Bill Franz, 70

Helmut N. ‘Bill’ Franz, age 70, of Burr Oak, Mich., passed away unexpectedly early Thursday evening, March 17, 2011, at his home.

He was born Feb. 9, 1941, in Montau, West Prussia, a son of the late Walter and Kate (Kliewer) Franz.

Bill had resided in Burr Oak for the past 44 ½ years coming from Sturgis. On Oct. 1, 1966, he married Martha Gingerich at the Locust Grove Mennonite Church in Burr Oak.

Following 38 years of dedicated employment as a mechanic at Finnerman Farm and Garden in Centreville he retired in 2002. Following his retirement he has been employed by Oak Prairie Farms in Bronson.

He was a member of the Locust Grove Mennonite Church in Burr Oak and was very active in the county 4-H program. Each year Bill’s vacation was spent at the county fair helping the young people in anyway he could. He also enjoyed gardening.

He is survived by his loving and dedicated wife of 44 years, Martha; one daughter, Tonya (Matthew) Barrington of Bronson; two sons, Kurt (Kelly) Franz of Burr Oak and Matthew (Audra) Franz of Sturgis; four grandchildren, Regan, Cecelia, Kyle and Kara; five sisters, Hilga Schmidtke, Alice Niemeyer, Marga Kretschmann, Gisela Penner and Hiltrud Franz all of Germany; one brother, Erhard Franz of Germany; three nephews and eight nieces.

He was preceded in death by his parents; one son, Jason Daniel Franz; one daughter, Heidi Marie Franz; three sisters, Christel Merkens, Ilse Franz and Edith Petri; daughter-in-law, Emily (Regnier) Franz; and one nephew, Herrmann Niemeyer.

The family will receive friends from 2-6 p.m. Sunday at the Locust Grove Mennonite Church, 29525 Findlay Rd., Burr Oak, Mich. Funeral services celebrating the life of Helmut N. “Bill” Franz will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the church. Pastor Bill Beck and Pastor James Carpenter will officiate. A graveside committal will follow the service at the Locust Grove Cemetery in Burr Oak.

The Hackman Family Funeral Homes – Hackman Chapel, 114 S. Nottawa St., Sturgis, MI 49091, (269) 651-2331 is entrusted with the arrangements.

Memorial donations would be appreciated to the family to help with expenses c/o: Martha Franz, 62500 Middle Colon Rd., Burr Oak, MI 49030 or the St. Joseph County 4-H Youth Program.

The obituary is also at where personal messages of support may be left for the family.

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