Ex-Wayland youth baseball coach Gale Wilcox, 95, dies

Gale Frederick Wilcox, 95, Middleville, died Tuesday, Sept. 14, at Thornapple Manor.

Gale was born the youngest son of Lewis and Alma Wilcox at home in Irving Township on Sept. 12, 1926. He was a three-sport athlete at Thornapple Kellogg High School, but left school after his junior year at age 17 to enlist during World War II and become an Army Air Force Cadet, training at Michigan Tech.

He married his high school sweetheart, Roberta Slagel, whom he met while in the junior play, “Pigtails,” on July 13, 1947. Every conversation he had the past year while staying at Thornapple Manor started with, “how is Bert doing?” They celebrated their 74th anniversary last summer.

Gale attended Western Michigan University for a short time and was primarily self-taught to learn all the skills necessary to be a design engineer, a career from which he retired from Steelcase, where he was awarded several patents for his designs.

He loved sports, hunting, fishing, being outdoors and he had a special way with animals. He spent many days at the cabin he built in the Higgins Lake area, fishing the backwaters of the Reedsburg Dam for bass and bow and gun hunting for deer in the Deadstream Swamp. For several years he hunted for mule deer and antelope in Wyoming and spent several winters in Hemphill, TX, fishing the Toledo Bend Reservoir for bass.

He continued deer hunting through his 93rd year. Opening day of gun deer season was a special event at his home outside of Middleville for decades. During his younger days he was involved in starting the summer baseball program in Wayland and coached Little League baseball here for 17 years.

During his years of retirement, his main hobby was intarsia. He created many beautiful wood art pieces which fill his home and he shared many of his works with family members and friends.

Gale is survived by his wife, Roberta Wilcox; son: Tom Wilcox; daughter in law, Marilyn Wilcox; son in law, David (special friend, Cindy Ayote) Sleeper; grandchildren: Keith (Kelly) Sleeper, Kirsten (Aaron) Carlson, Travis (Ellie) Wilcox, and Katie Wilcox; great grandchildren: Russell Carlson, Sloane Carlson, Sara Sleeper, Samantha Sleeper, Quinnlyn Wilcox, and Harper Wilcox; brother in law, Frank Slagel, and many nephews and nieces.

Gale was preceded in death by all of his siblings and their spouses: Duella (Harold) Dooling, Howard (Rosa) Wilcox, Kenneth (Lucy) Wilcox; ArLou (Frank) Richter, and Merna (Ed) DePew; brothers in law: Fred (Fay) Slagel and John Slagel. Along with his special cousin who was more like a brother, Richard (Arlene) Wilcox and his long time fishing/hunting buddy, Bob (Carolyn) Howard.

He lost his daughter, Gail Elaine (Wilcox) Sleeper to cancer in 2011.

Gale’s family will receive friends from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the Beeler-Gores Funeral Home where a time of sharing will take place at 6:30 p.m. Out of respect for others, if you are currently or have recently been ill, please express your condolences in ways other than in person.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to Make-A-Wish foundation or a charity of one’s choice will be appreciated.

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