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Neil Van Dis

May 20, 1930 — July 21, 2022

Battle Creek

Neil G. Van Dis, 92, of Battle Creek, Michigan died peacefully on Thursday, July 21, 2022 with his wife Marilyn and his family by his side.

Neil was born in South Haven, Michigan on May 20, 1930 to Cornelius and Mary (Fritz) Van Dis. He graduated from South Haven High School in 1948 where he played varsity basketball and tennis. As a tennis player, his doubles team finished 2nd place in the 1948 state championship.  He earned a BA in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University in 1952.  Neil taught 6th grade in the Lakeview School District for the next three years while earning his Master’s degree from WMU in school administration in 1955. From 1956 to 1959 he served as the principal of Riverview Elementary in Big Rapids. He was then hired by the Battle Creek Public Schools where he spent the remainder of his career.

In Battle Creek, Neil served as principal of Urbandale Elementary School from 1959 to 1964 where he led a talented and fun-loving staff. In 1964 he was promoted to the Director of Elementary Education and later became Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education and School Services. Neil retired in 1989 after 37 years in education but was soon back working as the BC Central High School Junior Varsity tennis coach with his son Jeff, who coached the Varsity team. The teams affectionately called them “Coach” and “Old Coach”.

On April 2, 1955, Neil married Marilyn Joy Byram of East Lansing at the Alumni Chapel of Michigan State University. Marilyn was a new teacher that fall at Lakeview Schools where Neil was teaching. They quickly fell in love and were married before the school year was out.

Neil was a member of the First Congregational Church of Battle Creek as well as numerous educational associations throughout the years. He served for over 20 years as a Red Cross volunteer at the now Bronson Battle Creek Hospital. In 2019, he was proud to be inducted into the Battle Creek Public Schools Hall of Fame for his career-long service to the district.

Education was always very important to Neil.   He said that the best thing you can do to better yourself economically, culturally, and morally is to get a good education. He was very proud to be the first member of his family to attend college, and also that all three of his sons chose education for their careers. Every Christmas when the grandchildren were young, Neil would give each of them a new book with a handwritten message of encouragement which they all cherish to this day.

In retirement, Neil enjoyed playing tennis, walking, bicycling, reading, and traveling to Traverse City and Mackinac Island with his children and grandchildren. He and Marilyn also enjoyed time in Arizona each winter. Neil exercised daily into his 90’s and would talk to anyone who would listen about his family and his love for them until the very end. Everyone in the family has been inspired by Neil’s grit, energy, and positivity throughout his life.

Neil is survived by his wife Marilyn of 67 years, and sons Robert N. (Linda) Van Dis of Kalamazoo, Richard H. (Bree) Van Dis of Traverse City, and Jeffrey M. (Lara) Van Dis of Battle Creek.  Also surviving are his grandchildren Chelsey, Matthew, Ashley, Kerry, Erik, Samantha, Jacob, and Claire; as well as seven great-grandchildren.

Cremation has taken place. The family thanks the caring staff at Brookdale Senior Living and ProMedica Hospice.

The family will hold a private service to honor a life well lived.

Contributions can be made to ProMedica Hospice.

Condolences can be left for the family at http://www.kempffuneralhome.com

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Neil Van Dis, please visit our flower store.

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