HANCOCK - Gordon G. Barkell, 83, a long-time resident of Hancock and retired superintendent of the Hancock Public Schools, passed away at Portage Health in Hancock on Friday, June 29, 2012, following an apparent heart attack.
He was born on June 1, 1929, in Lake Linden to Walter and Anna (Hodor) Barkell. He attended Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools, graduating in 1947 where he had earned league MVP honors in basketball. He attended Central Michigan University on a basketball scholarship, but transferred to Northern Michigan University to be near his brother Bill, a polio patient at Marquette General Hospital. He earned his B.S. degree in 1951 in physical education, minoring in science, history and biology. He later earned his M.A. in 1959 from the University of Michigan and extra hours at CMU in general school administration.
He married Ruth Jean Wiedenhoefer of Hubbell on March 24, 1951, at Saints Peter & Paul Lutheran Church in Hancock.
He first taught in the Muskegon Public Schools (1951 to 1954), and then joined the Hancock staff in 1954 as a teacher of science and physical education, and coach in three sports. He was promoted to assistant superintendent in 1960 and superintendent in 1964 following the retirement of Harold Lent. He continued until his retirement in 1990 after 36 years of service to the district. During that time, he promoted the building of a new elementary school, named on May 13, 2004, in his honor (Gordon G. Barkell Elementary School). He was also elected to serve a term as president of the Michigan Association of School Administrators. Education was his labor of love for the Hancock School District. He made a positive impact on the many lives he touched. Following his retirement, he continued to serve on the Hancock Public Schools Foundation and Sports Booster Club.
He returned to teaching in the Michigan Technological University student teaching program from 1990 to 1995. He also served as an interim city manager for three months for the city of Hancock during which time he began the process to build a new fire hall and Portage Hospital. He also taught briefly at Finlandia University until he retired once more.
Gordon was an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Hancock, serving in many areas. He was also a member of the Hancock Rotary Club, the Gideons, the Hancock Cemetery Board and Board of Review, the Portage Hospital Finance Authority, the Portage View Hospital Board of Directors, the Salvation Army Board and several others over the years. He proudly served on the St. Joseph Hospital Physician Recruitment Committee. When he was able, he enjoyed traveling with his wife to Arizona and other parts of the country. Following the death of their son, Dean, the couple helped found Compassionate Friends, a local support group for families who have lost a child.
Gordon enjoyed spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also enjoyed going to the beach at Little Traverse Bay for summer fun and cookouts with his family. His favorite Bible verse was James 2:22 - "Faith without action is dead." He was an avid Green Bay Packers and Detroit Tigers fan.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth Jean of Hancock; three daughters: Janice (David) Love of Lansing, Joy (Mark) Dennis of Hancock, and Deborah (David) Hineline of Richland Center, Wis.; 12 grandchildren: Dan (Amy) Dennis, Jeff (Chris) Dennis, Matt (Emily) Dennis, Emily (Adam) Wade , Marcy (Andy) Soper, Gordon (Katie) Love, Rachel Love, Anna Hineline, Michael (Jessica) Hineline, Wesley Hineline, Nathan Hineline, and Claire Hineline; 16 great-grandchildren; a sister, Louise Ritter; nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and many friends.
Besides his parents and son Dean, he was also preceded in death by a sister and five brothers.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, July 6, 2012, at the First United Methodist Church with Rev Amy Terhune to officiate. Burial will be at Lakeside Cemetery in Hancock.
Friends may call on Thursday July 5, 2012, at the Gordon G. Barkell Elementary School Gymnasium from 4 until 8 p.m. and for an hour before services at the church Friday.
Memorials in lieu of flowers may be directed to the Hancock Public Schools Foundation, 501 Campus Dr., Hancock, MI 49930, or to the First United Methodist Church, 401 Quincy Street, Hancock, MI 49930.
The O'Neill-Dennis Funeral Home in Hancock is assisting with the arrangements. To leave online condolences, please visit oneilldennisfh.com.