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Play it Forward c/o Marshall Music Co.
951 Mall Drive
Portage, MI 49024
Check to: Play it Forward Program
Life Story / Obituary
Throughout his rich and rewarding life, Keith “Hodges” Hodgemire brought the world around him to life. He loved life, and he made sure that those around him did too, and his free-spirited nature was truly contagious. Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, Keith’s greatest source of pride and joy was found in the family he treasured. He found such joy in becoming a grandfather, perhaps because he was such a kid at heart. Life will never be the same without Keith here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The 1930s were some of the most trying days we have faced as a nation as the entire nation was firmly held in the grip of the Great Depression. As the 1940s dawned, things were looking up, but it wasn’t until manufacturing was needed to support the WWII effort that we finally saw the light of hope again. It was just as the 1940s were dawning that Rudolph and Vera (Ennis) Hodgemire were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as February dawned in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1940. The big day finally arrived on February 23rd when the baby boy they named Keith drew his first breath. He was their only child, but he was very close to his cousin, Fritz, who was actually more like his partner in crime. They were both musicians as well. Both of his parents worked at the Georgia Pacific paper mill in Kalamazoo. A talented musician, Keith was playing in his first performance when he was just 13. As a student Keith attended Kalamazoo Central High School and also attended Western Michigan University with thoughts of becoming a music teacher. He joined the Army and played in the Army band. Keith served in the military for three years and once played on the steps of the White House for the President of the United States!
Life was forever changed for Keith when he met a nurse named Lenore Backes while in the Army. They were married and lived at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. Together they were blessed with the birth of their daughter, Kristine, in 1962 while Keith was still in the military. They moved to Kalamazoo after she was born as he was discharged from the Army. Their marriage later ended, but Keith’s life was so greatly enriched because of the daughter they shared.
During his entire life Keith was passionate about his music. He was very well known in the music industry and traveled all over the country as a professional musician. Keith played with Brenda Lee, and he also played with the Four Freshmen and spent some time playing in Vegas in the 1960s. He had albums, too, including one from long ago called “Keith Hodges Trio.” Keith was also performing in Iowa with Buddy Holly’s band on the night of the infamous plane crash. Thankfully, Keith turned them down when they asked if he wanted to fly with them that night and took a car instead. He was so grateful to have had the opportunity to play in every state but Alaska and Hawaii over the years. Keith’s favorite places to play were: Jekyll Island, Georgia, and on a boat in Saugatuck every year. From 2004 through 2006 The Jolly Coachmen played for the Saugatuck Marina Yacht Club’s annual “Margarita Party” and Tower Marines’ annual “Pool Party".
New and exciting days were in store for Keith when he met the woman of his dreams in 1992. Her name was Deb, and he played at the Unwinder where she worked. She also knew of him because her mom used to listen to Keith play. They went on a few dates, and by that time he must have been smitten since he sang “It Had to Be You” in front of everyone! They went on a memorable Caribbean cruise in October of 1992, and they often danced the night away. This was such a nice change since Keith was often busy playing. Deeply in love, Keith and Deb were married on March 13, 1993, at her mother’s home in Plainwell, and the sweethearts made their home in Plainwell. She always loved it when he sang “My Wife the Dancer” for her. Keith was such an amazing singer who also played alto sax and clarinet. For a time he even taught ballroom dancing.
All who knew Keith would agree that he was truly one of a kind. He was an animal lover who had 16 horses at one time when he was younger. Keith was such a joker who could never seem to be serious. Actually, since she knew this about him Deb told him not to embarrass her when they went out on their first date! Keith loved being a grandfather - so much so that he drove through the night from Peoria, Illinois, to be there for the birth of his first grandson. Keith was blessed with seven grandchildren altogether including Ryan, Brooke, Ashly, Ariel, Mason, Maia, and Josiah, and they were the light of his life. He loved pinching their cheeks, although they didn’t much care for it, and he treasured every moment spent with them. Anything Keith did had to be perfect. His daughter even says that runway models get ready faster than he ever did as it took him an hour just to trim his mustache! Keith enjoyed golfing and hunting when he was younger, and he loved watching old westerns, which drove Deb nuts. Dances with Wolves and Lonesome Dove were among his favorite movies.
A vivacious, fun-loving, and energetic man, there was no one who met Keith Hodgemire and left unchanged. He had such a deep voice and could only be loud, but he was so much fun, too. Protective of his family, Keith cherished his roles as a husband and father, but he just might have argued that nothing was better than being a grandfather. He will never be forgotten.
Keith ” Hodges” Hodgemire, of Plainwell passed away on December 20, 2016. Keith’s family includes his wife, Deb; his daughter, Kristine (David) Benedict; stepchildren Mark (Melissa) Hodges and Melanie (Josh) Vickery; and grandchildren: Ryan, Brooke, Ashly, Ariel, Mason, Maia, and Josiah. Keith was preceded in death by his parents and a grandson Jeremy Vickery. Please visit Keith’s memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo and sign his memory book online. A Celebration of Life will take place at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to Marshall Music Co. attn: Music Education Assistance (951 Mall Drive, 269-321-0415).