Frank EichelbergSeptember 23, 1930 - July 28, 2012
Leslie EichelbergMay 27, 1930 - July 21, 2011
Frank Eichelberg's Story:
All who knew Frank Eichelberg would agree that life was certainly more interesting when he was around. He was an innovative, self-reliant, and hardworking man who never knew the meaning of the word “can’t.” Although he accomplished many things of which to be proud, Frank was a humble man who was compassionate, giving, and honest to a fault. With the love of his life by his side for 58 years, Frank taught his children by example how to be people of great character; his timeless legacy evidence of a life well lived. Frank will be deeply missed, but his loved ones find comfort in knowing that he has been reunited with his beloved wife.
The decade of the 1930s was cloaked in hardship due to the unrelenting grip of the Great Depression. Despite the harsh circumstances around them, a young couple was delighted to welcome their son into their hearts and home on September 23, 1930. Frank Adrian was one of two children born to his parents, Adrian and Lucille (Verdries) Eichelberg, and was raised in the family home alongside his sister, Mary Lou. His passion was being on the water from the time he was a young boy as he loved both swimming and sailing as well as ice boating in the winter. Frank always spoke fondly of flying across a frozen Gull Lake.
As a young boy the seed of true love was planted between Frank and a young classmate named Leslie Jane Vermeulen. It wasn’t until they became reacquainted at their first high school reunion, however, that they began to date. They were both students at Michigan State at the time, but Frank was devastated when Leslie wanted to break up a bit later. A short time after Frank agreed to drive his sister to Florida where she was attending college. He stayed down there and got a job selling advertisements for the phone company. Frank even ended up being the top salesman. As fate would have it, Leslie and her father were driving through Fort Lauderdale about a year later and spotted Frank’s car with his Michigan plates. After a bit of confusion, the couple met at a local bar and the sparks flew. It wasn’t long before Frank drove back to Michigan, and the couple decided to throw together a quick wedding.
Frank and Leslie exchanged their vows in a beautiful garden ceremony at Leslie’s parents’ home on September 1st, which proved to be the hottest day of the year. After a honeymoon at Niagara Falls the couple returned to Kalamazoo where they soon started their family that grew to include three children: Peter, William, and Jane.
A born salesman, Frank pursued a career in real estate. Although he sought out other business ventures through the years he always returned to his first love - real estate. Frank was a true visionary whose ideas were often well ahead of their time. One such example is the far fetched idea he agreed to when approached by a friend to begin the US 131 Dragway with his friend, John Grivens. Now known as the US 131 Motorsports Park, their business venture has been thrilling fans for 50 years thanks in a large part to Frank’s savvy business sense. Later in life he also started an insulation business he called Energy Systems during a time when the nation was facing an energy crisis. It comes as no surprise that this business flourished as well. In 1980 construction started on Oak Shadows Condominiums, Frank’s innovative condos near Al Sabo Nature Preserve that paired the ease of condominium living in the midst of a natural setting.
As Frank’s children can attest, life in the Eichelberg family was anything but boring. They spent many hours at the dragstrip, meeting countless legends in the sport of drag racing. Frank’s children also learned how to downhill ski at an early age, which was a sport they enjoyed as a family for numerous years. They took ski trips to Northern Michigan several times to both Boyne and Sugarloaf Mountain with close family friends. The final ski trip they took as a family was in 1972 when they drove out to Aspen, Colorado. The Eichelbergs also drove to Florida several times either to visit their grandparents or to go to Treasure Island with family friends. Who could forget the trip to Treasure Island one year when they went deep sea diving with a drunken captain? This voyage took them through a tropical storm that ended up re-routing them to Pensacola where they landed on shore after repeated warnings to evacuate the naval air space they had wandered into? There were also memorable summers spent at Leslie’s parents’ cottage on Gull Lake where a renovated barn Frank stayed in with his family for about half the summer allowed them to enjoy swimming, boating, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Family was always a vital component in Frank’s life, and in his life with his children. Holidays were often spent with their relatives locally, and their family also took a memorable trip to California in a motorhome that was the first of its kind to visit cousins they weren’t able to see very often.
As a father Frank encouraged his children to pursue their passions, in part through the example he set. They were all passionate about boating through the years, and both Frank and Leslie were supportive of their daughter’s love for horses. It was after boarding her own horse for a year that their family came to live in a home in the country at Oak Shadows Farm. Later in life when their children spread out throughout the country, Frank and Leslie began traveling in their motorhome with their two much loved cats, Rocky and Dottie, to visit their children and their families while making new friends, too. Frank was also the founding member of the Oshtemo Rotary Club in 1980. Through this organization Frank and Leslie traveled internationally to distribute and vaccinate for polio. They traveled extensively just for fun, too, taking in everything they could about the places they visited.
Through the life he lived each day, Frank Eichelberg inspired those around him to accomplish greatness, love deeply, and to selflessly give to others. The timeless legacy he leaves behind will continue on in the generations who follow him.
Frank Adrian Eichelberg died on July 28, 2012. Frank’s family includes his children: Peter N. Eichelberg of Corvallis, OR, William J. (Mary Swanson) Eichelberg of Kalamazoo, and Jane E. (R. Jack) Clapp of Polson, MT; 3 grandchildren: T.J and Joe Eichelberg and Grant A. Clapp; sister, Mary Lou Buck of Corvallis, OR; his sister-in-law, Kay Vermeulen; several nieces, nephews and cousins; and many dear friends. Frank was preceded in death by his wife, Leslie. A Memorial service will be held on Friday, August 31 – 1 p.m. at Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler – Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Dr, 375-2900, a reception will follow in the Life Story Center. Frank and his wife Leslie will be buried at Riverside Cemetery. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory. Memorial donations may be directed to the Oshtemo Rotary Club, PO Box 241, Oshtemo, MI 49007; or to the Great Lakes Bengal Rescue, 7106 Bittersweet Moors Ct, Ft. Wayne, IN 46814.
Leslie Eichelberg's Story:
Leslie Eichelberg was as one-of-a-kind as she was vibrant, lively, and on fire for life. Although she had no filter when it came to the things she said at times, she didn’t have a mean bone in her body and always treated everyone with kindness. With the love of her life by her side for more than 50 years, Leslie traveled the world over, yet she was always happiest when her family was near. As a lifelong resident of Kalamazoo, she gave so much to the community she called home and in so doing, enriched the lives of those too numerous to count. A true gift to others, Leslie will be deeply missed and warmly remembered.
As the thirties dawned, America was braced for times of great hardship as the harsh reality of the Great Depression set in. A gallon of gas cost only thirty cents and a new car cost just over six hundred dollars, yet the numbers of Americans who could afford such a luxury were few as there were so many who found themselves without work. As the calendar turned to this new decade Leslie and Eloise (Rickman) Vermeulen were eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child. It was on May 27th of that year that they welcomed their daughter, Leslie, into their hearts in their hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. In order to support their family, Leslie’s parents owned and operated Vermeulen’s Furniture Store. When she was three years old she was joined in her family by her younger brother, John.
In many ways Leslie experienced a childhood that was not unlike many other young people of her day. As a young girl she raced sailboats at Gull Lake and went to Camp Newaygo, which became a family tradition. She attended local schools in Kalamazoo where she excelled in science. Leslie went on to graduate from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1948. She spent her freshman year of college at Michigan State University but when she spent too much of her time partying, she transferred to Pine Manor College in Massachusetts the following year.
Not to be forgotten during this time was her reintroduction to the young man with whom she would share the best years of her life. His name was Frank Eichelberg and they had actually been classmates in junior high and high school, beginning in the seventh grade. They connected again just before their one year class reunion. Their eyes connected from across the room at the Kalamazoo Country Club and as the story goes, the rest is history. They ended up going to their reunion together and have been together ever since. Leslie went on to graduate from Kalamazoo College with a degree in biology in 1952.
With a desire to build a life together, Leslie and Frank were married on September 1, 1953, in a garden ceremony at her parents’ home. The newlyweds took the following five days to drive to New York, making a stop at Niagara Falls along the way. From there they flew to Bermuda where they spent the following week enjoying the warm sunshine.
The couple settled in Kalamazoo and started their family right away. They were blessed with three children who were the light of Leslie’s life: Peter, Bill, and Jane. Leslie worked some, but mainly focused on being a wife and mother. Life was rarely boring in the Eichelberg family as they took in so much of what life has to offer. There were vacations at Gull Lake, ski trips to the Jolly Lodge, and trips to Florida, too. Fun-filled memories were made when they took their RV out to California as well.
Never one to be still, Leslie immersed herself in so many things. Much of her time was spent volunteering in her community for organizations such as the Weavers Guild, the Service Club, now known as the Junior League, the John Dunning Guild, the Kalamazoo Art League, and the First Presbyterian Church Health Clinic. Leslie not only gave of her time to many of these organizations, but she also took on the added responsibility of serving as president more times than not. She was currently a member of South Ridge Reformed Church. Leslie was always very artistic as she made jewelry and wove baskets. She also dabbled in photography with her own dark room, and also did macramé as well, entering them in and winning awards at county fairs.
Later in life Leslie and Frank traveled the globe to destinations such as England, China, India, Mexico, Monaco, and Australia just to name a few. They also traveled extensively throughout the United States in their RV, visiting their daughter, Jane in Florida and Montana; and visiting their friends throughout the country as well. Summer months almost always found them camping in South Haven.
The list of things that made Leslie such a remarkable woman is extensive. She had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and was always looking for ways to broaden her horizons. Leslie was a strong and resilient woman who never shied away from standing up for herself or the things she believed in. She was a free spirit and a pioneer of sorts as she certainly carved her own path in this world. Leslie was adventurous, spontaneous, and always up for a good time. Her fashion sense reflected her personality perfectly as she preferred brighter colors and often sported her favorite color – fuchsia. Leslie treasured the companionship of their two cats, Rocky and Dottie, and she continually supported her husband in his various endeavors. It isn’t surprising that she beat breast cancer at one time and even as she suffered with fibrosis and arthritis throughout the last two years of her life, she never complained.
Life will never be the same without Leslie Eichelberg here as she was as vibrant and colorful as the most captivating sunset. She was resilient and took everything in stride - the eternal optimist to be sure. “Nuts-o”, “cool”, and “you’re kidding Fraaank” were some of her favorite phrases and examples of her dynamic yet calm personality. A devoted wife and mother, community activist, and fun loving friend, Leslie was an extraordinarily enchanting woman who squeezed every last drop out of the life she was given.
Leslie Eichelberg died on July 21, 2011. Leslie’s family includes her husband, Frank A. Eichelberg; 3 children: Peter N. Eichelberg, William J. (Mary Swanson) Eichelberg and Jane E. (R. Jack) Clapp; 3 grandchildren: T.J and Joe Eichelberg and Grant A. Clapp; brother, John D. (Kay) Vermeulen; and her 2 cats: Rocky and Dottie. Learn more about Leslie and share in some refreshments with her family and friends on Sunday from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler – Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Dr, 375-2900. Private services will take place. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo or sign her memory book. Memorial donations may be directed to Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation or Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.