Resolution passed to honor late Dowagiac businessman

Published 12:25 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

VAN BUREN COUNTY — The Board of County Road Commissioners of Van Buren County unanimously agreed to pass a resolution of respect in both honor and memory of the late René Rangel Jr. during its March 9 meeting.

Rangel Jr., a VBC Road Commission worker, was killed in a March 3 crash when a car tried to pass traffic at a construction zone. Rangel was holding the sign at the beginning of the construction zone and was stopping traffic at the time.

“The Board of County Road Commissioners of Van Buren County is deeply saddened and mourns the loss of their fellow employee, René Rangel, Jr.,” stated the resolution, in part. “He was a valued and respected staff member at the Road Commission where he built amazing friendships. His positive attitude, fun-loving style, and dedicated work ethic were contagious. The Board expresses its profound sorrow and extends its sincere condolences to Rene’s partner, Stacey Hollenbeck, and their families.”

Rangel Jr. was the owner/operator of Oil Can Alley quick oil change in Dowagiac from 1990 to 2022 and owned/operated Big Country Trucking for several years, hauling asphalt and aggregates for various road construction contractors. After selling his Oil Can Alley business, Rangel Jr. began his new career with the Van Buren County Road Commission as a Road Maintenance Employee, a career that he was excited to return to.

​​The Van Buren County Road Commission hosted a memorial vigil Monday, March 6 to honor Rangel Jr. that was attended by more than 400 friends, coworkers, family and community members. His family invited the public to virtually attend his funeral Monday, March 13 via a live stream of the service via Facebook.

​​”My brother was an amazing human being,” wrote Rose Rangel, René’s sister, on Facebook. “He loved working for the Road Commission. To him they were his family. I remember the day he started there he was so excited and could wait to get back into the kind of work he loved doing. I called him and asked him how his first day was and he said ‘just as great as I thought it would be.’ After the first real snow fall we spoke and he told me he was nervous but excited to go out in his truck. 

“He never let anything stop him. Even with his prosthetic arm he could out drive almost anyone in any kind of vehicle, whether it be a semi, dump, pick up, snowmobile, or mountain bike, he loved them all. I think I can speak for his entire ‘blood’ family when I say how unbelievably grateful we are to his ‘work’ family for honoring him this way. You have made my brother’s horrible and senseless passing less painful. He will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of getting to know him. We love you my brother, fly high until we meet again.”

According to the VBC Road Commission, memorial contributions can be made to the following organizations per the family and Rangel Jr.’s wishes:

  • The Jordan Thomas Foundation, an organization helping kids get the prostheses they need to lead healthy and active lives. Rangel Jr. lost left arm at the age of 19 and used a prosthetic for years. Donations can be made online at or via checks made out to the Jordan Thomas Foundation, 9005 Overlook Blvd, No. 742, Brentwood, TN 37027.
  • Cass County Parks and Recreation, Lawless Park. Donate via check: Lawless Park, 120 N. Broadway St., Ste 200, Cassopolis, MI 49031.