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Life Story / Obituary
Although he was a man who accomplished so much of which to be proud, there was nothing that Ronald Dopieralski, Sr. treasured more than being Papa to his precious grandchildren. He was a longtime resident of the Paw Paw community who was well respected not only in his work, but also in the way he lived his life. Ron was an amazing role model for his children as he taught them invaluable life lessons such as there being no such thing as a free lunch. With his warm and approachable demeanor, he had a way of making others feel at ease, and a stranger was never a stranger for long when Ron was around. A no frills, easy to please, and hard working man, he leaves us all with much to aspire for. Ron's memory will remain a lasting treasure in the lives of all who were blessed to know and love him.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of the nation were focused overseas as we were deeply entrenched in WWII. For those who remained stateside rationing had become a way of life while families and friends gathered around radios to await the latest news from the front lines. There was celebrating in the streets as summer ended in 1945 when Japan surrendered and America and our allies were victorious. This same year was a year to remember in the lives of Vincent and Juliana (Koza) Dopieralski as they were eagerly anticipating the birth of their new baby as fall settled in on the city of Chicago, Illinois. The big day finally arrived on September 29, 1945, when the baby boy they named Ronald Vincent drew his first breath. He was an only child and the delight of his parents.
With a desire to leave big city life and become a farmer, Ron's father moved his family from Chicago to Paw Paw, Michigan, where he brought a 75 acre farm along M-43 when it was still a dirt road. This was the same place Ron called home for the rest of his life. Although he didn't have any siblings, he was raised in a close knit community and had several neighborhood kids to play with like Eleanor, Paul, Mike, Clarence, Charlie, and Janet. This core group of friends were like Ron's family, and together they walked to the country school each day. Ron was close to his cousin, Hank, who arrived from the city in their big black car bringing Polish foods along with them. He was primarily a good kid, but he did find his fair share of mischief at times including the time he stole his father's truck as a young boy of 14 to go to school since he was tired of walking the two to three miles to and from school each day. Ron's lifelong love affair with just about anything with an engine including cars, tractors, and locomotives began during his formative years.
New and exciting changes were in store for Ron when he met the young girl with whom he would share the best years of his life. Her name was Judy Nielsen, and they met when she was working on the Dickerson farm. Ron and Judy dated for a couple of years, and over time they fell deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together they were married on January 30, 1965. When he married Judy, Ron became part of the Nielsen family that included her siblings, Bob, Kenny, Jerry, and Fern. Over the years Ron had great times being part of a larger family.
Together Ron and Judy welcomed two children, Ronald V., Jr. and Terrie Ann, into their hearts and home. Ron was an active part of his children's lives, and together they enjoyed things like walks in the woods and winter bonfires in the middle of the woods on special days like Christmas and New Year's Eve. As a dad Ron could do and build anything in the eyes of his children, and he taught his children invaluable lessons about work ethic. He encouraged his children to stand on their own two feet, and he also taught them that it is important to enjoy what they do, but that they also need to work harder and smarter than everyone else around them. Ron taught Ron Jr. how engines worked, simply by telling him to "figure it out" while he supervised. His kids loved spending time with him no matter what they were doing, but most days were spent in the body shop working on cars, everyone pitched in to help with the family business.
Ron's earliest days in the workforce were spent at Jim's Auto Body while in high school. In fact, his job cost him his high school diploma as he needed to paint a car instead of going to school to take a test. He later spent some time working for Burroughs Manufacturing in Kalamazoo, and although he supported his family through his work his true love remained in repairing cars and was employed at Tappers, Steve's and T&G auto body in Paw Paw through the years. Then in 1982 Ron started his own business, Dopie's Auto Body, out of his home. He was dedicated to his job and continued working until his retirement in 2010. Ron was truly talented in auto body work, and he also worked with many talented auto people as well.
Throughout his life Ron was a bustle of activity. He loved all things of winter and could often be found out chopping wood to enjoy in his fireplace. During the warmer months, Ron liked camping at the family property on Honeymoon Lake in Baldwin as well as going out 4-wheeling. He loved tractors and had an extensive collection of old John Deere tractors that were his pride and joy. When relaxing Ron enjoyed watching old westerns on television or listening to rock 'n roll music. Of course once grandchildren arrived he loved spending time with them whenever he could. He was an amazing Papa, and he had a close bond with all eight of his grandchildren. There were regular overnight stays with his grandkids, and it was hard to tell who had the better time, the kids or Papa!
When reflecting on the life of Ronald Dopieralski, Sr., words such as wise, steadfast, and hardworking come to mind, but what will be his lasting legacy is the love he had for his family. He was the sort of man whom everyone seemed to know, and with numerous friends he could find anything for anyone as the need arose with such a large network to draw from, he was the "go to guy". Ron had a contagious zest for life and a fun-loving sense of humor that brought such laughter and joy to those around him. He will be forever missed but never forgotten.
Ronald "Dopie" Vincent Dopieralski, Sr. died on Thursday, February 19, 2015. Ron's family includes his son, Ronald V. Jr.; daughter, Terrie Ann (Randy) Simpkins; grandchildren, Tiffany Rindfield, (Shane) Kline, Tammy Rindfield, Tracy Simpkins, Toney Simpkins, Kane and Zoie Schipono, Jessica Lopez (Norton), Pamela (Mann) Sipes, and Kimberly Mann; great-grandson, Avery Kline; and several nieces and nephews. Ron was preceded in death by his wife Judy, on July 31, 2014, and his parents. Cremation has taken place and a services will be announced at a later date. Please visit Dopie's personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Arrangements by Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Thompson, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw, 657-3870.