Friday, October 26, 2018
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and drinks will be served.
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.
Hydro Program @ WMU c/o WMU Geosciences Department
1187 Rood Hall, Mail Stop 5241
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241
Please note "Hydro Program" In Memory of William Lambright in the memo portion of your contributory check.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
William Edward Lambright: entrepreneur, family man, traveler, beloved friend, 1933-2018.
Bill Lambright was born into a Catholic family and a tradition of family business in Tiffin, Ohio, on March 29, 1933. His parents, Art (Arthur) and Florence Lambright had two older children James and Rachel when they welcomed the baby of the family. All three children attended St. Joseph’s elementary school and Calvert High School. He grew up two blocks from Art’s Dutch Lunch, the restaurant his father Arthur Lambright operated, and three houses down from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Bill gained his taste for work washing windows at Art’s, as well as collecting scrap metal during the war years. He worked on a farm, in a flower shop, and in a lumber yard during his youth. Years later he remained a strong supporter of Calvert High School in Tiffin, which he attended.
Lambright attended college for a year at Heidelberg College in Tiffin before moving west to California. The excitement of the west coast didn’t hold his attention so he returned to the Midwest and began attending Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated with a degree in business administration in 1959, and was active in the Delta Upsilon fraternity where he formed lifelong friendships with his brothers and their wives. The DUs were legendary (at least in their own minds) for their parties and celebrations.
Bill’s first job, at NCR, was in sales. From that experience he learned that sales suited him, but that corporate life would not. On a tip from a friend in the building trades, that Kalamazoo lacked a heating and air conditioning contractor, Bill went to the public library and read a book on the topic. Next he hired a friend to install furnaces and turned to the business of selling. Bel-Aire Heating & Air Conditioning was founded in 1961, and grew from 5 to 130 employees. He built a loyal following of customers and employees over a long career. Bill had a reputation for being an honest and reputable businessman. He enjoyed participating in the advertising campaigns run by the company and was very close to many of his senior managers. He remained devoted to the business long after his retirement and was welcomed to the office until the end.
The same year that Bill started the company, he married his sweetheart, Janet (Osborne) Lambright at St. Monica’s Church in Kalamazoo.
Together Bill and Jan Lambright raised five children who were educated in the Portage schools, St. Monica’s and at Hackett. The five children: Lori, Catherine, David, Susie and Jennifer were long a source of joy to Bill. He was a supportive and generous parent who encouraged all of the kids to complete their college degrees and when it came time for each to marry – welcomed every son and daughter-in-law with open arms.
The family took to the road for many adventurous trips, visiting over 30 states as a group. When the children were older, Bill and Jan ventured abroad. With and without the kids, the couple traveled extensively around the world, from South America, to Europe and Asia. Bill greatly enjoyed traveling with friends and some of the more memorable trips were made with business associates, his siblings and their spouses, and even his children’s in-laws. The couple enjoyed spending their 50th anniversary with all of their children and grandchildren on a cruise through the Caribbean.
Closer to home, Bill and Jan anticipated a tradition of summertime fun when they visited Macatawa Park, near Holland, Michigan, for the first time in 1964. Bill knew a good thing when he saw it, and purchased a cottage there, later upgrading to a beachfront house. They never missed a summer at the lake. At one time or another, most of Bill and Jan’s friends and family made the trip to Macatawa to stay in Sweet William’s Place (later renamed “Little Red”). Bill was known and loved by many neighbors for his prowess with a broom along the sidewalk, his quick invitation in for a cold beverage, and his warm greetings as they made their way up and down the sidewalks. He enjoyed playing tennis at the nearby courts, golf and riding along on friends’ boats to see the new homes along the lakes. Perhaps the most beloved family tradition at the cottage was the large “Cottage Dinner” where groups of 15+ would crowd around the dinner table for convivial conversation and delicious food… all of which would be quickly forgotten if the sunset began over Lake Michigan.
Bill worked full time in the company until 1996 when the couple semi-retired to Florida. Bill and Jan enjoyed golf, tennis and theater during the time they resided in the Sarasota area.. He played tennis for nearly eight years with a group of senior men and occasionally made forays onto the golf links when friends visited. Favorite activities in the later years included watching sports programs on the lanai, reading business magazines, and perusing the newspaper. He formed a bi-weekly neighbor men’s group that met for cocktails and camaraderie and looked forward to visiting friends and family who were also retired to the state.
In 2008, Bill suffered his first stroke after having beaten Hodgkin’s lymphoma a decade earlier. In recent years, Bill endured a decline in mobility and erosion of his senses. But he never lost his cheerful disposition, nor his interest in the welfare of his family, especially his grandchildren. Above all, those who knew and cherished William Edward Lambright admired his patient, forgiving nature. “Sweet William” was kind and generous man.
Bill passed peacefully surrounded by his family on October 19, 2018. He is survived by his wife, Janet; his children Lori (Douglas) Dowd of St. Louis, MO; David (Jeanne) Lambright of Mattawan; Catherine (Richard) Laton of Orange County, CA; Susie (Mark) Berggren of Chicago, IL; and Jennifer (Michael) Gilmour of Portage; his siblings Jim (Dottie) Lambright of Akron, OH and Rachel Shenigo of Lynchburg, VA; ten grand children and numerous beloved cousins, nieces and nephews across the country. He will be missed greatly.
Visit with family and friends while sharing food and drinks on Friday from 5-8 p.m. at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where services will be held Saturday at 12:00. A luncheon will follow the services in the Life Story Center. Please visit Bill’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Calvert Catholic High School General Education Fund or Hydro Program at WMU c/o WMU Dept of Geology.