Gary George Criteser, 88, of Battle Creek, MI passed away on August 17, 2022, in Battle Creek, MI. He was born in Pontiac, MI on June 10, 1934, and was the oldest child of Wanda T. Morrison and George E. Criteser. His sister Juanita Faye Criteser was born in 1936.
Following his parent’s separation he moved to Battle Creek where his childhood was spent exploring the war-time boom town. He recalled stories of sneaking into the Percy Jones General Hospital and evenings spectating as soldiers settled disagreements outside local bars. He loved athletics from an early age and filled many afternoons with sandlot baseball games. Some summers were spent working at a family farm in Bear Lake, MI where Gary developed a life long passion for smoked meats, farm fresh produce, and the outdoors. He claimed to have won a Bear Lake cherry pie eating contest for which the prize was a cherry pie.
Gary attended Battle Creek Central High School where he played baseball, ran cross country, and swam. He excelled at swimming, winning a city championship in 1949. After school, in 1952, he joined the United States Army and served in The Korean War from 1953-1955. He worked as a radio operator for the 40th Division Headquarters and electrician in the 181st Signal Depot. During this time he developed a love for tinkering with electronics.
Shortly after returning to Battle Creek he began courting Beverly “Bev” I. Rench. In 1957 they were married. The following year they welcomed their son James “Jimmy” Duane Criteser. In 1962, Gary and Bev mourned the loss of twin daughters Denise and Bernice who passed shortly after birth. Gary enjoyed spending time with his family and together they traversed the Midwest to attend auto races. As an amateur radio operator (call sign WD8DVQ) he connected with likeminded hobbyists around the world. He enjoyed fishing and hunting trips up north.
Gary thrived as grandfather to his two grandsons Jeffrey and Tyler Criteser. Each summer, he and Bev hosted their grandsons for the Field of Flight Festival. He would rise early to determine the wind direction and most likely route for the hot-air balloons. He would fill a thermos with chocolate milk and let his grandsons pick their favorite donut from Zeller’s before heading to the perfect spot to watch the morning’s activities.
Gary worked a number of jobs in Mid-Michigan including Monument Drug Store, Fischer Auto Body, Michigan Carton, and Eatons in Marshall. His excitement to retire was exemplified by a favorite t-shirt that read, “Retired: Do it your damn self.”
He maintained his independence, openness to change, and curiosity for the cutting edge until the very end of his life. Gary was deeply thankful for the loving care provided by Jimmy and Lori Criteser.
Gary is survived by his son James Criteser (Lori), grandsons Jeff (Stephanie) and Tyler Criteser, and great-granddaughters Ayla and Cecilia Criteser. He is preceded in death by his parents, his loving wife Beverly I. Criteser (Rench), daughters Bernice and Denise Criteser, and sister Juanita F. Criteser. Graveside service will take place at Burr Oak Cemetery in Athens, MI at 11am on Friday, August 26th. A memorial luncheon will follow at North Avenue Church of God, 1079 North Ave. Battle Creek at 12pm.
The family requests donations in lieu of flowers be made to support youth athletics at New Level Sports Ministries, 400 Michigan Ave. Battle Creek, MI