Serving West Michigan Since 1899

Derek McAleer

April 17, 1951 - October 7, 2022
Saugatuck, MI



At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance
P O Box 1013
Saugatuck, MI 49453
Web Site

Saugatuck Public Schools (Band Dept)
P O Box 818
Douglas, MI 49406

Check should be addressed to Saugatuck Public Schools with “Band Dept in Memory of Derek” in memo.

Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance
P. O. Box 124
Douglas, MI 49406
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Derek McAleer

What a great person! He was generous, kind, quirky, gentle and funny.

Derek was born in Detroit, grew up in Southfield, and retired in Saugatuck, MI. Along the way he befriended countless people: From his childhood pals in Southfield, good times with his Central Michigan University Sigma Pi Fraternity brothers & their families, and many wonderful friendships from his impressive 35 year career at TACOM. Derek treasured all of his visits and memories with these great friends.

He loved spending time with his dear Sister JoAnne, Brother-in-law Ellis and their dog Toby in Gaylord. He also had many fond memories of card games with his fun cousins. And visits to Copper City.

Derek and Sandy Gelman met while working at TACOM and soon after fell in love. They married in Saugatuck in 2008 at the Saugatuck Brewing Company and celebrated with friends, family and neighbors. Their first dance was to Harvest Moon by Neil Young.

Derek’s family base grew to include Sandy’s family and friends, who all loved him dearly.

His circle of friends continued to grow when he and Sandy retired to Saugatuck with wonderful neighbors and new friends in a wonderful community! He enjoyed friend get-togethers for; Music in the Park, Friendsgiving, Super Bowl Parties, drinks at Retro Boat and The Red Dock,. And, dinners with friends at Phil’s, Clearbrook, and his favorite, Friday Date Night with friends at Wally’s. Derek enjoyed cappachino at the Annex, and Isabels, and peanut butter cookies at Isabel’s too. Also, loved the breakfast special at Ida Reds.

Derek was happy just sitting on the porch sharing conversations with neighbors passing by, who would stop and visit. Derek loved spoiling the neighborhood dogs with treats, Sparky most of all.

Listening to the Saugatuck High School Marching Band from the backyard or passing by the house brought Derek so much happiness.

Derek really enjoyed, “digging in the dirt” to plant tomatoes. One year he and Sandy planted a record 172 plants! All in 40 half whiskey barrels, that will always be known as, Derek’s Tomato Alley. Spring meant visiting countless nurseries for tomato plants. In the summer and fall he loved going to the local farms to pick, berries, cherries and apples. He had the utmost admiration for farmers! Of course fall also meant getting bags and bags of Halloween candy, so he could hand out handfuls to the hundreds of trick or treaters on the “hill.”

Derek loved long, invigorating walks, piping hot cups of coffee in the morning, a pint of Guinness at Wally’s, baby cokes, orange pop, ICE CREAM, pizza, giant gum-balls and his large stash of candy.

He was an avid collector of Lake Michigan lucky stones, Lake Superior polka dot sandstones, driftwood, and bright fall leaves. Nature brought Derek a lot of joy.

As the very first investor in Saugatuck Brewing Company, Derek handed out $1 pint cards most everywhere he went. He even handed them out to the medical staff, in the ER, during medical stays, and at doctor visits. That sure made Derek happy.

With much gratitude for the many blessings, patience, support, understanding, good vibes, calls, virtual hugs, texts, cards, and good food, from so many; friends, neighbors & family.

For the wonderful care and support, over the last 8 months, and especially the last few weeks, to keep Derek engaged, comfortable and pain free, the family would like to thank:

Keystone Palliative Care

Holland Hospital Home Care

Hospice of Holland

Dr Frank Worden Oncologist, RN Leah; U of M Cancer Center in Ann Arbor

Dr Kurt Lindburg PCP & RN Stephanie: Holland, MI

Gratitude to: PA’s, Nurses, Techs, Lab techs, PT, Radiology, Oncology Radiation, Ostomy Wound Care Nurses, Dermatology, Podiatrist, Dental Office, Neurologist, Neuro Ophthalmology, Infusion Center, and so many other’s who were so supportive in Derek’s complex medical care!

Gratitude to Amber of Connections Home Care. Amber was kind, professional, & knowledgable, at addressing Derek’s many medical conditions and limitations. She would take Derek for walks in the neighborhood at each visit. Derek loved that. Amber was a gift to Sandy too, with help and support beyond Derek care. Amber would continue to visit, & to check up on us, giving us updates on her new profession. Special gratitude, and friendship forever! Also, gratitude to Elsie and Ashley of Connections Home Care.

Gratitude to the knowledgable, kind, amazing, professional dedicated, caregiver, Brandy Zachary of Coastline Home Care, who became Derek’s 2nd caregiver. Brandy also coordinated care with Hospice of Holland providers to insure Derek was comfortable and pain free. Brandy stayed with us 24/7 from Monday to Friday to care for Derek and all of us, until Derek’s last breath. Special Gratitude and a friend forever.

Every moment spent with Derek was special. Please treasure, share and celebrate your own Derek stories. Perhaps over a Guinness, with a baby coke, or by eating a big handful of candy.

If you decide to donate to any of the local charities, that were close to Derek’s heart in the small town of Saugatuck, please add a note that your donation is in memory of Derek McAleer.

A celebration of Derek’s life is being planned for the near future in Saugatuck.

“Because I’m still in love with you, on this Harvest Moon.”

Arrangements are by the Dykstra Funeral Home-Saugatuck Chapel.