Life Story / Obituary
Kathleen Lillian Dunn Baehre was born at her family home on Rusco Road in Tyrone Township, Kent City, on Christmas night in 1925. She was born to Nuel Lewis Dunn and Edith Ellen (Reinoldt) Dunn. Her mother, father, and older sister Lavon had spent Christmas Day at her Uncle Lancie and Aunt Harriet Dunn’s home in Three Rivers. When they came home, Kathleen was born! She was baptized at the Kent City Methodist Church on July 30, 1926.
Kathleen’s father was a beekeeper. He was kind, honest, meticulous, and somewhat reserved. Her mother had a beautiful personality and was hospitable, stylish, and gregarious. Edith spent much time sewing, baking, and socializing. Weekends featured card parties with neighbors (and their children) that went late into the night. Holidays and birthdays were celebrated with much fanfare. Sunday afternoons were spent picnicking with extended families at Hess Lake. Kathleen was very close to all her Dunn and Hess cousins.
Kathleen attended Kent City Schools and was a 1944 graduate of Kent City High School. She enjoyed roller-skating, reading, and dances. She played the piano (quite well) and was a cheerleader who could perform certain cheers for her daughters into later life (Sis, Boom, Bah! Kent City High School, Rah, Rah, Rah!) She played intra-mural basketball several decades before Title IX came into being.
Kathleen convinced her father that she needed to attend college. He didn’t really think it was necessary, but she did! She graduated from Grand Rapids Junior College with a degree in Chemistry and worked for several years in the lab at Anaconda in Muskegon and Muskegon Piston Ring in Sparta. Sometime in the mid-1940’s she met the neighbor boy down the road, ironically enough, under an apple tree. Fred’s parents were F. George and Louise (Reister) Baehre. They were married on February 26, 1949, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Conklin, Michigan. Kathleen’s sister Lavon (Dunn) Armentrout and Fred’s cousin Harland Reister stood up for the couple. Kathleen was confirmed a month later and became a member of Trinity.
After a honeymoon to Colorado and Texas, Fred and Kathleen moved into Fred’s grandparents’, Otto W. and Charlotte (Beuschel) Baehre’s home on Fruit Ridge Avenue. This would be their home for the rest of their lives. They raised cattle, apples, peaches, plums, and cherries. Kathleen played a significant role in bookkeeping as well as being a caring friend and listening ear to many of the people who worked on the farm. She was loved by many, especially the children.
In 1951, their first daughter, Rebecca Jean, was born. Alice Louise followed in 1952, Nadine Joy in 1954, and Julia Ann arrived in 1956. The much awaited “Baehre heir,” Michael Frederick, was born in 1961.
Kathleen’s beloved mother died suddenly at the age of 53 which created a tremendous void in her life. But Kathleen and Fred’s married life was filled with many good times involving family and friends. Sundays were spent picnicking with Bill and Delores Nyblad and all the children. Later years found Kathleen and Fred traveling throughout the United States with Bill and Delores. Friday nights were reserved for dinner with Merlin and Ireta Kraft and Saturday evenings found them at Civic Theater with Merlin and Ireta and Earl and Rosmary Baehre. Kathleen and Fred enjoyed spring vacations on the Gulf Coast with Fred’s sisters and brothers-in-law, Bill and Wilmine Burmeister and Chuck and Kathryn Buchtrup and traveled Europe with the Burmeisters. Every year in May they looked forward to traveling to Mackinac Island with Budd and Mae Shaw where they would dance the night away in the Ballroom of the Grand Hotel and play several rounds of golf. Fred and Kathleen spent many days scouring genealogical records at county courthouses, and hunting for antiques. Evenings were devoted to Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Cribbage.
Kathleen took up the game of golf when she was in her early forties. She played with the same ladies in a league, the "Green Benders" at Alpine Golf Course until her early eighties! In the wintertime, she played in a bowling league, the “Apple Knockers,” with friends Jo Reister, Ilah Chase, Maxine Schut, and Dot Beuschel. Kathleen had a serious love of genealogy and family history and was wholly responsible for gathering information on her own family and Fred’s as well. A highlight of their genealogical travels included finding an ancestor’s grave in a cow pasture in eastern Canada. She was tickled to know that she was directly descended from the House of Plantagenet as well as many other kings and queens of Ireland, England, and Scotland. She was a daughter of the Mayflower and the American revolution. Kathleen was one of the founding members of the Trinity Lutheran Historical Museum and belonged to several local and state historical societies. She researched and obtained most records before the internet came into being. She passed her love for genealogy and traipsing through cemeteries onto at least two of her children.
Another joyous activity was antiquing and estate sales. It was a regular occurrence for Kathleen and Noreen Beuschel to que up in line at the crack of dawn to get a low number in line at sales.
Fred passed away on May 1, 2000, at 75 years of age. Kathleen, despite two hip replacements, continued to play golf every Tuesday morning with her league. One of her favorite trips was with several friends to the Canadian Rockies. For many years, she traveled with her sister and her daughters to Stratford, Charleston, Williamsburg, and Mackinac Island. She was technologically savvy and did much genealogical research on Ancestry as well as keeping track of her stocks. She logged into Facebook early every morning and would often comment or “like” the happenings of her children, grandchildren, and friends. She did this until late last year. Kathleen mowed her expansive lawn late into her nineties, much to the shock (and concern) of people who would be driving by and drove her 1999 Buick Park Avenue until about … 2020. She refused to get a new car after Fred died because she firmly believed she wasn’t going to “live that long.”
Kathleen was an avid reader, often reading two to three books a week. She was a member of the Casnovia Ladies Literary Club, and the Kent County Farm Bureau. She had a membership to Meijer Gardens and would often treat her children and grandchildren to tours of the Gardens or tickets to concerts.
Kathleen lived independently in her home until last year. She suffered from arthritis, and it became impossible for her to safely navigate about her home. She moved into Green Acres of Cedar Springs in May of 2021. She suffered some leg fractures late last year and her health declined. The last few months were very hard on her. She took comfort in listening (and singing along) to the old Methodist hymns of her childhood. She passed away early in the morning of April 20, 2022, listening to her daughter singing “Silent Night” and “Rock a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” a song she sang to herself many times in the last few months.
Kathleen looked back on her youth with so much happiness. She had many childhood friends that were life-long friends. Kathleen loved Fred, her parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents and was especially close to her grandmothers, Lillian (Oakley) Reinoldt (Muskegon grandma) and Elizabeth (McCune) Dunn (Sparta grandma). She had many pets – dogs and cats and lambs - and had a tender heart for them all. She felt she had a charmed life and a very happy family and community. Those times were often in her dreams later in life. Her children take comfort in knowing that she is with Home with Jesus, Fred, her parents, and all her loved ones once again.
Kathleen’s baptismal verse was “These words which I command thee this day, shall be upon thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” Deuteronomy 6: 6,7
Kathleen did just that! She had a strong faith and taught her children to pray and trust in God. That was the most significant gift she gave to her family.
Kathleen’s reunion in Heaven was celebrated on Monday, April 25, 2022, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Conklin with the Rev. Mark Oswald officiating. Burial was in Trinity Lutheran Cemetery. Her eight grandsons were the pallbearers.