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Life Story / Obituary
Kenneth “Duke” Hanel was a loyal, loving, and generous man. He lived his life devoted to his wife, Chantal, and was a proud father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Ken was at his happiest whenever the family was together. He looked forward to each and every holiday spent with them. Never settling for less than his best, Ken modeled a lifetime of being truly passionate about life and treating everyone he met with kindness. He was bright and knowledgeable yet always humble. Ken leaves behind a warm collection of memories and his many years of wisdom and guidance will be fondly remembered by all who knew and loved him.
With banks still closing as a result of the Great Depression, mobster Al Capone locked away in Alcatraz, the completion of the Empire State Building, and during one of the greatest droughts in American history, Lloyd and Lillie (Hockridge) Hanel welcomed their son, Kenneth on August 20, 1931, in Lansing, Michigan. Born the youngest of his family, his birth brought much hope and happiness.
Growing up during challenging times, Ken learned the value of hard work at an early age. Ambitious, dependable, and responsible, it was no surprise that after his graduation from Sexton High School, he enrolled in an ROTC course at MSU launching a two-year career at a missile battalion in Germany. Returning to the United States, he proudly served another four years in the Army. After he was discharged, he set off for Los Angeles taking up employment in his brother’s print shop. Still searching for his place in the world, Ken ended up moving back to Michigan to take a job with the growing and prosperous Upjohn Company. Calling Kalamazoo home, he chose a postgraduate degree in bacteriology from Western Michigan University. Little did he know at the time, his career with Upjohn would carry him through all of life’s greatest moments where he would accomplish a successful thirty-two-year career receiving the W.E. Upjohn Award in 1972, and landing the role of Executive Director of the Control Quality Assurance Group before his retirement in 1990.
Not to be forgotten were his greatest pleasures in life. His relationship with his wife, Chantal, and their children was undeniably close. As a husband and father, Ken always put others first. He was supportive and never critical no matter what mistakes his children made along the way. Instead, he listened and was there whenever they needed help. Luckily, he was blessed with a dry sense of humor which always brought reprieve to his family. As a family man, he loved traveling and working in the yard. He was so meticulous, but his greatest passion in life was tennis! Not only did he enjoy playing the game, he also loved watching matches and traveled extensively to sit courtside at the French Open, the US Open, the Spanish Open and for the past eighteen years, to the Indian Wells Masters in California. His love of the game was infectious and anytime he and his wife were leaving on vacation of he was sure to pack their rackets! Ken was delighted when his grandson, Mike showed the same type of fondness for tennis. He took him to all of his junior tournaments while making sure to add some fun to the demanding schedule. Remarkably, Ken kept up playing the game himself until he was eighty-five years old!
In addition to being a great family man, Ken held many special interests. An avid MSU fan, he loved to watch any sport played by the Spartans as well as most professional football and basketball teams. Social by nature, Ken enjoyed being a member of the Beacon Club where he celebrated many special occasions over the years. With an incredible sweet tooth, Ken was known to never pass on dessert! He and Chantal enjoyed traveling to Chicago countless times to attend theatre shows together. The two of them were also members of wine clubs and enjoyed going wine tasting with one another. In addition to shows and wine tasting, he and Chantal also treasured all types of music, yet Ken was especially fond of Yanni, a Greek composer, keyboardist, pianist, and music producer. Ken was a one of a kind man. His strong work ethic, sense of humor, and sound advice will be deeply missed by all those whose lives he touched during his lifetime.
Kenneth “Duke” Hanel, age 86, of Kalamazoo, died peacefully on February 12, 2018, at his home with his wife at his side. He was preceded in death by two children: Mark and Georgette; granddaughter, Danielle; stepson, Shawn and a brother, Bill. Surviving are his loving wife of thirty-five years, Chantal; four children: Nanette, Julie, Shari, and Scott; step-daughter, Natalie, step-grandson, Mike; ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren; a step-great-grandson and many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. Services will be held on Friday 12 noon at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Private burial will take place at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Ken’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 home. Memorial contributions may be made to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.