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Life Story / Obituary
Quick with a smile and with a heart of gold, Ken “Curly” Sullivan added much to the lives around him. A true entertainer at heart, he loved the limelight and always had a joke to share. Foremost in Ken’s life was his love for those he held most dear. With numerous memories of times shared, Ken will be forever remembered.
The decade of the 1960s ushered in an entirely new way of thinking within the culture of America. The Vietnam War was at the forefront, and young people were learning how to make their voices heard. Many found reprieve in the form of drive-in theaters, music of the day, and beloved television shows. It was during these changing times when Wayne and Jan Sullivan welcomed the birth of their son, Kenneth, born on January 13, 1962.
Although born in California, young Ken and his family soon made their way to Michigan where they made their home. When he was merely one year old, Ken welcomed his little sister, Kim. They grew up in Mattawan on Eagle Lake in Texas Township where Ken relished boyhood adventures. The lake offered Ken great times with friends boating, riding their wave runners, and especially the stories of him, his friends and sister skiing even before school at times.
Ken’s parents both worked for the Upjohn Company. An easy-going family, many memories of treasured times filled their home and hearts. They loved riding dirt bikes around the lake and up at Beaver Island where his grandfather, Kenneth Bright lived. A man with a great sense of humor, it was a family trait that Ken was happy and proud to claim.
Having attended the local schools, Ken was a friend of many. He was quite musically inclined, and a member of his high school choir where he was part of the Sing-Out Kalamazoo. He acquired his harmonies from his mom and with a musical ear he picked up the guitar early on. Partial to old rock ‘n roll, Ken liked everything from Elvis to Country Western. After graduating from Mattawan High School with the Class of 1980, Ken remained in the Mattawan area doing general work.
Ken put his musical talents to use by forming the band, Legacy where he played bass guitar, was a backup singer as well as doing some lead vocals. Quite a show off, Ken absolutely loved the attention and he even had some groupies that followed him. A lifelong Country Western musician, he earned his nickname, “Curly” during his band days because of his curly locks. The Legacy band was together for over ten years and even opened for Stella in Traverse City at one point. Later, Ken became a member of the Local Motive Band for over ten years as well. He loved his wireless mic which allowed him the opportunity to walk around and mingle with the people in the audience while performing. Certainly in his element, Ken was a natural when it came to performing.
Life as Ken knew it forever changed when he met his future wife, Cathy who worked at Blue Crystal Lanes Bowling Alley in downtown Kalamazoo. Ken started working there and couldn’t help but flirt with Cathy. Even though she acted “mean” to him, Ken liked it and after awhile she finally accepted his invitation to go out and that was it. In one another, Ken and Cat found their true companion and the love of each other’s lives. They dated for nearly ten years before getting married at Calvary Reformed Church in Texas Township on April 23, 1993. They celebrated by a brief honeymoon in South Haven before returning home to Eagle Lake to begin their new lives as husband and wife. Cat’s daughter, Danielle was five years old when they met, and Ken had always treated her as his own. He was more than happy to officially become her “father” when he and Cat married. Dani lovingly called Ken “Poppa” which was music to his ears.
For 25 years, Ken worked for Eliason as a C&C operator until it downsized. As a family, special times were shared and enjoyed at Beaver Island at their family cottage. Eagle Lake continued to provide Ken and his family with fun times riding the wave runners and driving the boat around. They liked dirt biking together. Ken’s big road bike, quads, and fat wheel dirt bikes always made for great times together. Although Ken liked these outdoor activities, he was never one for hiking or other outdoorsman type of activities. He and Cat had their own separate interests. Cat was an avid sports fan while Ken was always into his music. He liked playing with the guys every chance he could and would readily admit being in the bands were some of the best times of his life.
Ken liked watching comedies on TV but the show, The Big Bang Theory was his favorite. When it came to food, Ken especially liked Olive Garden and their Shrimp Alfredo, but his mother’s great cooking always won him over with her delicious stuffed peppers and cabbage rolls. Even though Ken was into his own music, he loved Queen’s Freddy Mercury, along with Garth Brooks and Randy Travis who gave him much inspiration. Never far from Ken’s side were he and Cat’s beloved pets which included ten cats and two dogs.
Throughout Ken’s life he always had questions about life in general and even his faith. He wanted answers and needed to know for sure why things happen, the role of fate in life, and just wanting to know for certain about things. This was especially so when he and Cat suffered the loss of Dani in 2010. It was also around this time when Ken began suffering several health issues of his own. For many years he tolerated MS and when other medical problems arose, it simply became too much for him.
For everyone who came to know and love Ken “Curly” Sullivan, a man with a big grin and some funny story to share will always be remembered and lighten their hearts. Ken wore his heart on his sleeve and would do anything for someone in need. He had a silly nature, and along with his fun-loving and kind spirit, he will be remembered with joy.
Kenneth “Curly” Sullivan, age 55, of Kalamazoo, died Saturday, March 25, 2017 at home with his family at his side. Surviving are his wife, Cat Sullivan; sister, Kim Weitschat; two nephews: Chris and Cody Weitschat; and several cousins. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Danielle Phillips and parents, Wayne and Jan Sullivan. Cremation will take place. Services will be held Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 2:00 pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Please visit Ken’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 before coming to the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.