Alphonse Thelen, a big-hearted man, lifelong farmer and engaging card player, passed away peacefully on April 15, 2022, surrounded by his family who cherish the memories and countless examples of selflessness.
Alphonse was born May 18, 1929, on a farm two miles north of Fowler, MI, the 3rd of six children raised by Andrew and Leona Thelen. After completing the 8th grade at Most Holy Trinity School, Alphonse worked on the family farm, raced a few cars, and trapped for furs. In 1948, Alphonse gave Marie Platte a ride home from the Friday Night Dance in Westphalia, beginning an inspiring 74-year love story. They were married at St. Mary’s Church on June 14th, 1951, and settled on their own farm two miles east of the homestead. With assists from his parents and parents-in-law (each gave them a cow), Alphonse built a successful family-run dairy farm. He loved farming and exhibited incredible ability to manage a growing dairy herd, raise crops, construct farm buildings, install equipment and fix machinery with a 40-year old welder. Alphonse and Marie raised seven children on the farm, instilling in them the value of hard work and sharing their strong Christian faith. Alphonse also valued fun and adventures, taking the kids to Tigers games, coaching 4-H softball, towing innertubes behind the boat, and hosting the extended family at the Crystal Lake cottage. Alphonse forged a special relationship with each of his 25 grandchildren, who fondly recall energetic games of aggravation, cards, gifts of tools, and countless grandparent visits. After retiring, Alphonse moved to the town of Fowler, where he joined many card-playing groups and devoted his energy to the community…distributing communion to the homebound, selling Knights of Columbus calendars, and mowing the cemetery. He loved to read, tracked advances in farming and traveled, including cherished winter stays with the Clair Mar community in Central Florida. The arrival of 22 great grandchildren brought him immense joy and ensure that his legacy of generosity, integrity and giving will continue for generations to come.
Alphonse is survived by his wife, Marie; his children: Brian (Mary Ann) Thelen of Ann Arbor, MI, Daniel (Kathy) Thelen of Clarkston, MI, Kevin (Lori) of Columbus, OH, Darryl (Dinean) of Madison, WI, Lori (Chris) Conner of Fowler and Andrew (Kerry) Thelen of Manhattan Beach, CA; son-in-law Ralph (Judy) Wight of Portland, MI; grandchildren Rev. Fr. Mark, Rachel, Bethany, John, Sr. Mary Andre, Judy, Jennifer, Zachary, Hannah, Joshua, Adam, Emily, Michelle, Thomas, Kurtis, Marcus, Isaac, Oakley, Tyler, Holly, Meghan, Nickolai, Camden, Elle, and Hudson; 22 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents; sisters Marie (Urban) Weber and Leona (Bob) Bengal; brothers Theodore, Herbert and Daniel; daughter Judy; and sons Joseph and Mark.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Fowler with Rev. Fr. Mark Thelen presiding and Rev. Fr. Dennis Howard concelebrant. Burial to follow at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 2-8 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 2022, at the Smith Family Funeral Homes – George Chapel, 11112 W. Ionia St., Fowler, with the family receiving visitors from 2-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m., and a prayer service at 7 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Most Holy Trinity Educational Trust Fund. Online condolences may be made at www.smithfamilyfuneralhomes.com. The family is being served by Smith Family Funeral Homes - Goerge Chapel, Fowler, Michigan.