Donald George Chapman, age 90 years of Niles, Michigan; father, grandfather, uncle, quiet accountant, vocal sports fan, and honorable veteran died peacefully at 9:50 p.m. on Monday, March 13, 2023 with family at his bedside in Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana following a brief illness.
He was born on September 10, 1932 at home in Dowagiac, Michigan to Franklin and Frances (Moon) Chapman, and was graduated from Dowagiac Union High School. He was employed as a welder at the former Dowagiac Steel Furnace Company before being inducted into the United States Army. He was trained as a Radio Operator and served most of his two-year tour of duty at Fort Richardson, Alaska before being Honorably Discharged as a Corporal, and a veteran of the Korean Conflict. He returned to Niles, taking employment in the business office of the Niles Daily Star.
A few years later, he began a career as an accountant in the offices of the former Mishawaka Rubber and Woolen Manufacturing Company – commonly known as the “Ball Band” plant for its red ball brand of footwear – and retired from its 1967 successor, Uniroyal after 40 years of service. All who were familiar with his remarkable work ethic were not surprised when he returned to the office the next Monday to serve as a consultant until the plant closing in 1997.
Don was a member of the former American Legion Post #26 in Niles. He was an avid watcher of televised sports events, liking to watch golf and hockey, was a faithful fan of Detroit Tigers baseball and Detroit Lions football, and was especially passionate about the University of Michigan football team. When the television set was off, he was often reading about history with an great interest in World War II, or reading his subscriptions to the Detroit Free Press, the Chicago Tribune, and the daily readings in the Farmers’ Almanac. He was kind and compassionate, a man of few words – choosing to use some of those words to express a very dry humor - and above all, cared for his family.
On March 1, 1957 in Niles he married the former Ruth E. Welsh with whom he raised a family on Louis Street, near the “new” high school. Later in life, Ruth was affected by ALS, through which Don provided diligent and loving care to his wife. They were able to celebrate the remarkable forty-ninth anniversary of their wedding – just 5 months short of their fiftieth – prior to Ruth’s death on October 13, 2006. He was also preceded in death by his parents, and by a brother, Jack Chapman, and Ruth’s nine siblings; and by Don’s special companion, Barbara Smallwood.
Surviving family includes their children, Christine Wilson of Lansing, Michigan, LuAnn (& Donald) Meyers of Niles, and Lynn (& Jeff) Culp of Muncie, Indiana; grandchildren Erin Suddeth, Matt (& Alison) Kidwell, Justin (& Tiffany) Wilson, Sr., and step-grandsons Chad (& Lataya) Meyers and Eric Meyers; great-grandchildren Annalise Wilson, Justin Wilson, Jr., Emily Morgan Kidwell, Avery Kidwell, Natalia Faith Suddeth, and step-great-grandchildren Caleb Wilson, Lili Meyers, Isaiah Powell, Jasmine Scott, and D.J. Scott; Don’s sister-in-law, Anna (Mrs. Jack) Chapman, and many nieces and nephews.
The family of Don Chapman will receive relatives and friends on Saturday, March 18, 2023 from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles. Committal rites with Full Military Honors will be private, at a later date, at Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles. The visitation will be available online on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/halbritterwickensfuneralservices/ .
Contributions in memory of Don may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300, Jacksonville, Florida, 32256, https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ ; or to place a memorial brick at the Niles Riverfront Veteran’s Memorial, c/o Niles City Hall; 333 North Second Street, Niles, Michigan, 49120, https://www.nilesmi.org/community/events_information/veterans_memorial_dedication.php . Online condolences may be left at:
Ninety years is a wonderfully long life, and Don used those years in a quietly wonderful manner, serving his country both in the military and as a productive employee, finding pleasure as a spectator to sports and as an active reader of both current events and history, and raising a successful family with the loving partnership of Ruth.