Ralph M. Payne

September 8, 1934 ~ February 6, 2020 (age 85)


Ralph M. Payne, 85, of Battle Creek, passed away on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 at Rose Arbor Hospice Residence in Kalamazoo in the loving care of his family.

Ralph was born on September 08, 1934 in Allegan to Russell Howard and Beatrice M. (Bradshaw) Payne.  The family moved to the Battle Creek area when Ralph was a child. He has made Battle Creek his home all his life.   

He attended Battle Creek schools.  He was a self-educated man typical of his generation who needed to work hard to support his family while improving himself.   He last worked as a groundskeeper at area golf courses including Bedford Valley, Cedar Creek and Marywood.  Ill health forced his retirement.  Prior to that he had worked at Memorial Park Cemetery as a member of the ground crew where his father also worked.  His children remember Ralph taking them to see a small bear that roamed the grounds there.  Previously he worked for the Village of Bellevue as part of the street crew.

As a young man Ralph worked at the Midway Roller Rink for the Banks family, whom he became close to.  He loved to roller skate, so this job created many favorite memories for him.  He helped to repair the floor and roof as part of his job.   

While working one day he encountered a young woman who fell skating.  He scooped her right off the floor and skated her to the side.  This is how Ralph met his first wife Judy Thomsan.  They were married and lived on Ionia Road in Bellevue for many years, raising their 5 children.  The marriage ended in divorce and Ralph moved to Battle Creek.

He later met Beulah E. (Shewmake) Nicholson.  The couple were married on August 2, 1987.  She preceded him in death  May 24, 2006.    

Ralph enjoyed bicycling (which he did into his early 80’s), walking nature trails, camping and anything that kept him outdoors.  He tinkered with motors, cars and lawn mowers with his dad.  He took great pride in his work at the cemetery and golf courses so maintaining his lawn as the best lawn in the neighborhood was important to him.  He enjoyed racing especially at the Galesburg Speedway.  He liked to watch wrestling on television.  He lived with his daughter Tracy and her son Robert the past 14 years, and enjoyed all time spent with Robert. 

Surviving are his children David (Laurel) Payne of Athens, Shirley (Doug) Zeeryp of Bellevue, Keith Payne of Delton, Tracy Payne of Battle  Creek and Brenda (Craig) Myle of Battle Creek; 13 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his parents, his granddaughter April Birman and a brother Bruce Payne.

Friends may call at Kempf Family Funeral and Cremation 2838 Capital Avenue SW Battle Creek MI at 10AM on Thursday, Feb. 13.  Funeral services to celebrate his life will be held beginning at 11AM at the funeral home with Rev. Steven Olmstead officiating.  Interment will follow at Floral Lawn Memorial Gardens. 

The family suggests memorials to Organization For Autism Research ( , 2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 401, Arlington, VA  22201.

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February 13, 2020

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Kempf Family Funeral and Cremation Services
2838 Capital Ave SW
Battle Creek, MI 49015

Funeral Service
February 13, 2020

11:00 AM
Kempf Family Funeral and Cremation Services
2838 Capital Ave SW
Battle Creek, MI 49015

February 13, 2020

12:30 PM
Floral Lawn Memorial Gardens
1490 E Michigan Ave
Battle Creek, MI


Organization For Autism Research
2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 401, Arlington VA 22201

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