-in-law, Terry and Deb Doyle; and five brothers and sisters-in-law: Rachel (Josh) Keeley, Quinn (Paige) Doyle, Colin Doyle, Ellen Doyle and Joe Doyle. Derek will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.
The family will receive friends on Sunday 2-5 pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw (657-3870). The funeral service will be held at Gobles High School on Monday at 11:00 a.m. Please visit Derek’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral. In lieu of flowers, a donation to the family may be made to a gofundme page set up in Derek’s name (https://www.gofundme.com/love-for-jackson-family) or directly to the family.