Gordon H. Westphal, age 79 years, formerly of Niles, Michigan; father, grandfather, Harley rider, and honorable veteran died peacefully but unexpectedly at 12:02 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, 2023 at his home in Osceola, Indiana following a brief illness. His family is grateful for the friend who was visiting, and for the efforts of the first responders.
He was born on May 20, 1943 in Three Rivers, Michigan to Russell S. and Jeanne E. (Boersma) Westphal, and was graduated from the Three Rivers High School. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1965, and served most of his three year tour of duty in Germany as a military vehicle repairman. He moved-up through the ranks to become a Sergeant, and was Honorably Discharged as a Veteran of the Vietnam Era.
He returned from the service to Niles, and was employed at the former Buchanan, Michigan plant of Clark Equipment. After several years there, he took a job at the former Bendix Aerospace in South Bend, Indiana, eventually retiring from its successor, Allied-Signal.
Gordy was a well-known Harley-Davidson enthusiast, since well before Harleys were cool and mainstream. In the seventies, he was already rebuilding the classic V-Twin engines on his back porch on Forest Avenue. More recently he has been active in the Michiana Elkhart Chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) at Hoosier Harley-Davidson in Elkhart, Indiana where he served for many years portraying Santa Claus, riding on his red Harley in the Christmas parade, and receiving children at the store. He also put many miles on his Harleys, enjoying road trips with friends and solo.
He was a member of ABATE – American Bikers Aimed Toward Education – focusing on both safe motorcycling and advocating for public awareness. While he clearly enjoyed the two-wheel life, he also enjoyed the four-wheel “cages” of automobiles, always having a ’58 Chevrolet in the garage ready to cruise and to show at classic car meets. He was always ready to help other bikers and car owners with his mechanical skills, but also enjoyed the fellowship of gatherings. Even more, he liked to help his family with home repair using his carpentry skills, and loved to spend time with his grandkids, including cheering them on at their ball games.
An important part of that family life was marriage, which Gordy pursued several times including his marriage in 1967 to Ellen (Fletcher) Kizer with whom he parented his children, and later to fellow cyclist Annie Block who tragically preceded him in death in a motorcycle accident. He was also sadly preceded in death by a daughter, Chris Carter who died in 2004, and by his parents and his siblings, Mary Patterson, Larry Westphal, and Sharon Hand.
Surviving family includes his children, Vicki Divane of Niles, and Justene Tatroe of Three Rivers; grandchildren Addie (& Brandon) Sprinkle, Katie (& Matt) Long, Darson (& Mikayla) Carter, James Carter, Chad (& Laurie) Beck, Corey Beck (& fiancée Samantha Combs), Dacey Divane, and Finnigan Divane; great-grandchildren Galileo Long, Liam Baker, Serenity Baker, Christine Baker, Daxyn Carter, Carson Beck, Brycen Beck, Aubree Beck, and Brinzlee Beck; several nieces, nephews, and cousins including first-cousin Marcia Ann Jowers; and a great circle of wonderful friends.
The family of Gordon Westphal is hosting a gathering to celebrate his life and share memories from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, 2023 at the Niles Elks Lodge, 1322 Canal Street (at Plym Park) in Niles. Committal Rites will be one week later, with his fellow Harley riders gathering at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, 2023 to motorcade to Poe’s Cemetery near Jones, Michigan with the Harley-Davidson “Boot Hill Hearse”. The Graveside Ceremony will include the Veteran’s Flag Presentation and “Taps” by the United States Army Honor Guard.
Contributions in memory of Gordy may be made to A Rosie Place for Children (who are medically fragile), 53131 Quince Road, South Bend, Indiana, 46628, https://arosieplace.org/ ; or to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation – providing housing to injured and homeless veterans and first responders, 2361 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, New York, 10306, https://t2t.org/ . Online condolences may be left at:
Over the past several years, Gordy experienced his own motorcycle accident which left him in a month-long coma. He has also won a battle against a personal cancer. While he has always loved life and used life well, these two experiences gave him a new appreciation for the God Who gave him life, and he expressed that renewed faith in his Facebook postings, actually attending church on some Sundays, and a new appreciation for the love of his friends and family.