Neil L. Croften
It all began 65 years ago when Neil Loyd Croften was born on October 8, 1951 to John and Joyce (Dreamer) Croften in Marshall, Michigan. His parents divorced a few years later and Joyce took her two children and moved to Virginia. Little sister, Cindy and Neil survived that year by Neil stealing a biscuit twice a week for a year from a little store down the street. Neil was responsible for Cindy all day, every day and they played in the box cars and coal cars filled with coal. After a year and desperation, their mother gave her children up to their father. Their father picked them with their new stepsister, Robin, who said, "It was the best day of her life getting a new brother and sister". When Neil was ten, another sister, Patricia Croften was born. Years passed and Neil graduated from Battle Creek Central High School in 1969 and received an Associated Degree from KCC. Neil worked briefly for Clark Equipment Company and then went on to work for General Motors. He worked at the Kalamazoo GM plant for 20 years and for another 11 years at the Mansfield, Ohio plant, until retiring as a Die Maker / Machinist for 31 years in 2004. Neil gives credit to Randy Campbell for making his years at GM bearable.
Neil loved to fish and every year he would go up north for a long weekend, on opening day, with Don Hatfield and Kim Conners, his fishing buddy's. He also loved to hike. Neil and his good friend, Paul Fronsman hiked the Appalachian Trail together for 22 days. Another hike was with his brother-in-law, Glen Douglas in the Olympia Mountains. Running was another way Neil loved to enjoy the outdoors and he ran for years. Neil grew up with a lifelong friend, Ron Knapp and they played cards, went to movies and just hung out together.
On June 2, 1972, Neil married Diane V. Steinbacher at St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek. They met when they were 16 & 17 years old, with the same birthday, which was one year, one day and two hours apart. This was a love story for sure as they grew up together, had 44 Â½ years of marriage, two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Christie, the love of their lives after waiting five years for a baby. Then came Sarah's husband, Matt Valentine, and then Christie's husband, Jamie Blair.
Their marriages produced four wonderful, precious grandchildren, Nicholas and Natalie Valentine and Cole and Orrianna Blair. After Neil retired, they flew to Florida every month to be with their grandchildren. Nicholas and (Neil) "Poppie" were inseparable. Poppie was at Nicholas' every beck and call, playing spaceship in the closet, hanging out all day exploring and hiking around the neighborhood and just being together. When not playing with Nicholas, Poppie would spend time with Natalie reading, playing dolls and school. Neil and Diane live in an in-law suite "Atelier" above a four-car garage in Richland, where Christie and Jamie live in the main house. It was a win â€“ win situation for all; Mimie and Poppie cared for Cole, while his parents worked full time. Both sides were loving having so much fun with Cole.
In the 1990's Neil was contacted by an unknown sister, Kathie Robeson, who they loved and became part of their family. Surviving in addition to his wife Diane; are two daughters, Sarah (Matt) Valentine of Madison, CT; Christie (Jamie) Blair of Richland; four grandchildren, Nicholas and Natalie Valentine and Cole and Orrianna Blair; sisters, Cindy (Harry) Illingsworth of Florida, Robin (Robert) Brewer of Athens, MI; Patricia Warren of Battle Creek. Kathie (Chip) Robeson of Virginia; half brother, Jack Crofton of ; Battle Creek; stepmother, Phyllis Croften of Battle Creek; stepfather, Art (Donna) Ruthruff of Battle Creek. Neil was preceded in death by his mother, Joyce Ruthruff and father, John Croften.
In 2016 when Neil's health began to decline, Diane, also his nurse and companion, took care of him. Diane loved making sure that every day was happy for Neil. Her love and caring became an inspiration to all who knew them. Their motto was, "When you put God first in your marriage, it will withstand everything".
When Neil met Diane, she took him to church and he later became a devote Catholic. Neil said his FAITH was the best gift he ever got. Neil and Diane are members of St. Ann Roman Catholic Parish located at 12648 East D Avenue, Augusta, MI 49012; and Neil was a 3rd degree Knight of Columbus.
Neil L. Croften, 65 of Richland, Michigan died in the comfort of his home and with his family at his side on Saturday, October 15, 2016, after a courageous battle with liver disease and a variety of long-term illnesses. What a wonderful life Neil experienced; he fought the good fight, ran the good race, and is now at home with God.
Friends will be received 4:00-7:00 p.m. Friday at Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care, where the Rosary will be recited at 7:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Fr. Kenneth W. Schmidt at St. Ann Catholic Church 1:30 p.m. Saturday, October 22, 2016. Committal and interment will follow at Prairie Home Cemetery in Richland.
Memorial contributions may be made to Shriner's Hospital for Children, 2211 North Park Avenue, Chicago, IL 60707 or St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-1942. Personal messages for Neil's family may be placed here at www.farleyestesdowdle.com.
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