Sunday, September 16, 2018
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and refreshments 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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
To know Irene “Arkie” Tiller was to know a truly marvelous woman. A wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, who loved her family dearly, who found joy in the very essence of life itself, a woman who shared her goodness generously every day of her life. Irene brought the true meaning of love into the lives of all who had the extraordinary fortune of knowing her. Her positive, uplifting attitude will live on forever in the hearts of her children, her grandchildren, and all who passed her way along life’s journey.
Irene Tiller’s life began 90 years ago on the 11th day of June 1928. She was born in Kalamazoo, MI, to Carl Sr. and Maxine (Rushmore) Tarnow. Her parents owned Tarnow Dairy which meant, of course, that little Irene learned at an early age about the value of work and pitching in to help the family business. Early in the mornings, before school began, she would go with her father on the milk route and help deliver milk from house to house. Her dad had her driving the milk truck when she was probably only ten years old. This was so he could jump off the back of the truck to make the deliveries. Irene had a brother and two sisters that helped too and she was very close to them.
What was life like 90 years ago? Well, it was the age of the Roaring Twenties! Automobiles and telephones, the radio and motion pictures were the advances of the day. Along with new fashions and lifestyles like the “flappers” who danced the Charleston to the new music of the Jazz Age. It was an exciting time but little did Irene know delivering milk and growing up then what advances she would see throughout her lifetime. The technology for writing her life story today and putting it together with photos and having it available in print, digital film, and online would have been an impossibility.
Arkie went to Kalamazoo Central High School. She was known for having an outgoing personality and especially for her prowess as an outstanding speller. She could spell better than anybody and won several spelling bee contests. After high school, Irene went to Michigan State University and studied social work. This led to her working at the Kalamazoo Junior Court System for five years after college. Irene’s life took a wonderful turn when she fell in love with a handsome young man by the name of Carlton Tiller. Irene and Carlton dated and soon discovered they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. The happy couple was married in a beautiful ceremony on February 25th, in Kalamazoo at the Disciples of Christ Church. For their honeymoon, they headed to the sunny south on a delightful road trip to Florida.
Irene and Carlton started their own family in 1955 and brought their son Brad, a daughter Joyce, and another son, Tom, into the world to share their love. Irene and Carlton were active, involved parents that gave their children not only a solid upbringing but built wonderful memories of great times together as a family. They participated in scouting, they took their children on fun trips during spring breaks, they took them camping (real camping, meaning no hotels!) out west and out east as well. Add this to all the marvelous holiday dinners, birthday parties and celebrations that occurred at home and you have a childhood many families envy.
The family cottage on Eagle Lake is the home of even more fun memories of great times together. Irene loved being close to the lake, like bringing food to the water's edge and eating “lakeside”. Big bonfires with smores were always a mainstay. Food was important to Irene—she loved to cook and was an excellent one. Everything was homemade and tasty. Fortunately, she passed her cooking expertise on to her grandchildren, right along with her positive attitude!
Arkie had her own trademarks, you might say. Special little things that will always be remembered. One would be her contagious smile that immediately put people at ease. Another was that she was a good listener. It was easy for her to listen to you because she cared about you. That was Irene. Another one was the personal satisfaction she found in sending cards to family and friends, it was important to her and was always a treat for those who would receive them. She sent cards out for everything and never missed an event for a family member with her cards. It was amazing, a most special touch that people will long remember. She had an expression, too, that will live on—whenever she made a mistake she’d say “Oh, shucky-darn”! She coined it herself. Irene was extremely kind, it was natural for her and came from deep within. She always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything”.
Family was everything to Irene. She loved her husband, her children, and her grandchildren. She loved being with them and never passed up a chance to see them. Favorite times with Carlton were when the two of them would take off and head to the big lake, Lake Michigan. They enjoyed the drive over to South Haven and watching the boats. Often, she would make a little lunch to take along and they would stay late and watch the sunset. She enjoyed traveling to Arkansas to visit with their son, Brad, and up to Traverse City to see Tom and his family. And with Joyce living close to home Irene would attend every one of Joyce’s kid’s events. She never wanted to miss anything. Irene was extremely proud of all her grandchildren and loved each one of them dearly. Joyce’s dog, a golden doodle named Jazz, loved Irene too which was a treat for Irene as she always wanted a dog when she was growing up but never had one.
Irene had her own interests too. Specifically, Michigan State football and basketball, and the Detroit Tigers. It never mattered how late the games were on, she was a big fan and she stayed up to watch until the very end of the game and enjoyed talking over the games with her son-in-law, Mark. Big Band music was important to her too, and the dancing that went with it. She always had music on while she was cooking and also while eating outside. She got her love of music from her mother.
Irene was always active, always positive, never one to complain. On her 65th birthday, she went tubing! She had a great spirit about life and never wanted to miss out on anything. She was game to go out in the snow and build a snowman in the middle of winter or to go fishing on the lake in the summer when she was well into her 80’s. She loved pontoon rides and swimming with her hot pink bathing cap on. Irene Tiller loved life, loved sharing hers with family and friends, treasured every moment, and will be remembered always for her positive attitude, for her uplifting spirit, and for her love of life itself.
Irene “Arkie” Tiller of Kalamazoo, age 90, died peacefully on September 12, 2018 at Crystal Woods. She was born on June 11, 1928 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of Carl Sr. and Maxine (Rushmore) Tarnow. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in social work from Michigan State University, Irene enjoyed raising her children and later worked as a bookkeeper for Hickory Farms Stores then Okun Brothers Shoe Store. Irene was preceded in death by her loving husband of 59 years, Carlton. She is survived by 3 children: Brad (Carol) Tiller of Ft. Smith, AR, Joyce (Mark) Griffith of Mattawan and Tom (Elayne) Tiller of Huron, OH; 4 grandchildren: Meadow (Cullen) O’Brien, Evan Tiller, Tom (Jana) Griffith and Sara Griffith; a brother, Carl Tarnow; 2 sisters: Louise (Ed) Smith and Charlotte White; and many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Sunday from 5PM – 7PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900, where services will be held on Monday 11AM. Private burial will take place. Please visit Irene’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo of her and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or Crystal Woods Activity Department.