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Life Story / Obituary
During Olie Douglas’ lifetime, she experienced some of the happiest moments life has to offer as well as some of the most painful. The challenges and hardships she had endured had forged her into a determined, independent woman and taught her to treasure moments with loved ones. She always put her family first and nothing brought her as much joy as time with her precious grandchildren.
The world was everything but rosy in the fall of 1944 as Europe endured continual bombings in a war with no end in sight. World War II had left families all over the world grieving and worrying about their loved ones serving in far off places, and prayers for safe returns were heard in every language. But, as they say, life goes on, and in the midst of the darkness there were periodic bursts of light. In the home of Robert and Mary (Manns) Barnett, one of those little lights shone on November 16 of that year when their baby girl Olie made her entrance into the world.
The Barnetts lived in the small community of Gage, Kentucky, people who were used to hard work and hard times. Sadly, Olie’s mother died when Olie was just two years old and her father became ill. Olie was raised by her grandmother in Breathitt County, several hours east from her place of birth.
When Olie was a teenager, she and some of her family members traveled to southwest Michigan for migrant work at area farms. While there, she met a young man named Burtis Davis. They decided to marry, but Olie was just shy of her eighteenth birthday and lied about her age in order to get a marriage license. They exchanged vows on September 29, 1961. Olie and Burtis had two children, Anna and Jackie, and established their home in Paw Paw. She stayed home until they started school and then found work outside the home. Olie and Burtis divorced after over twenty years of marriage.
Olie faced new challenges over the years even as she enjoyed watching her family grow. She had to learn to drive once she started working. Her first job was at Viking Die Cast as a machine operator, and after they closed, she worked as a custodian at Summit Polymers. Sometime around 2000, Olie was forced to retire due to her weakening health. She always looked forward to Christmas and other holidays so the family could get together and she made an effort to maintain close relationships with all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In the mid-1980s, friends had arranged an evening out with Olie and a quiet, considerate man named Bill Douglas. The two hit it off right away and were married at her home on March 8, 1986. They enjoyed old TV shows and movies together and Olie always appreciated Bill’s delicious apple pie. Sadly, Bill died halfway through their twentieth year together in September of 2006.
Olie missed Bill intensely, but she found comfort spending time with her remaining family. She had several hobbies that kept her hands busy, like quilting and crocheting, and she also enjoyed tending her flower garden. When her health had been stronger, she made frequent trips back home to Kentucky with her niece Sylvia. She read the Bible regularly and was a member of the West Oshtemo Baptist Church, where she enjoyed singing hymns and catching up with friends.
During the last few years of her life, Olie was homebound due to poor health and had concerns about being a burden on her family. In July of 2014, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and endured the long, arduous process of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation. She wanted to remain living in her own home as long as she could. Just after Christmas in 2016, she began receiving hospice care.
Olie died on Sunday, January 1, 2017, at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo. By example, she showed them that hard work matters, that family comes first, and that a promise means something, leaving them a legacy of life lessons that will influence them for years to come.
Olie is survived by her daughters, Anna (Jeff) Marr and Jackie (Sherman) Honea; four grandchildren: Tony Burlington, Kerstin Squiers, Austin Burlington, and Zach Marr; five great grandchildren: Alek, Xzavior, Lily, Karmen, and Karianna; three brothers: Ray, Charlie, and Glennie Barnett; and a sister, JoeAnn Palacious. She was preceded in death by her husband Bill, a sister, Gladys Nickels, and two brothers, James and Raymond Barnett.
Services for Olie will be held at 1 pm on Wednesday, January 4, 2017, at the Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service and cremation will take place after the funeral. Please visit Olie’s personal memory page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you may share a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Rose Arbor Hospice.