Gene Harold Paxton, age 91, passed away on September 12, 2023. He was born on November 9, 1931, in LaFontaine, Indiana to Kay and Harold Paxton. He was raised by his grandparents and later lived with his mother and his wonderful stepfather, Fred Miller. At age 17, he voluntarily enlisted into the United States Marine Corp. and fought in the Korean war in the 1st Marine Division Able Company where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Early on, he would take care of anyone who came across his path. He attended Ball State University and graduated with a master’s degree in physical education. He then went on to teach and coach at Carleton Airport High School where he met his future wife, Mary Alice, and they fell in love and had three children together. He was the absolute best dad and grandfather and would do anything for his family. Gene and Mary Alice were married for almost 63 years.
In 1965, they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan where he began his career as head basketball coach at Grand Rapids Junior College. Gene guided GRJC teams to 517 victories over 25 seasons, winning five league championships – all without being able to offer students scholarships to play. His heart and soul went into mentoring and coaching so many, who have remained lifelong friends and were always a very important part of his life. His passion and enthusiasm were like no other for the game of basketball and towards his players. Gene described his time coaching as “the best years of my life.” Gene retired in 1990 as the winningest coach in school history with a 517-280 record. He was inducted into both the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame, as well as the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame.
Gene and Mary Alice retired to Spring Lake, Michigan, to help raise their grandchildren and were well known at the local restaurants in the community and enjoyed the many special friendships they made. Their witty banter and kindness were not lost on anyone who ever met them. Gene’s legacy is to be remembered by the many lives he touched and was the most loving, kind, selfless person. Gene is now reunited in Heaven with Mary Alice, the love of his life, and will truly be missed by so many. He is survived by his three children, Chris Paxton, Tim Paxton and Amy (Paul) Winn; five grandchildren, Matthew and Emily Batts, Jamie (Cotie) Winn, Erica Winn, Sophie Winn; four great-grandchildren; brothers-in-law, John (Janet) Alexander, Arch Alexander; cousins, Pat (Mary) Goul, Jodi (Jerry) Jeffers, David (Ronda) Goul, Carole Sue Stockton; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Alice; parents; grandparents; and sister-in-law, Linda Alexander.
There will be a time of gathering held from 11am-1pm on Friday, October 6, 2023, at O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Chapel, 3980 Cascade Road SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Memorial contributions can be directed in Gene’s honor to North Ottawa Hospice; https://supportnochs.org/.