Friday, September 2, 2022
12:00 PM EDT
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
5125 Cascade Rd SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
1 (616) 942-9091
Visitation from 11 AM until the start of the service
Life Story / Obituary
As family and friends can surely attest, Stephen Kelley truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He was a constant source of strength and encouragement for those around him, even in the most difficult of times. A loving husband and father, Steve was so proud to watch his family tree grow to include so many members. He was well known for his solid work ethic, and he was always willing to go above and beyond to serve others. Forever loved, Steve will be deeply missed by those who knew him best.
Although the eyes of our nation were focused overseas as WWII raged on, Arthur and Berniece (Madden) Kelley were able to shift their attention to an exciting time in their own lives as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Stephen Arthur on February 28, 1942, in Shenandoah, Iowa.
Growing up, Steve was a typical young man of his generation in many ways. He was raised in the family home alongside his younger brother, Gary. The two siblings were only separated by ten months. Steve’s father, Arthur, worked for the telephone company that his own father owned. Meanwhile, Steve’s mother also supported the family by working as a teacher and later as a social worker. His childhood home was on State Street in Clarinda, Iowa. Many holidays were spent at his grandparents’ home, competing in memorable human wheelbarrow races. Steve and Gary were known for their mischievous ways. They once took apart an old crank phone and hooked up the wires to their father’s toes while he slept! Another time, the two shot all of their chickens with a BB gun. Over the years, Steve and Gary were always very close.
Throughout his childhood, Steve attended area schools, including Lincoln Elementary, a local middle school, and Clarinda High School. He played the saxophone, football, basketball, and ran track. Steve always wanted to be in the marching band, but he quickly discovered that he couldn’t play and march at the same time. He was also an Eagle Scout, and he took a memorable trip to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico with his father. Steve was a member of the Honor Society and was awarded the citizenship award when he graduated from Clarinda in 1960, ready to move on to bigger and better things.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Steve as he met the woman who would quickly become the love of his life. Her name was Marlene Buesing, and the two first met when they were set up on a blind date by a friend. Interestingly, she already knew Steve’s brother, Gary. It didn’t take long for the couple to realize that they were deeply in love. In fact, Steve gave Marlene his class ring on their fourth date. That summer, he traveled to Idaho to work, which allowed them to write often and learn that they never wanted to be apart again. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Steve and Marlene were married at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Yorktown, Iowa, on June 2, 1963. They enjoyed a honeymoon to Loveland, Colorado. The newlyweds then settled in Ames, Iowa, so that Steve could attend Iowa State University. He majored in forest management, and Marlene worked at a dental office. Throughout their many years together, the Kelley family would live in several locations all around the country including Oregon, Washington State, and Virginia before finally settling down in Cadillac, Michigan, after Steve received a big promotion. He worked as the forest supervisor for Huron and Manistee National Forest.
All who knew Steve can surely agree that, of all the things he loved in life, he treasured his family above all else. He and Marlene were overjoyed to welcome their two beloved children, Kristine and Jason, into their hearts and home. Though Steve’s career often took him away from home, he always did his best to be very involved in the lives of his children. He was their biggest fan and fiercest supporter. Later in life, Steve was thrilled to become a grandfather to Tyler, Matthew, Conner, Taran, and Aden. He adored his grandchildren and doted on them whenever he could. Steve always considered himself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
In order to support himself and his family, Steve built a fulfilling career in the forestry industry. He was even given the opportunity to spend three weeks in Alaska with some of his friends from the Forest Service. Steve retired in 1997, and in 2003, Marlene retired as well. The two then began delivering trailers across the country. They remained in Cadillac until 2006 when they moved to Rockford in order to be closer to Jason’s family. Meanwhile, Steve’s daughter Kristine settled down in California with her own family.
As a firm believer in the importance of community involvement, Steve was very generous with his time and effort. While living in Oregon, he liked to dress up as Smokey the Bear in the Pendleton Roundup parade. After becoming established in Rockford, Steve began volunteering for the police department for four hours a week. He truly loved driving around with a partner and checking up on the people in his community. Steve and Marlene were also very active in supporting Jason’s pizza business. He was a strong example for those around him and always led with integrity.
Never one to like sitting still for long, Steve pursued many hobbies to stay busy in his free time. He and Marlene took up square dancing lessons and would often go out dancing on Saturday nights. Steve loved woodworking, and he built furniture and baskets. He also enjoyed cutting boards into the shape of Michigan. Alongside a close friend, Steve had a contract with Consumers Power that allowed him to build 300 bird houses. He liked listening to old country music, including the works of Roy Clark, Conway Twitty, and Mel Tillis. Steve enjoyed watching nature shows, westerns, and all kinds of history documentaries. He also loved to read about the American Civil War and collected historical artifacts from that time period. While living in Virginia, Steve traced the family back to the Civil War era. He collected guns and even built a black powder gun himself. Steve enjoyed eating steak dinners, and he was always up for trying new things, including Mexican tongue tacos. He was well known for his sweet tooth and had a special fondness for butterscotch. Steve was an active member of the Lions Club in Washington and Cadillac. He loved to travel, even if that meant just driving around. Though he liked to keep his spiritual life private, Steve’s faith was very important to him, especially later in life. He was a rule follower and always followed his moral compass.
When reflecting on the life of Stephen Kelley, it is easy to see his unwavering strength and unconditional love for his family. He was always willing to serve those in need in ways both great and small. Steve poured his heart and soul into everything that he did and never wavered from the passions of his heart. He worked tirelessly to provide for others and care for the natural world around him. Though Steve will be deeply missed, he leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will be proud to carry on in his footsteps.
Mr. Stephen A. Kelley age 80, of Rockford, passed away on August 22, 2022. He was preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Berniece Kelley; and brother, Gary Kelley. Stephen is survived by his wife of 59 years, Marlene; children, Kristine (Mike) Minor and Jason (Sue) Kelley; grandchildren, Tyler and Matthew Minor, Conner, Taran and Aden Kelley; brother-in-law, Richard (Jan) Buesing; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. Stephen earned the rank of Eagle Scout, was a 1964 graduate of Iowa State University, and enjoyed a 34 year career with the US Forest Service. The Memorial Service will be held at noon on Friday, September 2, 2022 at St Matthew Lutheran Church, 5125 Cascade Rd SE 49546. His family will receive visitors at the church on Thursday, Sept 1 from 6-8 PM. Contributions in his memory may be made to the National Museum of US Forest Service History. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Stephen’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook.