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Robert W. Bigelow, 93, of Fremont, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 16, 2023.
He was born on February 20, 1930 in Howell, Mich. to Wayne and Ethel (Lobdell) Bigelow. He began working, mostly farm labor, as a young boy. He continued working hard throughout his life of determined service to his family, his nation and his God.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 and served for 20 years. He was an Army aviator for most of that time.
While home on leave early in his military career, he married Helen Bement of Webberville on May 10, 1950. A couple of days later, they rode a bus to Texas, starting a lifetime of traveling and working together for more than 70 years. Their 20 years as an Army family took them, and eventually their five children, all over the United States, and they also lived in Germany twice. While serving in Korea, Bob Bigelow volunteered to protect and provide for an orphanage there. Years later, the orphanage honored him by naming its orchard for him.
Chief Warrant Officer Robert Bigelow’s 20th year in the military took him to a tour of duty as a helicopter pilot and maintenance chief in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. His Army career was marked by commendations and decorations, none of which he displayed or offered to talk about.
When he retired from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 in 1967, he and Helen began a successful farming career in Smyrna, Mich. that lasted for a few years until they heeded God’s call into the gospel ministry. It was during the farm years that they began welcoming foster children into the family. They continued providing a home to foster children for many years, more than 80 children over 25 years.
Robert studied for the pastoral ministry at Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music while also teaching in the school’s Missionary Aviation program.
The pastoral ministry took the Bigelows to 13 churches altogether, including Aetna Calvary Church and Country Bible Church in Newaygo County and Gowen Bible Church in Montcalm County. Late in his more than 40 years of ministry, Pastor Bigelow served various churches as interim pastor. He also served as the chaplain of a large Christian RV park in Texas.
Helen Bigelow once estimated that, during their decades of military and ministry service, she and her husband moved nearly 50 times. Nobody knows an exact number.
In addition to preaching the Gospel and exhorting the saints, Bob Bigelow also enjoyed fishing and rehabilitating homes.
Robert W. Bigelow is survived by his five children: Robert L. (Cheryl) Bigelow of Greenville, South Carolina, Charles L. (Shani) Bigelow of Liberty Hill, Texas, Wayne E. Bigelow of Madison, Wisconsin, Patricia A. (Greg Sykes) Bigelow of Caledonia, and LouAnne J. (Richard) Wheater of Fremont; seven grandchildren: Jason (Cassie) Bigelow, Brad Bigelow, Jeremy Bigelow, Candy Wungnema, Thomas Charles Bigelow, Patti Wheater and Richard Wheater Jr.; six great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; his sister Nancy Watson of Bowie, Maryland, Betty Schuman of Brighton, Mich. and brother Edwin Bigelow of Clovis, New Mexico.
Robert was preceded in death by his wife in January of 2021 and by his siblings: Robert Cuddihy, Patricia Renner, June Cummings, Tom Jeffery and Anna Jeffery. His daughter-in-law Carol Brooks preceded him in death in 2021.
The family expressed deep and lasting gratitude to the in-home caregivers who helped him stay in his home for his final months: Connie Lindstrom Busch, Nicole Crans and Lou and Tami Brinkman.
The family also thanks Anna Hunt and her staff at The Cottages at Martin Lake for the comfort and care they provided in the final days, and the family thanks the fine people of Harmony Hospice.
A funeral service, with military honors, will be on Wednesday, August 23 at 1 p.m. at Country Bible Church with Pastor Len Lason officiating. A time of visitation will start at noon before the funeral. The church is at 3145 W. 24th Street between Fremont and White Cloud
A time of visitation will also be held on Tuesday, Aug. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Kroeze-Wolffis Funeral Home in Fremont.
Interment will be in the Sherman Township Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be given to Country Bible Church, or to the Fremont Area Community Foundation for the Love INC endowment fund.
Friends can sign the online guest book at www.kroeze-wolffis.com.
Arrangements are by Kroeze-Wolffis Funeral Home of Fremont.
Country Bible Church
P.O. Box 299, Fremont MI 49412
The Fremont Area Community Foundation for Love INC of Newaygo County Endowment Fund
4424 W. 48th Street, Fremont MI 49412