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Crestview's Vandivier dies before 100th birthday milestone on Sept. 11

Renee Bell
Crestview News Bulletin

CRESTVIEW — Glen Vandivier died Aug. 28, two weeks shy of his 100th birthday on Sept. 11. He had the beginnings of pneumonia.

Due to the circumstances, the local drive-by scheduled to celebrate his birthday on the same day has been canceled.

The Purple Heart recipient and World War II veteran lived in Crestview with his stepdaughter and her husband, Bonnie and Kendall Brent.

More (Aug. 7 story):Crestview resident to turn 100 years old in September, shares secret to his long life

Bonnie said Vandivier had begun receiving birthday cards from children and adults all over the world. He was shocked and surprised that so many people would want to honor him for his military service and his age.

This is one of John McKay's favorite photos of his grandfather and grandmother, Glen and Betty Vandivier, making their way up stairs during a family visit. "I love this photo that I was fortunate enough to snap one day while they spent an afternoon on the lake with my parents, my siblings and me," McKay said.

A few cards he hadn't received yet were the giant birthday cards the Veterans of Foreign Wars members in Crestview had completely filled within a few hours of receiving, and asked for additional cards to complete.

"They were super enthusiastic and super generous. I can't say enough about how they just ... I asked them to do something very simple, and they went overboard. As far as I know they filled out all those cards, and they're waiting there to be picked up," she said.

The Brents took Vandivier to the hospital Tuesday night after his temperature spiked a couple of times.

The hospital told them there was no time for his Michigan relatives to make it to Crestview, so they called and spoke to him on the phone. 

"Even though he was very short of breath and it was difficult, he made sure he said goodbye to everybody," Bonnie said. "He was the most gentlelest, generous, easy going man. It was my honor, and my husband's honor to just take care of him."

Glen Vandivier of Crestview, died before his 100th birthday.

"He was just ready to go. He really was. He wanted to be with my mom, and he will be. I'll make sure of it," she added.

Funeral arrangements have not been decided yet, but the services will take place in Michigan. His and his wife Betty's ashes will be taken to a national military cemetery in Holly, Michigan, where a service will be held for his family members there.

MILITARY SERVICE

Vandivier served in the 69th Infantry as a medic during World War II. He trained people for two years at Camp Barkley near Abilene before the Army sent his unit to Germany.

Glen Vandivier, left, served as a medic in the U.S. Army. He is pictured with fellow soldiers in 1945 in Germany. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Glen's grandson, John McKay, said, "He fought for our country in World War II, where he was shot in the hand and also sustained horrific leg trauma from shrapnel and earned a Purple Heart.

"He worked for a utility company, supported his family and (along with his first wife, Virginia) helped raise his children, Debbie McKay, Don Vandivier, Betty-Jean Spohn and Bill Vandivier, and became a terrific grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather to many, including my cousins, my sisters and me."

The marriage ended in divorce. Afterward, he met Betty, Bonnie's mom, and they married in 1981. They retired and lived in Yuma, Arizona, for a while.

"When we were kids, we would wait up all day for Grandpa Glen and Grandma Betty (my mom's stepmother) to visit from Arizona," McKay said. "They would always bring a bounty of love and affection for all of us. And cookies.

"He wasn't the loudest or most imposing guy in the room by a long shot, but if he got your ear, he'd engage you with his stories of growing up on an Indiana farm, playing prep sports and eventually serving in WWII," McKay added.

They were able to see the couple more often after Vandivier approached his 90s and they moved back to Michigan.

"This provided me a chance to see them both way more often than I ever had before, and I'm incredibly thankful for that," McKay said.

He described his grandfather as the Energizer Bunny, never showing any signs of slowing down.

"He was still driving his Dodge Grand Caravan a year ago, was still mentally sharp and independent. He was also a voracious reader. He'd pick up any book or newspaper he'd see and dive in."

The Vandiviers left Michigan later that year, 2019, for warmer winters in Florida. Betty died in December.

"He accumulated 99 years and 50 weeks of life experience and knowledge — a rare feat in itself — and shared it with all of us any chance he got," McKay said. "He left no unfinished business and no stone unturned. He lived a complete life in every sense.

"I am incredibly honored to have been the only grandson of such an unbelievably remarkable man," he added. "And I take solace in the fact that he can rejoin his beloved wife, Betty, in whatever cosmos lie beyond our existence."