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Life Story / Obituary
Humble, optimistic, and loving, Duane Mickelson, 75, lived each day with admirable strength and deep commitment. Never one to seek center stage, Duane embraced each moment with well-balanced pride and humility. A devoted family man, Duane’s greatest joy grew with each moment he shared with those he loved. With unshakable loyalty, Duane provided safe harbor to all who found themselves blessed to be welcomed into his heart. A gift to many, Duane will long be remembered in our hearts and lives.
With the rearming of US forces in the early 1940s, the strains of the Great Depression began to ease. Americans’ incomes grew, and their increased spending further fueled the economy. In 1941 the optimism of leaving the depression behind juxtaposed with the escalation of the war in Europe dominating world affairs. While Citizen Kane, Dumbo, and The Maltese Falcon drew patrons to the theater, Glenn Miller, The Andrew Sisters, and Jimmy Dorsey filled the airways. Despite the ominous winds of change blowing in from Europe, the foundation of hope and generosity our nation had firmly rooted itself in as a result of the preceding decade’s hardships could not be shaken. It was within this overwhelming feeling of fortitude, generosity, and hope that William and Laura (Hann) Mickelson joyfully welcomed their son Duane into their growing family on June 5th in Morris, Illinois.
Growing up in Morris, Illinois in the 40s and 50s, in the good company of his siblings, Lois, Bill, Jim, and Sharon, afforded Duane the opportunity to powerfully forge his morals, values, and character. Duane attended the one-room schoolhouse at Opdyke School for his early schooling. The single multi-grade, one teacher classroom created a strong sense of community that often felt like an extension of each student’s family. During some summers, Duane bailed hay and picked asparagus at his cousin’s farm. As a result of the many hours of picking, Duane grew a lifelong aversion to asparagus. Duane and his brothers loved to drag their sister Sharon down to Lund’s Creek to fish. The Mickelson family enjoyed their many trips to visit family in Wisconsin. A particularly favorite memory of Duane’s youth was the family’s 1958 trip to Florida which they took in his dad’s new car. The legendary trip was often reminisced, and Florida proved Duane’s and his siblings’ favorite vacation spot through their entire lives.
A natural student, Duane eagerly learned as much as he could from his elders who were willing to share their skills and trades. Duane learned a love of carpentry and woodworking from his father, and his Uncle Paul passed on his knowledge of electricity and wiring. As a teen, Duane worked at the Morris Paper Mill, rebuilt the engine on a Ford, and built a television with his brother Jim. With incredible focus and passion, Duane continued to grow his vast skill set which he used throughout his life helping various family members build and improve their homes. As a senior at Morris Community High School in 1959, Duane received the American Chemical Society award and began to set his sights on his future career. In 1965, Duane graduated from Western Michigan University with a Master’s degree in Chemistry which opened the door to a 30-year career in analytical chemistry and technology supporting research and development for the Upjohn Company. After his retirement from The Upjohn Company, Duane took his talents to Bridge Organics where he continued to work until 2011.
While attending college Duane had the good fortune of meeting his wife Peg in a Calculus class. Recognizing the gift of their partnership, Duane and Peg married in Joliet, Illinois in 1964. After honeymooning in Niagara Falls, the couple returned to West Michigan and began their family. Michelle, Stephen, and Brian filled their hearts and home with the love, laughter, and family Duane held as his greatest treasure. Duane was often their firmest motivator and strongest supporter. He frequently reminded them that, "If you want it done right, you've got to do it yourself" and "It's more than just a hat rack," if they weren’t using their brains. With an oft credited Norwegian-German toughness, Duane held his kids to exceptionally high standards while unfailingly supporting each of their endeavors.
The family is blessed to share many happy family memories including Duane’s enthusiasm for the annual Mickelson Christmas get together in Illinois, traveling as a young family to Disney World, and the many happy days spent at their summer home on Harper Lake in Irons, Michigan . Duane’s love of learning was evident in his many interests. He loved to tinker with electronics, build guns, target shoot, add to his computer collection, fish, follow the Cubs, read good mysteries, and golf. Captaining his pontoon was a particular delight. With tremendous pride in all of his children’s educations, Duane hung his House Divided Flag each fall as MSU and U of M battled for bragging rights. Loyal through and through, Duane could not have been more ecstatic than watching his beloved Cubbies clinch the World Series last fall.
During their 52 years of marriage, Duane and Peg had the good fortune of sharing many travel adventures together. In addition to taking their young family to Florida and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, later in life Duane and Peg were able to take annual winter trips to Florida.
Additionally there were trips to Hawaii, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Egypt. Seeing Michelle run a marathon in Hawaii, zip-lining and white water rafting in Costa Rica, and finally seeing the Pyramids became some of Duane’s most often reminisced adventures.
Without a doubt, Duane was happiest when sharing time with his family. He affectionally called his brothers “Ace” and they referred to each other as “Duece”. Duane not only cherished his own children, he enthusiastically welcomed each of their significant others into his heart and treated them as his own. As his children grew their own families, Duane's heart continued to grow with the birth of 6 grandchildren. Always the first in line to hold the new baby, Duane was often accused of not wanting to share. It was abundantly clear that Duane felt truly gifted by the privilege of being Hope, Brady, Mia, Sofia, Zoe, and Lucy’s grandfather. He was proud to attend his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events and performances.
With a signature depth of strength, Duane rarely complained in the face of life’s adversities. Even when wrestling with significant medical challenges, Duane leaned into his tremendous tolerance for discomfort and found an appreciative smile for those who helped with his care. With quiet faith in his capacity to endure, Duane accepted life’s joys and challenges equally, recognizing the gifts for growth in both. In so doing, Duane leaves an inspiring legacy of how to love wholeheartedly, embrace each day, and live life fully. Though deeply missed, may we find comfort in honoring Duane’s life by carrying his beautiful legacy forward in each of our own lives.
Duane Mickelson passed away March 23, 2017, at Kairos Dwelling in Kalamazoo. Carrying his legacy forward are his wife of 52 years, Peg Mickelson; 3 children: Michelle Mickelson (Bob Rock), Stephen (Jaime) Mickelson and Brian (Kristi) Mickelson; 6 grandchildren: Hope Zduniak, Brady, Mia, Sofia, Zoe and Lucy Mickelson; siblings: Lois Kircher; Bill (Jan) Mickelson; Jim Mickelson and Sharon Mickelson and many nieces and nephews. Services will be held Monday, March 27th at 11:00 am at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Portage with visitation beginning 1 hour prior. A luncheon will follow in Marian Hall. Burial will take place at Hope Cemetery in Texas Township. Please visit Duane’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Kairos Dwelling, Shephard Center of Kalamazoo or a charity of your choice. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900