Cover photo for Richard L. DeForest I's Obituary
1934 Richard 2024

Richard L. DeForest I

June 17, 1934 — April 27, 2024

Niles, Michigan

Richard Lee DeForest I, age 89 years of Niles, Michigan; father, grandfather, brother, runner, dog lover, and faithful Cubs fan died peacefully at the home of his son, following a very brief illness.  His family is grateful for the kind and compassionate care of the hospice staff.

On Father’s Day of 1934 - June 17 - parents Garold O. and Thelma L. (Knoblock) DeForest were blessed with the birth of identical twin sons, first Richard and 15 minutes later, Thomas.   (Please note that the photograph above might, or might not be Richard; none of their children can remember, nor can they tell the difference.  LOL!)   The family moved to Niles in 1941, and the boys were graduated from Niles High School with the class of 1952.  Richard was first employed at the former Studebaker automobile assembly plant in South Bend, Indiana, and two years later, he joined Tom at the former Niles plant of Simplicity Pattern Company, where Richard was plant maintenance supervisor.   They both retired at age 65, following 44 years of service.  He was a longtime resident of North Lincoln Avenue in Niles.

Richard bowled for many years in the Simplicity League at the former White’s Bowling Lanes on 11th Street.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing in the area, maintaining a neat lawn and a large garden, and was well-known as a handyman, taking care of his home, and helping family and friends.  He has always been a runner, sometimes jogging, and continued to be competitive at 5k and 10k races after retirement.

In his younger years, he was an umpire for fast-pitch softball at Niles’ Plym Park, and was a longtime, faithful fan of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.  He always had pet dogs, including “Minnie” and “Benjamin” who he walked down to the river every day.

He was first married on June 20, 1953 in Niles to the former Nadine Frances Hilligoss.  Later, on March 25, 1989 he married the former Malva Jean (Hendricks) Wickler, who preceded him in death on December 10, 2017.   He was also preceded in death by his parents; and by his twin brother, Thomas O. DeForest on December 23, 2018, and their sister, Sharon Kay “Shari” Holmes on February 11, 2016.

Surviving family includes his children, Anita (& Gary) Nellans of South Bend, Richard (& Linda) DeForest II of Niles, Leitha (& Lon) Ballge of Niles, Walter (& Linda) DeForest of Goshen, Indiana, Lori (& Brent) Wright of Niles, Trish Rayder of Niles, Timothy (& Patty) Richter of Dowagiac, Michigan, and Heather (& John) Fairres of Niles; sixteen grandchildren, thirty great-grandchildren, and seven great-great-grandchildren; and Richard’s sister, Jackie (& Robert) Hess of Niles, and many nieces and nephews.

The funeral service for Richard L. DeForest I will be at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles with Chaplain Ellen Laan of Heartland Hospice officiating.   Committal will follow at Mission Hills.   The family will receive relatives and friends on Wednesday at the funeral home beginning at 11:00 a.m.  All guests attending are invited to join the family in wearing attire supporting the Chicago Cubs.  Online condolences and memories may be left at:

Richard’s nearly ninety years clearly exceeds the Biblical promise of 70, or by strength, 80 years, and he used all of those years well, right up to the last month.  He was a productive member of his community as a faithful employee, he kept himself fit and healthy, and was proud of his yard and garden.  More importantly, all of his activities involved people, certainly his brother and fellow employees, but also bowling teammates and runners, his pets, and most importantly, his children and their children.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard L. DeForest I, please visit our flower store.


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