Claiborne Lisle Galster



Memorial Contributions

Freeland Foundation

Claiborne Lisle Galster, beloved father, brother, and friend, passed away at 69 in Spring Lake, Michigan, on February 15, 2024. He was preceded in death by his parents, Russell and Cynthia “Big Grandma” Galster. He is survived by his daughters, Lindsey McNeil (Cam) and Lauren Bevins (Jack); grandchildren, Oliver and Marilyn; brothers, Brian, Steve (Onkuri), and Donald (Laura); sisters, Diana Kinas, Evelyn Galster, Heidi Scharlat (Rick); and countless nieces and nephews.

Born in Detroit on October 29, 1954, Clay grew up in a lively household fueled by his parents’ landscaping business and the constant companionship of his six siblings. The family frequently bounced between Michigan and Wisconsin, instilling in Clay a love for travel and adaptability. He eventually planted roots in West Michigan, graduating first from Big Rapids High School and then Ferris State University. Clay was a self-proclaimed long-suffering fan of the Detroit Tigers and Lions.

Clay’s love of the game combined with his youthful spirit carried into adulthood where he led a team composed of his brothers to win the “Toilet Bowl” in the Gus Macker tournament. Participating in the Tigers Fantasy Camp in 1996 where he was chosen as his team’s captain also highlighted his joy in Detroit sports.

Throughout his life, Clay worked multiple fulfilling careers in respiratory therapy and later medical sales consulting for VHA/Novation where he became senior director. His gregarious nature and easy laugh made him an exceptional leader, and he made many lifelong friends in this role. During this time, he met and married Molly Mika, with whom he shared the joy of raising two strong and independent daughters.

Retirement in 2007 sparked a new chapter for Clay. He acquired a fishing charter boat company, despite limited fishing experience, reflecting his unwavering optimism and willingness to try anything. Life took another adventurous turn in 2012 when he moved to Thailand which led him to discover a fulfilling path as “Teacher Clay,” connecting with students and fellow expats alike. Like all places Clay lived, he attracted genuine, fun friends who appreciated his wit and honesty.

His journey eventually brought him back to the USA where he was able to watch both of his daughters’ become mothers. In the last years of his life, he found solace in simple pleasures: his love of music, boating on Lake Michigan, going to the movies, reading historical books and the news, and spending time with his daughters and friends.

Many people will say Clay was the life of the party and was a great storyteller. He was a generous father, son, and brother, always putting his family’s needs first. His infectious laugh and ability to turn everyday moments into unforgettable experiences were unmatched (just ask anyone who watched his fireworks shows on Green Lake). He will forever be remembered for creating the infamous “Mob Hill” sign that still lives on and coined perhaps the greatest family term ever: “The Galster Curse.” We miss him for now, but it won’t be forever. And we know there was a cold Heineken and Diet Coke on ice waiting for him in the meantime.

A Memorial Service will take place at 11am on Saturday, March 9, 2024, at O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Funeral Home, 3980 Cascade Rd SE, Grand Rapids, with visitation one hour prior. There will be an opportunity for friends and family to share stories at the memorial service. 

Donations in remembrance of Clay can be made to the Freeland Foundation at

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