STRYKER -- Michael Richard Sanford, 67, of Stryker, completed his life on earth at the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, Marion Campus, on Monday, February 25, 2013, following a lengthy illness.
Michael was born on November 13, 1945, to the late Herbert and the late Winonah (Deisler) Sanford. Michael was a 1964 graduate of Stryker High School, where he lettered in baseball and basketball. He continued his interest in sports by following the Detroit Tigers and the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team, as well as the Indiana Pacers.
He grain-farmed and milked Holsteins with his father until enlisting in the Marine Corps in November of 1964. Michael served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He received a Purple Heart in 1968 for injuries suffered during his second tour. Other commendations included the Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and the Rifle Sharpshooter badge. In 2004, he received the Order of the Silver Rose Award for Military Merit in the defense of his country while serving in the Republic of Vietnam.
After his honorable retirement medical discharge from the Marine Corps in 1968, Michael attended Bowling Green State University, graduating in 1978 with a bachelor of science degree double major in elementary education K-8, learning and behavior disorders and teaching certification for driver training.
Michael married Paula (DeGroff) Sanford in Archbold, Ohio, on December 12, 1969. They settled on the Sanford farm that had been in the family since 1889. He enjoyed living on the farm. Family heritage was very important to him.
Michael worked while attending college part time. The work experience he treasured the most was at Quadco Rehabilitation Center in Stryker, Ohio. While employed at Quadco, he developed a driver training program for individuals with special needs. This rewarding vocation resulted in Michael founding the Northwest Driver Training School Inc. in 1978, where he expanded the program to include high school students and adults wishing to obtain their first license to drive. The main location in Stryker developed with additional locations in Wauseon and Bryan. Michael regretfully retired from teaching in 1995, due to brain cancer developed by exposure to Agent Orange during his military service. He continued to supervise at the driving school until 2010, when his health prohibited him from active participation.
Michael was very adventurous and loved to travel. He became interested in snow skiing in the 1990s which led him to ski resorts in Michigan and the Alps in Europe. He also enjoyed camping on Kelly's Island in Lake Erie. However, he mentioned many times that the most memorable and meaningful trip taken was to Israel in 2000.
Michael was honored to be chosen Williams County adult "Cancer Survivor of the Year" in 2005, and Stryker Citizen of the Year in 2007. He was proud of the fact that his father was also Stryker Citizen of the Year in 1989. He loved music. It did not matter if he was listening, dancing or playing. In his 60s, he began taking piano lessons and continued until 2010.
Michael was a faithful member of the Evansport United Methodist Church. He was also a life member of the Stryker American Legion Post 60 and the DAV. Other memberships include the Williams County Gideons, Montpelier Moose, the National Rifle Association and AARP.
Survivors include his wife, Paula; sisters, Susan (Michael) Huffman and Nancy (Randy) Nofzinger; godson, Lars Michael Soles; mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law, Doris and Woodrow (Woody) Haverman; Paula's brothers and sisters and their spouses, Fred and Valerie DeGroff, Larry and Leanna DeGroff, Darlene and Jim Paige, and Debi and Larry Kisor; special friends, Larry and Teresa Soles and family, Lt. Col. John D. and Lynne Miller and family, Nate and Donna Wilondek, and Rick Hageman. Other surviving aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, numerous friends and the driving school family were also special to him.
Preceding him in death were his parents; niece, Sheri Huffman; father-in-law, Virgil F. DeGroff; three uncles; one aunt; two cousins; and his canine companion, Buddy.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, March 2, 2013, at the Evansport United Methodist Church with Pastors Becky Ploughe and Tyson Nofzinger, a nephew of Mike, officiating, followed by a military service performed by the Stryker American Legion Post. Burial will take place at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery. Visitation will be held at the church on Saturday from 10 a.m. until service time.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to either the Evansport United Methodist Church improvement fund or the Williams County Gideons. The Grisier Funeral Home in Stryker has been entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences may be made to the family at www.GrisierFH.com.