Robert Ernest Gifford

STONINGTON — Robert Ernest Gifford, 92, of Stonington, passed from Earth to Heaven on Tuesday, June, 4, 2019, at Christian Park Healthcare Center in Escanaba. He was born in Hudson, Ohio, on Oct. 26, 1926, of parents Ellen Blanche (Gibson) Gifford and Herbert Frank Gifford, the third of four children.

Robert graduated from Hudson High School in 1945, one year later than his classmates because of having been in an automobile accident in September of 1942, resulting in a concussion of the brain creating loss of memory, or amnesia, for periods lasting up to several days and extending over several years. Consequently, he never was called for military service.

He studied rail and motor common carrier of property transportation and interstate commerce law nights at a business school in Akron, Ohio, for two years. Upon graduation, he applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission to be permitted to take their lengthy exam, testing his knowledge of the I.C.C. Act and possibly be permitted to practice before that government body as a Class B Practitioner (non-lawyer), which he passed and was admitted to in October of 1952. Now he was excited and thought he wanted to become an attorney at law.

He entered Kent State University in 1953 for two years of prelaw study, but during his second year, Ohio raised the prelaw college requirement to three years of college, at which point in time, he believed it best to remain in college for four and graduate, which he did in 1956, at the age of 30. He entered night law school then, but classes were three nights a week plus studying on Saturdays soon made him realize that his academic aspirations requiring over 10 years were not conducive to a healthy marriage, thus dropping out of law school during his first year.

He spent the next 25 plus years in management in the motor common carrier, of property, industry before his employer went bankrupt, as deregulation swept the industry in the 1980s. His last few years were spent as a teacher’s aide in an alternative high school.

He enjoyed the outdoor activities, even backpacking a part of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee with an old high school buddy even though both were in their middle 70s. Upon retirement, he found pleasure in serving the public; he served 10 years in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, eight years on his local township board, as trustee; filled in for one year on his local school board and even went to New Orleans in ’05 for the Salvation Army for two weeks delivering food and cleaning supplies to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Robert truly believed that in a Democratic society, all citizens should express their thoughts pro or con on proposed legislation that affected society in general. Otherwise, he believed that PAC money greatly influenced our legislators. Robert was a member of the Rapid River Congregational Church.

He is survived by his loving wife, Ruth Doris (VanHorssen) Gifford of Stonington; daughters, Amy Martha Randle, Betsy Ellen Gifford and their children, all from the Grand Rapids area; brother, Charles H. Gifford, his wife Joanne and their children, all from the Seattle, Wash., area; and brother-in-law, Robert E. Fleming, and his two sons, and wives all from Florida; stepson, Steven VanHorssen; and grandson, Michael Cahill of Muskegon.

Preceding him in death were his father, Herbert; mother, Ellen; sisters, Ruth Ellen James, and her husband, Edwin L. James, Elizabeth Jane (Betty) Fleming; his first wife, Shirley Anne (Terry) and their son, Christopher Stewart, who died in 2013.

Visitation will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday, June 7, at the Anderson Funeral Home in Escanaba. Funeral services celebrating the life of Robert will follow at 11 a.m. Friday in the Anderson Funeral Home Chapel with Pastor William Rafuse of the Rapid River Congregational Church officiating. Burial will take place in Kentwood, Mich.

The Anderson Funeral Homes are assisting the Gifford family and online condolences can be sent at www.andersonfuneralhomes.net.