Life Story / Obituary
Those who knew Bob Barringer knew that when they saw him, they were usually in for one of his stories, even if they had heard it countless times before. He was a fun-loving man with an infectious sense of humor and a heart of gold. No matter what he was doing, Bob loved life – and it showed in his every thought, word, and deed. He was full of both wisdom and life lessons and was laid back, never letting things ruffle his feathers. Bob had a heart that molded the lives of young people and over the years, he positively impacted the lives of those too numerous to count. His greatest role, however, was as a father and grandfather to the generations he created with the wife he was blessed to share more than 60 years of his life with.
The year 1924 was part of a vibrant decade in America that was rich with dynamic cultural options and crazes such as jazz music, dance marathons, and good ol’ American baseball. This was a year of great significance in the family of Roscoe and Marie (Olmstead) Barringer as they welcomed the birth of their son, Bob, on October 25th. Bob was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where his father worked at Upjohn and his mother worked at Gilmore’s Department Store. It was during his formative years that Bob developed the great sense of humor that remained with him throughout the rest of his life. He attended local schools and was active in sports including football at Kalamazoo Central.
After graduating from high school in 1943, Bob was drafted into the military during WWII. He served in the United States Navy and while he was home on furlough, he visited a classmate of his who would change the course of his life forever. Her name was Jean Utt and they had been friends in high school - they even double-dated to their senior prom, but with different dates. In the past, Jean was never interested in dating Bob because she considered him too short. Well, either Bob grew while he was in the military or she decided that his height no longer mattered because they started to correspond through letters while Bob finished his time in the service. Bob was discharged in 1946, and they married on August 30, 1947 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo.
In order to establish a career for himself, Bob attended Western Michigan University on the G.I. Bill and earned his teaching degree. He worked as a teacher in Frankfort, at Arthur Hill in Saginaw, and at both Kalamazoo Central High School and Loy Norrix High School from 1963 until he retired in 1983. Bob predominantly taught physical education, but he also taught driver’s education and some math classes at times.
In addition to teaching, Bob also coached several sports teams over the years, but his greatest passion was in coaching football. He served as the head football coach at Loy Norrix High School from 1964 through 1973. Bob loved working with the players not only teaching them the ins and outs of the game, but also promoting team unity. Later in life, Bob became a member of SAGES, a fraternity of football coaches. Many of his former students and players kept in contact with Bob over the years. One such young man, Ed Annen, became the mayor of Kalamazoo and presented Bob with a key to the city.
Although the young people he taught were of great importance to him, nothing could have thrilled Bob more than becoming a father to his own children, Kim in 1948, Kristi in 1952, and Kairi in 1958. He was a father who sacrificed for his children and made sure that they each went to college. In fact, all of his children followed in the footsteps of their father and became teachers themselves. When his children married, Bob treated their spouses like his own children and when grandchildren came along, he was over the moon. Bob was his grandchildren’s greatest fan and supporter and when he was asked to look after his grandchildren, this was never a chore to Bob, but his greatest delight. Holidays were always special times in the Barringer family and the week of the Fourth of July was a time where precious family memories were made since the family rented a cottage in South Haven and spent the week together. This was not only a great time for family time, but Bob also liked having a captive audience to listen to his stories!
There were so many things that made Bob such an extraordinary man. He was famous for telling stories and even when someone told Bob that they had heard a particular story at least 100 times before, he proceeded with the story, stating that this would be the 101st time! His stories were always entertaining and laced with just the right amount of humor, too. Bob loved to needle people in a fun way and was quick to hand out nicknames. He was even-keeled and whenever he did well on the golf course, he considered it to be a good day.
Life drastically changed for Bob when he fell off a ladder in August of 2009 and was severely injured. From that point forward, he was confined to hospitals or nursing homes. Bob’s last three months were spent at the Isabella County Care Facility where he received excellent care.
Bob Barringer was a man of great character who made the world around him a better place. He had a way with people and impacted the lives of countless people whether through his teaching, his coaching, or his inspirational talks. Bob imparted great wisdom on his children through his invaluable life lessons such as always doing their best, sticking to the task at hand, and being nice simply because it matters. He leaves behind a colorful tapestry of memories that will surely withstand the test of time. Bob will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Bob Barringer of Kalamazoo died on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at the Isabella County Medical Care Facility. Bob’s family includes his wife Jean, 3 children: Kim (Maureen) Barringer, Kristi (Denny) LaFleur, and Kairi (Rob) Hokenmaier, 5 grandchildren: Matt (BreAnne), Mike (fiancée Lauren) Jason, Ali, and Mikelyn. A Funeral will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Portage, 5975 Lovers Lane (344-5600) and the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Please visit Bob’s memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo, sign his memory book online before coming to the funeral home, or make a memorial donation.