OBITUARY

Duane Bailey

December 16, 1945November 12, 2021

Walter (Duane) Bailey, age 75 of Byron Center, MI, passed away peacefully Friday November 12, 2021, after a short battle with cancer.

Duane was born to Lulu Lee and Dean Bailey December 16, 1945 in Emporia, Kansas. His early childhood was spent on the generational family farm south of Topeka, near Overbrook, KS. With his big sisters Audrey and Carolyn as his role models, and his good friend, Gaylord Anderson, as his co-conspirator, Duane cherished the memories he had from those days on the farm. Duane was particularly proud to have attended a one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. He went on to graduate from Osage City High School and attended Wentworth Military Academy before earning his degree in business administration at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Armed with his new degree, and looking to combine his schooling with his passion for things automotive, Duane set off to Detroit, Michigan where he worked as a regional service specialist for Ford. Assigned to travel the state of Michigan, he first settled in the Lansing area before moving to Grand Rapids. Throughout the years, Duane stayed in the automotive business, working for Michelin Tire Company, and then several new car dealerships in the service manager role. It was at one of these dealerships that he met his lifelong partner, Sue Ann Zimmerman, when she brought her car in for service. It was love at first sight. They were married February 4, 1978 and the two were inseparable until her death from a stroke in 2016. Sue’s family was also a big part of Duane’s life, following Sue and him to races all over the Midwest. They remained close after her passing, particularly sister Bev Brown, who made sure to check in with him nearly every day after Sue’s death.

The Baileys had many pets throughout the years, but after Sue’s death, it was his papillon, Maxwell (Max), that kept him going. Duane and Max could be seen walking the trails of Byron Center and Grandville daily. Duane adored Max, and the feeling was clearly mutual.

Duane and Sue shared a passion for sports cars, particularly British ones, and auto racing. Thus began West Michigan Imports. The business and its focus were the foundation for a staggering number of lasting friendships throughout the years. Founded in 1984, West Michigan Imports serviced the British car market in Michigan and beyond, operating continuously until his death. West Michigan Imports became a staple in the sports car community, providing service, parts, expertise, and advice that is difficult to find anywhere in the country. Cars were sent to the small shop in Walker, then Byron Center, from across the country for restoration and race prep. West Michigan Imports was also an outlet for Duane to be a mentor. While it was never his stated purpose, Duane was an excellent teacher. Auto racing was never far from the surface for those years either. Duane purchased a damaged Triumph Spitfire in the late 1960s and in 1974 it saw its first races in Sports Car Club of America G Production regionals. Graduating to the national stage, Duane raced the Spitfire (number 97) until his age encouraged his retirement from competition in 2015. Competing in several SCCA runoffs, Duane’s influence in the club was strong. Even after competition was over, Duane didn’t leave the racing community. He drove pace car and worked events at Grattan and Gingerman raceways until the summer of 2021. His passion for racing was evident in his involvement with club events, including instructing driver schools and encouraging new talent. Duane was instrumental in helping fellow racers develop their cars and their driving skills.

Through his own business, Sue’s work at Herman Miller, and auto racing, Duane made numerous friends. It is these friends that define his legacy. Duane was always proud of his friends' and relatives’ accomplishments and would opine about their successes to anyone who would listen. He loved them, and they loved him. During his illness, they flocked to his bedside from across Michigan and the country to keep his spirits up and share a racing story or funny experience. They fueled him in his time of need and told stories of his companionship and meaning in their lives. His sisters, also friends by the way, came to see him, as did his nieces, nephews, and in-laws - traveling from Kansas, Colorado, and California.

Duane is survived by his two sisters Carolyn LeSage (Leo) of Boulder, Colorado, and Audrey Rowles of Derby, Kansas; sister-in-law, Beverly (Dave) Brown; brothers–in-law Glenn (Dorien) Zimmerman and Brian (Bonnie) Zimmerman; plus nieces and nephews. His final checkered flag leaves many, many friends, clients, colleagues, and competitors who will also miss him tremendously.

Duane and Sue were members of Cornerstone Church and funeral services will be held there. Visitation will take place 10 a.m. followed by service at 11 a.m. December 4, 2021 at Cornerstone Church, 1675 84th St. SE, Caledonia, MI 49316. Luncheon immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to SCCA Foundation – www.SCCAFoundation.com; Humane Society of West Michigan – www.HSWestMI.org; Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – www.LLS.org. The family welcomes memories and messages in their guest book online at www.cookcaresgrandville.com.

Services

  • Visitation

    Saturday, December 4, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Saturday, December 4, 2021

Memories

Duane Bailey

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John Foley

November 24, 2021

I raced with Duane in the 70's also. We were at Grattan and my car broke down as it often did, Duane says the driver is registered not the car, drive my car. I said yes fast, next thing I am in Duane's real race car. So the Spitfire has a locked up rear diff so you can't back off once you are in a turn the way my MG could be more forgiving. So I take off for a run down the straight away at Grattan, Duane forgot to tell me his car has racing brakes and you have to warm them up so they work in the first turn. I hit the brakes and nothing happens, so now I am going way to fast for the first turn. I can't back off so I floor it, 4 wheel drift the whole way thru turn 1. Next turn the brakes work super doper and I get the Spit under control, now it starts to rain OMG. I slow down and drive careful back to the pit. Duane walks up to the car and says, you came within 2 seconds of my time half way in the rain you aren't going to beat me in my own car. Never let me drive it again. Duane was great a guy we will all miss him. Thanks for the drive of my life in a Real Race Car Duane.

Kent Williamson

November 19, 2021

Raced with Duane in the late 70's - great competitor and a friend. He will be missed by everyone in WMR-SCCA.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY