Cover photo for Keith Earl Batterbee's Obituary
Keith Earl Batterbee Profile Photo

Keith Earl Batterbee

October 29, 1939 — May 29, 2024

Central Lake

Keith Earl Batterbee

Keith Batterbee, 84, of Central Lake, died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, on May 29, 2024.

   He was born at home near the shores of Torch Lake to Velma and Earl Batterbee on October 29, 1939. He began school as a four-year-old, trudging with his big sister Marvel to the one-room schoolhouse a few miles away. He was sent to school early because Marvel, an avid reader, saw “kangaroos,” later identified as bears, when she was walking to school alone. Keith’s mom and dad sent him along to protect her. Kids were tough back then.

   Keith grew up as the son of camp caretakers for Four-Way Lodge, a summer camp for girls on Torch Lake. For nine months of the year, he and his little brother Pat had run of the grounds when the camp wasn’t in session. They swam in the lake and creeks, climbed trees, fished, rode their bikes, and tortured each other in the ways only brothers could. Camp life was challenging for Keith and his family. Twice a year, every year, they had to pack up and move everything, including appliances, off-site to a different house in the late spring; then back again onto the camp grounds into one of various camp buildings in the fall.

  Keith graduated from Central Lake Public Schools in 1958 and enlisted in the United States Army. He was stationed in Thule, Greenland, and often said that place was the definition of “Godforsaken.”

   After his Honorable Discharge from the service, Keith returned to Central Lake where he married Donna Bachmann and began working for Lamina Bronze in Bellaire. They bought a fixer-upper on State Street, fixed it up and made it their home for the next several decades.

Keith and Donna had two daughters, Michelle and Denise.

   He loved taking his girls camping every summer at Merry Brook, a special spot on Torch Lake on the property of the Four-Way Lodge campgrounds, which had ceased operations in 1971. It greatly distressed him later in life to see that place he loved so much change as giant second homes with heavily-fertilized lawns replaced the forests and meadows of his youth.

Keith also loved riding his Honda 250 motorcycle with little Michelle sitting on the gas tank in front of him. Even though both grandmas and Donna did not approve, Keith and Michelle had a blast. And we never crashed. 

   He raised his daughters to recognize humor in every situation, to appreciate and respect all of nature, to work hard and to be helpful.

   After his daughters had grown, Keith and Donna divorced, but became and remained friends until her death in 2014. 

   Keith lived a quiet life of service to his friends, family and community. He was a Village Council Trustee for many years and was active in the Central Lake Lions’ Club. He developed strong friendships with his buddies at Lamina, and weekends often found him helping one of them with a building or farming project–just as they always helped him with various updates and repairs to our home. He was a born-again Christian who was baptized in his middle years and belonged to the First Congregational Church in Central Lake.

   Keith never sought the spotlight, so many of the nice things he did for others happened with very few knowing about it. When the Front Porch Ministry was just starting out and the group needed funds to open the Front Porch Café, Keith made it possible. Today the Front Porch is a thriving center of fellowship and community in Ellsworth.

When he retired from Lamina after 37 years, he enjoyed the next phase of his life gardening , caring for his mother, and traveling around the country. He went out west with his sister Marvel, her husband Norm, and mother Velma, to visit Velma’s brother Oliver. Keith loved adventures and often took weekends alone to camp and enjoy nature.

   Keith’s grandson Ethan brought him great joy. Little Ethan and Grandpa Keith spent many afternoons with Nana Donna at her house playing and having fun. Keith and his daughters loved to travel together, oftentimes with Ethan and sometimes with Donna. If you knew Donna, you would know that Keith needed and had the patience of a Saint. Keith had fantastic traveling adventures with his family, and he was always up for anything. One weekend, with less  than two-hours’ notice, he happily accompanied Michelle to southern Virginia to rescue a sweet little Chiweenie. The pup sat on his lap all the way home. Keith had a way with all animals. They know a good person when they smell one.

   During our travels, Keith and Ethan rode together in the back seat, entertaining each other and enjoying the scenery. Grandpa Keith was always obliging when Ethan wanted his head scratched or his toes cracked. He loved riding on trains with Ethan , checking out old cemeteries, walking on beaches, going to animal sanctuaries, touring historic buildings, staying in old hotels and converted train cars, enjoying the sights on boat tours, tracing historic routes, jumping across creeks and rivers, and stopping to marvel at scenic views. All of this he did with his family; and all of this he did with joy.

   Keith was devastated by the death of his daughter Denise in 2015. He and Michelle and Ethan continued traveling, but it just wasn’t the same without Denise. 

   Keith’s last years were quiet, and his world got smaller as dementia gradually affected him. But right to the end, he kept his dry sense of humor and his sunny disposition. He appreciated all of the people who made his last years and months happy, safe, and comfortable. Even if he couldn’t remember a person, he still thanked them and was gracious and polite.

Keith was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Pat, his former wife Donna, and his daughter Denise.

   He is survived by his big sister Marvel (she IS a marvel) and brother-in law Norman Rushton; daughter Michelle Fox and partner Adam Klopf; grandson Ethan Fox and partner Kieyna Dunn; brother-in-law Michael Bachmann and wife Christine; nieces and nephews Dennis, Dawn, Diane, Little Keith, Charise, Tammy, Belvia, Rob and Elizabeth.

Keith was very thankful for and loved his Dream Team of caregivers who made him so happy and comfortable at home. Hospice of Michigan was a godsend in caring for Keith and are the ones who made it possible for Keith to be home where he belonged.

   Keith was adamant that he did not want a funeral or any kind of memorial service. When we asked him how people should remember him, this is what he said. “Well, since everyone I know sits around most of the time  thinking about how wonderful I am, they can remember me by continuing to do what they’ve been doing all along.”

   Those who would like to memorialize Keith’s “wonderfulness” through a donation  should consider the Front Porch Ministry in Ellsworth, the Central Lake Lions Club, or Help From My Friends Pet Rescue Center in Bellaire.

   Arrangements are in the care of the Central Lake Chapel of Mortensen Funeral Homes. Please sign his online guestbook

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Keith Earl Batterbee, please visit our flower store.


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