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Life Story / Obituary
Lyle was born on a farm and spent early years helping his dad and mom with farm chores. He sometimes walked but mostly ran to school with his 2 younger sisters, Geneva and Charline. They moved to several different farms in the area, finally moving into town in Vicksburg, where his father, Charlie got a job at the paper mill. They lived near Angeline's (Lina's) folks, and Lyle spent much time with his grandparents.
While small, on the farm, Lyle would help in the fields leading two large plow horses. They were sometimes difficult to handle, and he recalled on one occasion they were spooked and tried to run off, pulling him along roughly for a while on the plow. His mother saw this from the house and sprinted, hurdling many obstacles to reach her son, thinking he was seriously hurt. Lyle never said how badly he was hurt, only that her remembers how athletic his mother was in trying to reach him for help. He also recalled how one of the horses, King, was being ridden by his dad down the lane to attend to some cattle. They were going rather fast, and it had rained, leaving a large puddle in the middle of the lane. King decided he wasn't going through that puddle and stopped abruptly, throwing Charlie over his head, landing him in the puddle. Charlie of coarse was furious and after a few of these incidents, got rid of that team of rowdy, stubborn horses.
He always had a dog or two on the farm and was fast friends with Peanuts, his favorite hound. He was traumatized when Peanuts came home one evening with a bullet hole in him from pestering a neighbor and died on the front porch. He continued to have dog companions for most of his adult life, bringing Spotty home from work as a stray puppy, to his young wife, Helen. They had 3 small children and she had her hands full, not really wanting the responsibility of a puppy too, but they ended up keeping Spot and enjoyed her for many years.
Lyle grew up during the depression. But he recalled never going hungry. They had an abundance of farm produce that they were able to share tomatoes, eggs and other basics with some of Lina's family. He remembered that his Aunt Daisy and Uncle Billy would come to the farm for food, and bring large pieces of ice with them to make ice cream from Lina's dairy cow. It was a warm, close family event that was dear to him. As a young boy, he didn't realize how dyer the depression was for families that didn't live on a farm.
During his high school years, the family lived in town, and Lyle wasn't able to play in the after school sports because he had to get a job to help the family out. So instead of playing baseball, he worked at the Indian Lake Pavilion flipping burgers and at his Aunt Betty and Uncle Bud's meat market after school. He always regretted not having an opportunity to play ball. In his old age, after moving to Colorado, he was a fan of the CO Rockies baseball team, going to many games in Denver to cheer them on.
He had several close boyfriend in his adolescent years. One of them was Marvin Mosgrove. They were best of buddies all through their lives. Through Marvin, Lyle met his future wife, Helen Louise Hanshue. She was Marvin's cousin from Kalamazoo and would come to Vicksburg to visit family. The story was they met in church, and Lyle spent his time making eyes at her. As they became older, he began driving to Kalamazoo to date her. They would go to a movie at the Capital Theater, and then go to Cupies for a hamburger. After taking her home, he would meet up with his buddies Marvin and Gerald Adams in Vicksburg. They would usually get something to eat in one of the restaurants, and then commence singing together for the patrons still there. Lyle talked about this time very fondly, and until his death, loved singing along with the Lawrence Welk show every Saturday night on PBS. It always made him very nostalgic.
After graduating from Vicksburg High School, he got a job in the warehouse of Michigan Bell Telephone Co. However, he had to move to Benton Harbor, and dating a girl in Kalamazoo was somewhat of a challenge. He recalled driving from Benton Harbor in the winter along snowy, icy roads, into Kalamazoo for a date with Helen, and then driving back white knuckled all the way. But it must have been worth it, because he continued to do so. During his time working for Ma Bell he was initiated into the Lakeshore Mason Brotherhood through one of his supervisors. He was a lifelong member of the organization, although not active all the time. At age 96, he was still receiving email updates on all the news of that branch of the Brotherhood. He was very proud of that affiliation but found it difficult to stay active after there were changes to meeting locations, and after he moved his family back to the Kalamazoo area, having been through war, marriage and 2 children.
When WWII broke out, he and his buddies went to Chicago to enlist. For some reason, Lyle couldn't pass his physical, and was denied enlistment. His pals went into the service, but he went back to Benton Harbor, still working for Michigan Bell. A little later he was able to pass his physical, and became a seaman in the US Navy, as a Seabee. During the war in the Pacific the Seabees were created to satisfy the need for a Naval Construction Force. They constructed air fields, docks and shipping facilities. Several battalions were created and re-formed during the war. A battalion of 1073 men comprised four companies plus a headquarters company consisting of medical administrative storekeepers, cooks and other specialists. Lyle was in the 3rd battalion headquarters company, most of the time he was in the New Hebrides. His battalion went in directly with the Marines and encountered enemy fire. Although assigned to headquarters, he was frequently on sentry duty. Their initial objective was building the base and airfield on the island Espiritu Santo. This base was the launch point for the battle for Japanese-held Guadalcanal. Lyle was gradually given responsibility for running the entire mess hall for the battalion. He was the only Yankee in a company drawn entirely from the South, and in many ways his comrades were still fighting the civil war. He had a difficult time coping with these Southerners, but they grudgingly recognized his abilities and gave him great responsibilities, but no promotions because he was a Yankee. The Seabee construction battalions were re-formed several times prior to the thrust to Okinawa, and Lyle was in the Admiralty Islands while they were building the largest U.S. Naval and air bases in the Southwest Pacific. I t became the primary service location for the US Seventh Fleet. He was later with the 6th Seabee Battalion in Okinawa. With his release, in 1945, the navy was eager to have him re-enlist, but he declined. For many years, he didn't talk much about his experiences during the war. But latter in life, he did share a little. In his free time, he fashioned a small woodworking shop in a hut, and made frames and other personal items out of local teak wood. He did witness the explosion of a nearby docked ship that was burned into his memory as it disintegrated in front of his eyes. He was the last man they could fit on the big cargo plane that was taking the navy-men back to the states in 1945. He was very proud of his service with the Seabees and still flew the American and Seabee flags outside his home in Colorado.
During one of his leaves from the Navy, his bride-to-be traveled with her mother out to California for a visit. Helen's mother wouldn't let her travel unaccompanied on a train full of servicemen across country. Lyle and Helen married in a small ceremony in Kalamazoo on Feb 8, 1943.
He sent her all his military paychecks, which she saved while living with her mother and dad and working for Upjohns packaging pharmaceuticals for the war effort. With the money he sent her, they were able to purchase a beautiful bedroom and dining room suite of cherry wood that they used for much of their married life. It was still in their home in Portage when Lyle moved to Colorado at age 93.
Helen Louise Lance died in 2011, after 68 years of marriage to Lyle. He was devastated but drew strength from his family and all the wonderful memories the two of them had shared over the years. On February 6, 1948, their son Steven Lyle was born, followed by Diane Louise on March 27, 1949. It was a busy household in Benton Harbor with Lyle working 2 jobs to make ends meet, while Helen was home with two small children. Lyle was able to get a transfer to the Kalamazoo office of Michigan Bell Telephone and the family moved back. They purchased a small home in the Woods Lake area. They added to the family on March 31, 1953, with the birth of daughter Deborah Anne. They also lost a child at birth, little Sue Ellen. Their growing family needed more room and they were able to purchase a lot from the Daley farm in Portage, MI. It was a newly developed area of plotted off farmland and they picked a lovely large lot of field “in the country” on Angling Rd. They built a custom brick home with Lyle's dad laying the entire hardwood floor. Helen used her artistic skills at decorating it, and later they added a large back patio and a sunroom. The back yard was filled with lush trees and always a large flower garden. Early on, there were fruit trees and vegetable and fruit gardens. As time went on, and the kids left the home, the flowers were the main garden. Lyle would spend countless hours tending his precious flower beds. It may have been the farm life that he was born into, or the fact that his father was an avid flower gardener, but Lyle felt peaceful and happy with a hoe in his hand. He loved that home and it's gardens, and was sad to leave the area and it's wonderful neighbors when he could not longer manage on his own. He moved with his daughter, Deb to Colorado in 2015, and they shared a home in Fort Collins until his death.
During his years married to Helen, they both worked hard to save a nest eggs that allowed them to travel quite a bit. One of their favorite trips was to Kentucky. Helen loved the huge green horse farms with their white fences, and Lyle loved driving the twisty country back-roads. And or course, the Bourbon. Frequent traveling companions were Marvin and Bernadette Mosgrove, Paul and Joyce Rogers, The Yaples, and Helen's nephew Bob Dixson and his wife Beverly. Dutch and Ruth Cutler, Lidia and Alvin Ivens, Katy Dyson and so many other wonderful neighbors made living pleasant on Angling Rd. Several times, Lyle and Helen hosted Kentucky Derby Parties with hats, mint juleps, and races in early May.
Other travel adventures they had were several trips to Europe. Switzerland was one of their favorites, with the Dixsons- to the top of the Schilthorn in the Alps. Much reminiscing went on about how they were eating in the revolving restaurant and Helen and Beverly put their purses down by the window and soon found their purses had traveled around the restaurant on the moving outside wall! No harm done but a good laugh later. They visited France and Spain, Italy, Morocco, Ireland and Scotland. They also were passengers on the Queen Elizabeth 2, paddle-wheeled down the Mississippi, and traveled to Nova Scotia on tour. Many trips throughout the US were also taken, some with Lyle's sister Charline and her husband Don. Lyle told his children, “travel while you are young enough to be able to enjoy it”. Enjoyed it he did!
After his move to Colorado, he traveled up into the mountains to stay at a remote cabin called Big Skys, with Deb's family. He tried his hand at fishing in a remote mountain stream and trekked to a remote lake, determined to hike with the young folks. He also hiked a long way back to a beautiful waterfall with Deb and granddaughter Caitlin in Rocky Mountain National Park. He was game for anything, even walking out to the edge of the Grand Canyon at 94 to get the best view and picture. He recently danced the night away with family and friends at Caitlin's wedding to Justin Nolan in Evergreen, CO. He surprised himself that he had so much energy and fun. He saw family from all around the country. What a wonderful legacy to his grandchildren to be so full of life and engaged in the world around him at 96!
He retired in 1985 from Michigan Bell, AT&T, and was always proud of his lifetime of PBX installation. He kept many work friends over the years and met regularly for breakfasts until he left Michigan in 2015.
His other interests were woodworking, financial record keeping and planning with his great friends from Edward Jones, Brenda and Greg, reading the Wall Street Journal daily, looking up his ancestry on his computer, fussing with his iPhone, taking lots of pictures, planning for his next project, family parties, and playing with his great granddaughter, Avery. He had a wonderful quality of life up until his death, with still a lot of projects on his to-do list, and interest in the political climate. His frustration at the failing of his body was his only complaint as he pushed forward. He was still walking for 30 minutes most days around his neighborhood in Fort Collins, visiting with neighbors along the way.
The Saturday prior to his death, he sat on his front porch that was under construction (one of his latest projects) in his dad's old rocking chair, taking in the warm Colorado sun and waving to the neighbors as they walked or drove by. It was typical of him enjoying the moments and just feeling happy and peaceful.
His wisdom, advise, positive attitude, enthusiasm for life, and love will be sorely missed by all the people he touched. Hard to say at 96 years old, but...... gone too soon.
Lyle Jay Lance passed away on Monday, January 7 at the age of 96 in Fort Collins, CO. Lyle’s family includes his children: Steven Lyle (Mary) Lance of AZ, Diane Louise (Daniel) Kirkconnell of New Port Richey, FL, Deborah Anne Snow of CO; grandchildren: Laura Lance, Lisa (Mark) Valencia, Aaron (Tisha) Lance, Sara Lance, Adam Gunderson, Amy (Russell) Guajardo, Don (Rose) Kirkconnell, Nathan (Kallin) Snow, Caitlin (Justin Nolan) Snow; great grandchildren: Audra Lance, Elena Lance, Anthony Valencia, Kohl (Natalie) Beebe, Alicia Vorva, Alexis Gunderson, Jayden Gunderson, Ella Gunderson, Bethany (Kurt) Koehle, Ryan Guajardo, Austin Guajardo, Corey Hunter Owen, Kyle Kirkconnell, Jeremy Kirkconnell, Avery Snow; great great grandchildren: Leighton Beebe, Kennley Beebe, Sean Michael, Amaya, Amir, Isabella Koehle; sister: Charline Patnoude of Three Rivers; many nieces, nephews and extended family members; special family: Beverly Dixson and son David, Sharon Baker. Lyle is preceded in death by his loving wife: Helen Louise Lance; granddaughters: Michelle Delanie Gunderson, Amanda Angeline Snow; great grandson: Shawn Irland; sister: Geneva (Lyle) Davis; brother-in-law: Donald Patnoude; Nephews: Robert Dixson, Jack Baker, Mark Patnoude, Dean Patnoude; great nephew: Randall Dixson.
Family will receive friends on Monday, January 14 from 10am to 11am at the McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes, 5975 Lovers Lane Portage, MI 49002 (269-344-5600) with the service following at 11am. A burial will take place at Vicksburg Cemetery with Military Honors. Please visit Lyle’s page at www.mccowensecord.com where you can archive a photo, share a memory, and sign the guestbook. Those who wish may make contributions to the Wounded Warrior Project.
The family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes, 5975 Lovers Lane Portage, MI 49002 (269-344-5600).