BELGER (McFarland), Doris Marie of Bay City, Michigan. Mrs. Belger, age 95, passed away early in the morning on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at Sterling House of Midland with loving family members by her side. The daughter of the late Asa J. and Lucy (Begin) McFarland was born January 21, 1918 in Bay City where she was raised and educated. She married Earl E. (Bud) Belger on August 29, 1942 in St. Mary’s Church, and after 63 years of marriage, he predeceased her in July 2005. She was preceded in death by sons, Daniel and Walter, and is survived by her seven children: Jean, Gary, Donna (Martin) Wissmueller, Thomas, Linda (Joe) Prieto, Karen (Gerald) Lynch, Susan (Matt) Jahr; eight grandchildren: Cynthia (Glen) Logan, Risa, Loria (Jeff) Ward, Eric (Megan) Wissmueller, Lorenzo Prieto, Kayla Prieto, Bridget Lynch and Lucas Prieto; seven great-grandchildren: Victor, Charlie and Henry Logan; Lydia and Elizabeth Ward; Atticus and Laurelyne Wissmueller; three sisters-in-law: Mary (Donald) McFarland, Elaine (Ambrose) McFarland and Leeann (Bob) Belger; and several nieces and nephews. Doris had been the last surviving sibling in her family. She was predeceased by Florence (Edward) Jonas, Helen, Ruth, Russell (Peg), Ambrose (Elaine), Martin (Eleanor), Donald (Mary), Robert, Catherine and Monica (Lloyd) LeFevre.
Doris had been among the last surviving members of the graduating class of 1936 at Bay City St. Mary’s High School. The class has kept in touch throughout the years. In 1986, when they celebrated their 50th reunion at Rivertown restaurant, Dolly (Brady) Sullivan and Doris co-chaired the event. Doris was secretary of the senior class and salutatorian. She had fond memories of Principal Sister Mary Lucille, who later became the Mother of Mercy House.
After Doris graduated from high school, she attended Bay City Junior College, located then on the third floor of Central High School. At BCJC, she served as class secretary and worked for Dean Butterfield. She designed the cover for the class’s annual magazine, and played basketball and field hockey. After one year at BCJC she was offered a job at Consumers Power Company on Washington Street, a very desirable position. Doris did not return to college until she was in her late 40’s. At Consumers Power, she worked with a group of 50 women who often socialized outside of work. Included were an annual formal dance and a cruise on the Saginaw River that ended with dinner at the Yacht Club. The group continued to get together in a reunion every five years.
Doris left Consumers Power when she was married. Once her children were grown-up, Doris returned to college to complete her Associate’s degree, which she did at Delta College. She then completed her Bachelor’s degree at Saginaw Valley College (now Saginaw Valley State University) in 1970. She continued her studies at SVC, receiving a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. She then went on to earn her teaching certification at Central Michigan University.
Doris then began teaching elementary school for the Bay City School District, including Garfield and McGregor schools. Former students will remember her dynamic teaching style. She set up her classroom with centers of learning, and made original charts on all subjects. She was especially successful teaching reading through phonics. She spent hours each summer creating effective phonics posters, including illustrations, to help her students visualize sounds. Also memorable were the stage plays Doris produced for her students using her talents for singing, playing piano and sewing costumes. She would often incorporate information she brought back from her world travels with her husband, Bud, to pass on to her students. She was determined to do her best to bring as much vitality as possible to make learning come alive, including following up each unit with a related field trip. Sometimes her students were additionally rewarded for all their hard work on the plays by seeing themselves photographed alongside an article in the Bay City Times.
Many Bay Cityans may have become acquainted with Doris at one of the art shows in which she participated. She had a lifetime passion for art. Throughout the years, she worked with many media, including oil, watercolor, sculpture and photography. Her work often reflected scenes from her travels. She studied watercolor with John Miller at Studio 23, and took a variety of art classes while attending Delta College and Saginaw Valley College. Doris was the first student to graduate from SVC’s Fine Arts Program, which concluded with her senior thesis, a one-artist exhibition. Another of her solo art shows was at the Bay City Players Theater. In addition, she participated in group shows at Studio 23, the Flint Institute of Arts, the Midland Center for the Arts and at Delta College. She received numerous accolades for her works, and won several first place awards. Her works were also recognized as “Best of Show” in a number of art and gallery showings. In July 2010, Doris shared a large collection of her watercolor paintings at Sheffield Bay Assisted Living Facility. Fellow residents expressed much appreciation for her one-woman show. She also wrote and illustrated a book called “Escape to the Parks” that describes the adventures of two dogs who go exploring at the Bay City Riverwalk, one of Doris’ favorite places to visit.
Other books written and illustrated by Doris have a religious theme. “Come Follow Us” relates the deeply moving experiences Doris and Bud had on their 1988 trip to the Holy Land. All profits from sales of this and her other religious books and watercolor gift cards were donated by Doris to the St. Mary’s Parish building fund. Doris was baptized, confirmed, and married at St. Mary’s. For a time she was a parishioner at St. James and Visitation Churches. In recent years, she had rejoined the St. Mary’s community. In every parish in which she resided, Doris was an active participant. She was a devoted Catholic and took great pride in the career of her cousin, Floyd Begin, who had been Bishop of Cleveland then became Archbishop of Oakland, California. Doris was especially active in the Legion of Mary. She also contributed to her parishes on the decoration committees. In addition to decorating the altar, she also decorated tables, the stage and the church for special events. When her church wanted to start using banners, she created them of felt material to illustrate special occasions on the church calendar. As members of the Daughters of Isabella, Doris and Bud brought patients to Mass at the Bay Shore nursing home facility for roughly 15 years. Doris was also a Eucharistic Minister, bringing Communion to the residents.
Both Doris and Bud retired at age 65. They enjoyed many years of retirement activities. Together they traveled, played golf almost daily, joined a euchre club and enjoyed walking for exercise. Once retired, Doris had more time for painting watercolors and her other art projects. She was also the epitome of DIY (Do It Yourself), before the term was common. She enthusiastically tackled whatever needed fixing in the house and yard, along with gardening flowers and fruits. She enjoyed keeping busy throughout her long life. Doris has been an inspiration for many who have admired her energetic participation in all of her undertakings, all while raising seven children.
The family would like take to express deep appreciation to Sheffield Bay Assisted Living Facility in Bay City, Sterling House of Midland and Hospice of Midland for the care that Doris received during her stays.
A funeral mass officiated by Father Ronald Dombrowski was held at St. Mary’s Church in Bay City.
Those wishing to make a donation of remembrance may do so to St. Mary’s Parish or to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.