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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Gene Hall would agree that he was truly a blessing in their lives. He was a hardworking man, but he also knew how to enjoy life. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind where politics were concerned and always enjoyed a good debate. A loving husband and father, Gene took these roles to heart, but he most likely would told you that nothing beat being a grandfather. He loved heading out onto the water aboard his cabin cruiser whether on his own or with loved ones. Gene was a man of many interests, but nothing was more near and dear to his heart than spending time with his family. He will be deeply missed but never forgotten.
Although the 1920s were days of great prosperity in America, the 1930s were a much different story as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs became scarce, which made the unemployment rate soar, and things only went from bad to worse when a crippling drought covered our nation’s heartland for nearly two years. Things were looking up by the year 1938, but we still had a long road in front of us. This same year was an exciting time in the lives of Clyde and Beulah (Jones) Hall as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Clyde Gene on March 5, 1938, in Ronceverte, West Virginia.
In many ways, Gene was a young boy of his generation. He was the middle of three children in his family and was raised in Sylvania, Ohio, alongside his siblings, Kenneth and Rebecca. Gene’s father worked in tool and die while his mother was a busy homemaker. Gene’s father was truly his hero and best friend, so when his father succumbed to a heart attack at age 50, it left a large hole in Gene’s life that he would forever struggle to fill. Gene loved sharing stories of his father’s love of family and blue collar work ethic.
Gene attended local schools and starred at center on the Burnham High School football team, where he was good enough to warrant interest from the coaching staff at the University of Miami of Ohio. One of his earliest memories was of watching delivery trucks come and go at a factory near his home. He was certain that those moments of youthful bliss, as he listened to the roar of the diesel engines, inspired what would become a lifetime love of trucks. He was always very mechanically inclined beginning as a teen and he managed to make anything related to truck repair seem effortless. Gene was known to be a bit adventurous at times, even if it meant that he found his way into some mischief. Gene graduated from high school in 1956.
Gene married his high school sweetheart in 1957, and together they welcomed three children, Cynthia, Diana, and Gene, into their hearts and home. Although they divorced in the late 1970s, Gene was forever grateful for the children they shared. After the divorce, Gene spent many years as a single father, trying to successfully raise a family while still performing the responsibilities of his profession as an over the road truck driver. He relied heavily on his oldest daughter during this time and would continue to praise her for years to come. He was very proud of all of his children and was quick to tell anyone who would listen about all of their personal success. All his children graduated high school in Sylvania. Gene moved to Houston, Texas, shortly thereafter.
Gene worked as an independent over the road truck driver for over 50 years. In the 90’s he opened HTR Transport in Mattawan, MI. At its height, HTR owned 22 trucks, employed many people and delivered goods all over the nation. He enjoyed the freedom that the work brought and being able to be outdoors and working for himself were wonderful aspects of the job. Gene continued running the business until 1996. His son was part owner of HTR and also worked as a truck driver and mechanic. After closing the doors of HTR they together established S and J Transport, which allowed them to get out of the office and garage and get back out on the open road. They operated S and J for several years. Gene truly loved his job and could never bring himself to fully retire. In recent years he chose to take off a few months a year in order to spend time with his wife Karen and enjoy his boat and the Michigan summers. However, as soon as the leaves began to change he was ready to hit the road, taking as many trips south as he could find. He was NOT a fan of the cold. He was thankful for the extended family that he discovered in the W.T. Fellows Group that loved Gene for his work ethic and sense of humor. They provided him with as many (or as few) loads as he could handle.
Gene met Karen at Welch’s when he was there to make a delivery in the late 1980’s. He was living in Houston at the time and he began looking for as many loads to Lawton, MI as he could find. She had two young children, and he was thrilled to be part of her life. It was 1989 when they met, and soon were united in marriage.
Throughout his life, Gene was interested in so many things, and these things were even better when he was sharing them with his family. He always had a project of some kind going including restoring a ’76 Corvette. In everything he did, Gene generously shared his knowledge with others. He was always eager to work in a lesson about life or to instill work ethic in all of his children and grandchildren when they were helping him on a project…even if it was sometimes against their will.
He loved boating and had a slip in St. Joseph for the past four years, and he just loved spending summers out there. Gene also enjoyed taking the boat to other harbors like South Haven and Saugatuck, and of course he took care of all the work on board “My Current Affair” himself. He did entertain on the boat at times, but he was also just as happy taking it out for a peaceful nighttime cruise to watch the sunset. After a life spent amid the chaos of American highways, the silence and solitude of the open water brought him a special kind of peace.
Gene liked eating out, particularly Mexican. So much so that in the 1990’s, he and Karen would make a weekly pilgrimage to their favorite Mexican restaurant…in South Bend, Indiana! He loved diet soda, but was never a brand loyalist, his latest love being Diet Rite. Gene recently discovered Bigby Coffee’s frozen Butterbears and turkey havarti bragels and a new breakfast obsession was born. He shared this love with his grandson, Landon, and the two could frequently be found together in the Bigby drive thru getting their daily fix.
Gene was very into open wheel racing and had been to Indy several times, but his true love was Formula 1. He scratched an item off of his bucket list when he attended the Grand Prix of Detroit in 2007. It was also a dream come true when he went to the Mario Andretti racing school for a day in Florida and reached a top speed of 137mph. He couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face that day.
Gene and Karen had a trailer (A.K.A. “The Unit”) in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and went there to escape the colder Michigan seasons whenever they had a chance. When it came to music, Gene liked classic country and bluegrass like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Rhonda Vincent. He also liked Jimmy Buffet and recently saw him in Detroit. Gene enjoyed reading, but primarily listened to audio books. He was to the extreme right when it came to politics, and enjoyed listening to Rush Limbaugh every day. His family became accustomed to hearing about what Rush was fired up about that day.
Later in life Gene was thrilled to become a grandfather, and he savored every moment he had to spend with his grandchildren. He was a movie buff, and his grandchildren were amazed at his blockbuster-esque movie collection (yes it was accurately alphabetized and catalogued). Six months ago, he was adamant about wanting to learn to play the guitar and bought one for himself. Gene especially loved playing guitar with his grandson, Landon. Those two were very close, and Landon spent virtually the entire last summer with him, helping him out around the house and shop…which often ended with a trip to Bigby.
Gene had lots of great stories; favorites involved a memorable trip to Arizona to pick up a new semi cab, digging the water line back to his new home in the frozen Michigan earth, playing jokes on the neighborhood boy Danny, and all the trouble a young man could find with a fast car in the 1950’s.
He had heart problems that required a triple bypass in 1986, and he then suffered a heart attack in 1994, which required some additional stints, and just last week he had a pacemaker put in. Gene did everything he could to remain in good health.
A vibrant, adventurous, and fun-loving man with a contagious zest for life, Gene Hall a blessing to everyone he met. He had a great sense of humor and was known for his off color jokes, but these were such classics that his grandchildren are proud to use them too. Gene was a devoted family man, and his greatest treasure was his family. He will never be forgotten.
Gene C. Hall, Sr., of Mattawan, died on September 24, 2015, in Kalamazoo. Gene’s family includes his wife, Karen Hall; 3 children: Cynthia (Dave) Loeser, Diana (Don) McConnell and Gene Jr. (Lisa) Hall; 2 step-children: Matt (Jessica) Motter and Lindsay (Chris) Tindle; 8 grandchildren; sister, Rebecca Hall; and many nieces and nephews. Gene was preceded in death by his brother, Kenneth Hall, and by his granddaughter, Lauren Hall. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Sunday from 2 – 5 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson-Paw Paw, 60900 M-40; 657-3870. Please visit Gene’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the General Chuck Yeager Foundation.