Life Story / Obituary
A resourceful man with a heart for family, William Charles Van Dike was a great example of commitment, involvement, and love. Growing up during the Great Depression and World War II taught him to make do with what he had and how to persevere through tough times. He also knew how important it was to treasure those closest to him. He raised his seven sons with integrity and wisdom, taking pride in their accomplishments and holding them up during the hard times that inevitably came. Married to the same woman for nearly sixty years, Bill was a cornerstone of support and strength for his children and grandchildren alike.
The stock market crash of October 29, 1929, brought the optimistic prosperity of the Roaring '20s to an abrupt halt. Despite the dark days looming ahead, William Berry and Ellen Van Dike found reason for hope when they learned they were expecting their first child. Born in Detroit on August 17, 1930, Bill became their pride and joy. William worked as an engineer at his own firm, Allied Research. He and Ellen raised Bill in Birmingham, Michigan, and Milford, Michigan. Bill enjoyed a variety of sports while growing up and grew especially fond of outdoor activities, a love he maintained throughout his life.
As a young man, Bill participated in baseball, football, basketball, hunting, bowling, and swimming. Bill graduated from Milford High School with the class of 1948. He continued his education at Drexel University in Pennsylvania for two years, but his schooling was interrupted by the eruption of the Korean War in June of 1950.
Bill entered the United States Air Force and served as an engineer for four years, earning the rank of Airman First Class. During his enlistment, Bill participated in a swim competition in France with the Air Force swim team and brought home some rewards for his team.
After leaving the military, Bill worked at his father's company, Allied Research, where he honed his business and engineering skills. After his father passed away, Bill was hired as an engineer at General Motors, then Mohr Machinery, and finally General Bearing. During his time at General Bearing, he started his own consulting firm, Dutchman Engineering. He loved working and refused to stop, being forced into retirement at the age of eighty. Throughout all of those years, he loved to tinker, figuring out how things worked and how to make them work better. He was especially pleased if he could find a way to use duct tape on a project.
As a young man, Bill's life took a surprising turn when he agreed to a blind date and was introduced to a lovely lady named Patricia Halpin. Bill was a true gentleman, striking Patricia as intelligent and courteous. Bill was head-over-heels almost instantly. They met on August 17, 1955, and were engaged just two weeks later on September 3. They exchanged vows on January 7 the next year and remained, through better and worse, through sickness and health, devoted to one another for the next fifty-nine years.
The Van Dikes knew they wanted a large family and they were not disappointed with the wonderful gifts life brought them. Bill and Patricia were blessed with seven sons and their home was soon overflowing with laughter, loudness, and love through the roof. From Little League games to high school football and baseball games, Bill was there, sometimes serving as his boys' team manager. Bill and Patricia were overjoyed when each new voice was added to the fray and were proud of the men those little boys became.
Their joy was multiplied when their sons began to date, marry, and have children of their own. Bill loved playing chess with his grandchildren and was known for winning repeatedly in just three moves. He enjoyed teaching them one of his favorite games, "stealing the fork." Most importantly, he made sure that all the kids knew he was there for them if they needed him.
As the boys were growing up, the Van Dikes spent many vacations with Bill's best friend, Bob Tester, and his family at their farm in Greenville, Michigan. The two families made great memories while fishing, swimming in the lake, canoeing on the river, and hunting squirrels. As the boys grew older, the Van Dikes purchased cabins in northern Michigan and spent some of the best times of their lives hunting, fishing and boating. In later years, Bill purchased a cottage in Coldwater, Michigan, which served as a summer gathering place for the whole family.
Most of the time, Bill preferred the out-of-doors and was most at home enjoying the fresh air during a walk through the woods or caring for his fish in his backyard pond in Livonia. He did spend some time indoors, drinking his morning coffee while reading the newspaper or enjoying a classic western. The freedom and rugged nature found in John Wayne's characters or the Bonanza family appealed to him and he was happy to share them with anyone in the family who was interested.
Bill enjoyed competing, regardless of the activity. He entered the world of dog shows, raising malamutes and attending many competitions with the Alaskan Malamute Club. He raised two champions that were awarded and recognized by the American Kennel Club. Friendly competition remained an important part of Bill's life, even after he had to give up some of his favorite sports. He enjoyed playing horseshoes and was tough to beat. Bill also liked card games and played poker, pinochle, and bridge. Many summers were spent at the Sara Club in Brighton, Michigan.
Bill's family and friends will miss his wisdom, his sense of humor, and his unwavering devotion. He does not leave them empty-handed, however. He has given them a precious gift; the assurance of a love that is fierce, unconditional, and forever.
Bill died on March 11, 2015. He is survived by his beloved wife, Patricia; seven sons, Bill, Bart, Bob (Linda), Berry (Julie), Bryan, Bruce (Michael), and Brad (Monica); nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be Friday, March 13, 2015, from 3:00 pm - 9:00 pm and his funeral service will be Saturday, March 14, 2015, at 10:00 am at the Neely-Turowski Life Story Funeral Home, 30200 Five Mile (between Middlebelt and Merriman). Interment will be at Oakland Hills Cemetery. Please visit www.TurowskiLifeStory.com where you may share a favorite photo or memory and sign the online guest registry.