Eugene Shaff Fleming

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Eugene Shaff Fleming, age 88, loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, and community supporter, passed away peacefully at home on Thursday, March 9, 2023. He was born September 22, 1934, in Gaylord, Michigan, on the family farm.

Eugene was a gifted athlete, playing football and baseball, qualifying for the state meet in track his senior year, and later boxing as a Golden Glove boxer. He graduated from Gaylord High School in 1953. Upon graduation, he continued working on Fleming Shaff Acres, the family dairy farm. On June 15, 1957, he married high school sweetheart Barbara Josephine Kelso. They were married for 65 years! Together they raised five children: Rhonda, Becki, Doug, Vicki, and Heidi.

His love for sports continued as he became a spectator for his kids’ and grandkids’ many activities. He loved his community too, and when he saw a need he tried to meet it. He served as Otsego County Farm Bureau president, as a church lay assistant and parish pastoral committee member and was an Otsego County Road commissioner for 29 years. He also served as a board member for MMPA (Michigan Milk), Gaylord School District, ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation), and Otsego Memorial Hospital. In 2009, the Gaylord community recognized Eugene and Barbara together as Burgermeisters of Alpenfest. Gene’s true passions though were family and farming, two things that went hand-in-hand as he passed on his love for farming to his children and grandchildren as they worked together on the family’s 116-year-old historical farm. Into his eighties, you could still find Gene helping around the farm and working the pumpkin patch where he had a smile and a friendly word for young and old.  Gene was deeply devoted to his family, loved to tell a good story, and was kind and generous to all he met.

Eugene was preceded in death by his father, Darrell Fleming; his mother, Ethel Fleming; his sisters, Marjorie Stepanski, Eva Fleming, and Ida Utter; and in-laws, Vaughn Stepanski, Bill Utter, John Kelso, and Jody Fleming.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara; their 5 children, Rhonda (Gregg) Behnke of Gaylord, Becki (Ron) Jacobs of Lovells, Doug (Karen) Fleming of Dewitt, Vicki (Mike) Burnside of Higgins Lake, and Heidi (Brad) Beals of Mason. Gene was blessed with 16 grandkids, 17 great-grandkids, and a great-great-grandson. He is also survived by his siblings Jack (Ruth) Fleming, Sharon (Galen) Brekkestran, Carol Moyer, and Butch Fleming, his in-laws Marvin (Nancy) Kelso, Glen (Joy) Kelso, and many loving nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held at Nelson Funeral Home on Friday, March 17, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. and will continue on Saturday, March 18, at the First United Methodist Church of Gaylord beginning at 10:00 a.m. with services being held at 11:00 a.m. Luncheon will follow in the church’s fellowship hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be sent to Hospice of Michigan, 830 S. Otsego Ave, Gaylord, 49735; Gaylord United Methodist Church, PO Box 1548, Gaylord, 49734; or Otsego County Historical Society, 320 W. Main St, Gaylord, 49735.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Nelson Funeral Home and Cremation Service, PO Box 1548 Gaylord, MI 49734.

27 comments on “Eugene Shaff Fleming”

  1. The Estelle’s

    A true friend of agriculture and our farming family as well as our community. Til we meet again you and Ed will discuss world food issues!
    Wishing peace and comfort to Barb and family!

  2. Bonnie Chudzinski Rybicki

    Barbara and family so sorry to hear of Gene’s passing. You were such great neighbors. My thoughts and prayers are with you all at this difficult time he’s in a much better place. God Bless you all.

  3. A powerhouse of a man indeed. From the horse farm to the road commission your presence was deeply felt. Condolences to the family to Becky Rhonda Doug from South Georgia. Leave it to Eugene to have visitation on St Pattys day. The blessings of the Irish go you all.

    Dawn Johnston

  4. Vic & Connie Ouellette

    What absolute great man, he will certainly be missed by family and friends. Always was greated with a smile and a hello. Touched many lives in his 88 yrs. The lord will certainly embrace and welcome Mr Fleming with open arms. Prayers for the family.

  5. John & Jan Lake

    Dear Fleming family,

    So many years of friendship and wonderful memories from the OCRC board days, pumpkin patch, Alpenfest and throughout our community! We will miss Gene’s warm embrace and beautiful smile! We have already witnessed his legacy being carried out through his wife, children, grandchildren and extended family! You are all loved!❤️🙏🏽❤️

  6. So much enjoyed spending time with your family Barb. Gene was always such a happy man. Loved his smile. Always made me feel welcomed when with the Kellos and the Flemings. Keeping you all in my prayers, love Karen Zaremba DeNike

  7. What a great friend. Condolence to the Fleming family.
    Just a great friend and will be missed. Lot’s of love for the family.

  8. Our sincere condolences to Barb & Family, I have very fond memories of Gene, his smile and kind words to anyone he met. Always a pleasure waiting on the Family on Sunday’s. Please know your in our thoughts and prayers and may the memories bring you comfort.

  9. Gene left a lasting legacy in Otsego County. He was involved in so many things that were for the betterment of the community; in the schools, the road commission, the historical society, agriculture, church, etc.…he was pretty amazing and highly respected. Rest in Peace good friend and condolences to Barb and the family.

  10. Rigel pihlainen

    I was lucky enough to be able to have the privilege of meeting Grandpa Fleming, although it was just in the last few years. I still remember the first handshake I got from him in our first meeting and when he called me “ Big fella” while shaking my hand. I’ve shaken a lot of hands in my life, but this one felt different. People say you can tell a lot about man’s handshake. I also know this man raised a beautiful family and I’m so beyond blessed to be able to call them my family as well. RIP Eugene you will be missed.

  11. Nicole Labadie Walker

    My sincere condolences to you Barbara and your entire family. I have the fondest memories of visiting the farm as a little and brining my kids there in recent years. You both have hearts of gold and are so loved by many. Cherish the amazing memories of Gene. May his legend live on.

  12. Thought and prayers for the family and friends.
    Praying that god will wrap his arms around all of you and you can feel the same peace and love that your loved one is feeling right now. 💗🙏🏻

  13. Barb, Rhonda, Becki, Doug, Vicki, and Heidi: My sincere condolences on the passing of Gene. He was a true gentle man who was a strong pillar of his community. May he rest in God’s loving arms.


    “And then GOD created a FARMER”-Thank you -“GENE” for your great life-time of serving so many in so many different ways. -Loved how you showed off your dairy farm to generations of students & visitors to your centennial farm where they learned where parts of each of their daily meals came from. -I- Casimer(Camy)Dzwik grew up with the SHAFF/FLEMING/KELSO families in Elmira/Gaylord/Otsego County in the 1940’s & 1950’s. – Gene was my sports idol(4 Grades ahead of me).What a talented athlete he was!-Happy memories also of 1952 radio taught singing & dancing class each week in Elmira 7/8 class-room. Our teacher chose Barb & I to be dance partners for the May-pole square dance group show (held in Petoskey)-Our love to all.

  15. Sharon Zaremba Dunlap

    Dearest Barb and family. So deeply sorry for your loss of Gene. He is remembered with a big smile and a caring sense and a soothing voice. Wish you all comfort and peace as you remember Gene.

  16. Was very fortunate to meet you Mr Fleming what a great legacy you leave behind. My deepest condolences to the family

  17. Richard Skowronski and Barbara Dziesinski


  18. Carol and Butch
    So sorry for your loss. May you remember all the good things and happiness from memories made. My Condolences.

  19. Tanya K Estelle

    What a great tribute to a wonderful husband , father , papa and great grad dad ! I was overwhelmed with tears as I know he is up there in a great place with my dad chatting away with life’s agriculture issues and those great smiles that will look down upon us ❤️May we all rest in Peace !

  20. Vince LaRosa II

    Barb and family,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Gene was a pillar of men and a good friend. I enjoyed my time on the Gaylord board of education . He taught me a lot and helped me get oriented. I haven’t seen any of your family in a long time, but it seems as if yesterday, does time fly? He will be missed by anyone who knew him.

  21. Gene it was so great having you in my will be missed by so many..I hope you see my dad up there..I loved staying at the farm when I was just a young kid..memories that you, aunt ethyl and uncle Jerry, along with all the rest of the Fleming family, helped me make..sending love and prayers to you..

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