With a warm smile and an open heart, Nathaniel Lee Chapman lived a life rich in family and friends. Lee possessed a strong will and a quick wit. He welcomed everyone he met as a friend and each day as a gift. Never one for pretenses, Lee was known as a humble, quick-witted free spirit, whose casuals style provided a sense of safe harbor for all who were lucky to share time with him. Lee had an excellent work ethic that was only exceeded by his love for his family. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Lee inspired wholehearted living, adventure, and many laughs. Cherished by many, Lee will long be remembered and ever so missed.
With the rearming of U.S. forces, the strains of the Great Depression began to ease in 1940. Americans' incomes grew, and their increased spending further fueled the economy. In the U.S., the optimism of leaving the depression behind inspired the making of several classic movies, including "Gone With the Wind" and the "Great Dictator," while the invigorating sounds of Benny Goodman and Count Basie's Jazz filled our homes with hope. Newly invented Nylon stockings were all the rage with women, and FDR was elected for an unprecedented third term. Despite the ominous winds of change blowing in from Europe, the foundation of hope and generosity our nation had firmly rooted itself in as a result of the preceding decade's hardships could not be shaken. It was within this overwhelming feeling of fortitude, generosity, and hope that Nathaniel E. and Edrie Mae (Stainbrook) Chapman welcomed their son, Lee, into their family on March 7, 1940, at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Growing up in Cooper Township, just south of Plainwell, during the 40s and 50s, Lee's childhood centered on family values. His parents provided a supportive and loving home, modeling resourcefulness and hard work. His father was a retired carpenter, and his mother a homemaker. An only child, Lee, was especially close to his extended family. He shared loving family relationships with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that lasted his entire life. Leee also enjoyed the good company of many different pets, including a raccoon.
As a youth, Lee enjoyed riding his motor scooter all around Cooper and Plainwell. He and his best buddy, Frank Colter, made many motor scooter trips together. As they grew older, they would swap whose car they took on road trips. Lee liked to sing at the Lutheran church and also played football for a few years in high school.
After graduating from Plainwell High School with the class of 1958, Lee earned his Associate's Degree in Electronics from Kalamazoo Community College. In 1962, he answered the call to serve his country in the U.S. Army. During Lee's three years of service, he completed Boot Camp in Kentucky and was stations in Fort Knox, Detroit, on the island of Okinawa, and finally in Homestead, Florida.
Lee was given his greatest gift when his cousin Leona introduced him to the love of his life, Carolyn J. Adams. Instantly smitten by Carol's good nature, shared senses of humor, and common values, Lee set his heart on sharing his life with her. The couple dated, fell in love, and united in marriage on September 3, 1966, at St. Paul's Methodist Church in Lawton, Michigan. Surrounded by their treasured family and friends, the happy couple officially began their 44-year adventure together.
The newlyweds settled into marriage and were soon blessed to welcome the first of their two children, daughter Kelly. Not too long after, son Nathaniel, whom they called Gordon, completed their family. Lee and Carol dedicated their lives to creating a home built on the firm foundation of a loving marriage. Together, they ensured their children grew up feeling supported and encouraged. Lee was a proud father who relished attending his kids' special events. Whether cheering from the stands at their sporting events or attending their band concerts, Kelly and Gordon grew up knowing that their dad would always have their backs. Lee's legendary warmth and open-heartedness even inspired a warm welcome to his son's best friend, who came to live with the family for a time.
The family enjoyed wonderful vacations centered around everyone's interests, including their dogs. Many 4th of July camping trips up north became treasured memories for the entire family. They also took numerous trips to Cedar Point, Great America, Disney World, Sea World, Washington D.C., and Colorado over the years. Lee and Carol shared interest in genealogy inspired a number of vacations specifically focused on exploring cemeteries around the country searching for both of their distant relatives. Lee enjoyed being an active member of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, which he became involved in after riding his Gold Wing on a number of trips and meeting other bike riders that were part of the Association. He also enjoyed amateur radio and building plastic model kits, and working on projects around the house with his kids.
Lee's work at Toledo Scales on meat packaging equipment led to being hired by Meijer Incorporated to do the same work. After earning his Associate's Degree, he became an Instrumentation and Control (I&C) Technician for Meijer Incorporated. For 30 years, he tirelessly worked on associated computers, scanning checkout lanes, and telephones in numerous Meijer stores. After retiring in the summer of 2001, Lee worked part-time, transporting cars between car dealerships while also helping raise his grandsons and taking vacations with Carol.
Without a doubt, Lee's greatest joy was his family. Spending time with his loved ones and supporting their dreams and goals was truly his heart's delight. With his signature quote, "You get what you get when you get it, and be glad you got it," Lee led by example, modeling how to live a life rooted in love and gratitude. While his steadfast presence will surely be missed, may we find comfort in knowing that he has been reunited with his beloved. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying the best of his legacy forward in our own lives. With each stranger we greet as a friend, loved one's endeavor we cheer on, road trip we take, and joke we share, we celebrate the many ways Lee gifted us. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.
Nathaniel Lee Chapman of Cooper Township, Kalamazoo, MI, passed away on Friday, May 14, 2021, at the age of 81. Nathaniel is survived by his son Nathaniel "Gordon" Chapman of Stevensville; daughter: Kelly Anne Chapman of F.L.; and four grandchildren: Nathaniel David Chapman, Matthew Chapman, Ailya Shapiro, and Dakota Shapiro. He is preceded in death by his wife, Carolyn Chapman; his parents: Nathaniel and Edrie Chapman; mother and father-in-law: Gordon and Imogene Adams.
A graveside burial of his ashes will be held at West Cooper Cemetery on Saturday, May 22, 2021, at 12 noon with military honors. A Memorial Gathering open house will be held on Saturday from 2 to 5 pm at the McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Marshall-Gren Chapel.
Please visit Nathaniel's webpage at www.mccowensecord.com where you can also sign his guestbook and share a memory with the family.
The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Marshall-Gren Chapel, 120 South Woodhams, Plainwell, MI 49080 (269) 685-5881.