Marvin M. Thrasher, 92, passed peacefully at his home in Portland, Michigan on August 23, 2013 after a three year battle with cancer—he was surrounded by family. Marvin was born August 3, 1921 near Jackson, Michigan and like so many others of his generation endured the Great Depression and served his country in World War II.
Marvin was active in Boy Scouts and achieved Eagle Scout status. He was the first in his family to graduate high school (Portland ‘39.) In 1942, Marvin married his high school sweetheart, Mary Hathaway, at her family farm outside Portland. Then one week later said goodbye in Ionia and boarded a train en route to the U.S. Army 45th Infantry Division, where he served in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany until the war’s conclusion earning a Good Conduct Medal, the American Theater Service Medal, European African Middle Eastern Service Medal, 4 Bronze Stars, and one Bronze Arrowhead.
From 1945 to 1955 he was employed by Holley Carburetor and TRW as foreman and quality control inspector. For the next 26 years Marvin owned and operated the Cree-Mee Drive-In until retiring in 1981, making the self-proclaimed “old hamburg fryer” one of the most recognizable faces in town. During those years Marvin was also active in his community in many ways such as serving on the Ionia County Board of Social Services and as Danby Township Treasurer. In support of the arts in Portland he personally guaranteed the note which allowed the Portland Civic Players to purchase the Sun Theater. He was a charter member of the Portland Federal Credit Union.
He also made two significant contributions to the future of Portland. In the early fifties the State Highway Department was planning the route for I-96. The original plan had the expressway passing six miles to the south of Portland leaving the city an “orphan” to business and tourism. Working with other local business people they convinced the planners to re-route the expressway to its present location saving Portland from the fate of some other small towns along old US-16. Marvin also worked with then representative Gerald R Ford to stop a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 20 foot dam on the Looking Glass River just outside of Portland that would have inundated thousands of acres of farmland and destroyed dozens of homes.
Following his retirement in 1981, Marvin built furniture, managed his tree farm, wrote weekly articles for the Review & Observer for eight years, had ten short stories published by a national literary guild and in May of 2013 had his first full length novel “My Rear Echelon War” published. In 1989, after 47 loving years of marriage, he lost Mary (beloved wife, mother, and grandmother) to her battle with cancer. In keeping with Mary’s last request of Marvin to continue to celebrate life despite her passing, he remarried.
In 1990, Marvin married a long-time family friend who had lost her husband to cancer, Elaine (Van Amburg) Van Lue. Together, and often with their children, Marvin and Elaine travelled extensively, visiting France, Italy, China, Japan, Australia, and Hawaii. They lived happily on his farm in the same home he originally built in 1947.
Marvin drew immeasurable joy from the over 200,000 trees and flowers he and Mary planted in their “free time.” Over the years he manually cleared miles of walking paths and built a spring fed pond where generations of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have swum and skated together. He was also proud to have four generations of his family living with him on each of the North and South halves of his farm.
While Marvin enjoyed many things, such as wood-carving, writing, star-gazing, nature, and music, especially dancing to big band sounds of his youth, his most well-known gifts were the works of love that he dreamed and then built for others. His talent at wood-working saw him harvest the very trees he and Mary had planted decades before, and through endless hours of patience and perseverance, slowly turn their rough-cut timber into beautiful one-of-kind gifts.
His hand-made creations ranged from cradles to cribs, furniture, toys, stained-glass, and so much more for the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who love him and will forever cherish our memories of his smile, his laugh, his wit, his opinion (usually), but will always miss the sound of his voice beckoning, “Well hello!”, before he could even see who had entered his always-open door.
Marvin is survived by his wife, Elaine, his children, David (Lena) Thrasher, Anne Sluyter (Dan Klainer), Beth (Aaron) Cross, John (Sheri) Thrasher, 8 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren from his first wife, Mary, as well as his step-children Gary McGraner, Dennis McGraner, Patrick (Barbara) McGraner, and Deborah (David) Norris, and their 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. Surviving also are his step-mother Edith Thrasher (108 years young), sister, Mavis (Bill) Beard, and sisters-in-law, Alice and Kay Bills, Georgia Haines, Doris Babbitt, Lois (Allen) Smith, and brother-in-law Robert Reddin. All of whom he cherished and loved deeply.
Marvin was preceded in death by his wife Mary, his father Matthew Thrasher, mother and step father Alice and Dale Bills, and brothers Joe, David, and Howard Bills. Also preceding him in death were, daughter-in-law Monika McGrainer, sisters-in-law and brothers-in law Arleta Reddin, Don and Lisa Van Amburg, Richard Babbitt, and Bernard Haines.
Visitation services will be held Wednesday, August 28 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm and 6:00pm to 8:00pm, at the Lehman Funeral Home in Portland. Funeral services are being held Thursday, August 29 at 1:00pm at the Portland First Congregational Church, with burial services (Portland Cemetery) and reception (at the church) immediately following.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in memory of Marvin may be made to The American Cancer Society, Hospice of Lansing, VFW Post 4090, or the Portland Civic Players.