He was born May 18, 1936 in Holland, Michigan to Kleeman and Edith (Crane) Milholland. When Val was a toddler, he and his mother moved to Sturgis, where he resided for the rest of his life. Subsequently, Edith married William (Bill) Gessenger, whom Val regarded as his “Pop.” As a small boy Val was avidly interested in sports. Throughout his school career, he excelled in football, baseball, track, and especially basketball, which he continued to play at the intramural level after graduating from Sturgis High School in 1954. Val attended the University of Michigan for three years and became a lifelong Wolverine fan.
Val enlisted in the reserves and had many adventures with his friends at boot camp and weekend training sessions. He was an excellent bowler, and became very involved with fast pitch softball, playing with Houck Painters. He soon started his own team, The Orange Machine, participating in and winning many area tournaments. During this time he helped design and build a four-diamond softball complex located at Spence Field. Val attended more than 30 national fast pitch men’s softball tournaments across the country. He served a term as president of the Michigan Amateur Softball Association, and for many years as commissioner for St. Joe County. Ultimately, he was inducted into the MASA Hall of Fame in 1986.
Val was “a furniture man,” working for both Bigelow and Sigrist before starting his own business, which he operated for almost 30 years, first selling used, then new, and finally antique pieces. Later in life, Val ran sprints in the Michigan Senior Olympics, in 2013 qualifying and running in the National Competition in Cleveland. Val particularly took pride in having played softball throughout seven decades of his life, including participation in the old time Biscuits for two summers.
In 1994 Val married his longtime companion, Suanne Norton. They loved to travel and wandered via motorhome throughout the contiguous states many times, as well as Canada and enjoyed sightseeing, making new friends, and antiquing along the way. Val started collecting all-things-root-beer, which grew to take over their basement. He also became an historian of all-things-Sturgis, accumulating a large collection of memorabilia.
Val was loyal to friends and devoted to his high school and college classmates, treasuring those memories and times together. Val is survived by his loving and devoted wife, Suanne.
In accordance with his wishes cremation has taken place. The family will receive friends from 1:00 to 2:00 P.M. Sunday, June 19th at the Hackman Chapel of Hackman Family Funeral Homes, 114 S. Nottawa in Sturgis where a memorial service celebrating and honoring the life of Val Milholland will immediately follow the visitation at 2:00 P.M. Private burial of the remains will take place at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Sturgis at a later date. Memorial donations will be gratefully accepted by the Alzheimer’s Association 200 Turwill Lane Suite 6, Kalamazoo, MI 49006 or the Sturgis High School Athletic Department, 216 Vinewood Ave., Sturgis, MI 49091.
We encourage relatives and friends to share memories and condolences at www.hackmanfamilyfuneralhomes.com.