Life Story Visitation
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Life Story / Obituary
Generous, kind, and trustworthy, Jason Rutgers was an honorable man who lived a life rich in family and friends. Though a man of few words, when Jason chose to speak, he always did so with great thought, carefully choosing his words and conveying them with value and meaning. He was a trustworthy confidant who listened with compassion and honored people’s privacy. Quick to lend his time and talents to those in need, Jason showed incredible kindness to everyone. Whether interacting with a lifelong friend, family member, customer, neighbor, or stranger, he was always gentle, kind, compassionate, and caring. His great joy was helping others learn, encouraging their goals, and witnessing their success. A devoted husband, father, son, and friend, Jason inspired all who were blessed to know him. Though our days with him were far too few, every moment shared with Jason was a gift we shall long treasure.
1976 was a year of celebration and fanfare! From coast to coast, the United States celebrated the 200th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence with Bicentennial flair. Nadia Comaneci inspired worldwide fervor and hope in the impossible with an unprecedented seven perfect scores during the Summer Olympics, while Jim Henson’s Muppet Show first took stage in our family living rooms, inspiring unexpected delight for many. Meanwhile, Apple Computer Company officially came to fruition, and the $2.00 bill was first printed. Families often enjoyed the weekly laughter-filled entertainment in popular shows like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three’s Company. During this time of excitement and hope, Ronald and Ronda (Spann) Rutgers welcomed their son Jason into their family on December 29 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
An only child, Jason’s mom describes him as a perfect baby. He slept through the nights right away and had a gentle, peaceful personality. He was close with his cousins, who called him Cousinbro. From an early age, Jason possessed a call to adventure and was always looking for something to do. He enjoyed being outside hunting salamanders, going for walks with his parents or aunts and uncles, and going to the drag races with his dad, which inspired his passion for working on cars. He also enjoyed going butterflying with his mom and hiking many Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserves (SWMLC).
In his mid-twenties, Jason had the good fortune of meeting the love of his life, Suzee Greydanus, when they were introduced to one another by one of his closest friends, Zach. Jason liked her taste in cars; she owned an old VW Beetle, and Suzee thought immediately he was quite hilarious but also an extremely respectful guy. In time, her parents and sisters were as close to him as his own family. With their hearts set on sharing the future, the happy couple married on October 27, 2001.
Jason and Suzee were blessed to welcome four sons to their family. Jason was a phenomenal dad who relished connecting with them. Tal, Calvin, Felix, and Koen were the centers of his world, and he ensured they grew up in a loving and supportive home. He embraced the role of the stay-at-home parent during the pandemic for the year and a half of virtual learning. He was observant, encouraging, and loving, and by his own example he taught them how to be good people. All of the boys were riding bikes on the trails at Fort Custer by the time they were three years old. Jason also taught many of his nieces and nephews to ride; the family also enjoyed riding at Maple Hill and on the Kal-Haven trail. Safety was key, and Jason always made sure everyone wore their bike helmets; he even bought helmets for kids and people who didn’t have them.
For many years, Jason worked at Breakaway Bicycles with many responsibilities including manager. His colleagues respected him for his integrity and humility. He believed anything worth doing was worth doing well and was always committed to excellence. Though he was very good at his job, he was never boastful. He liked staying busy, learning, and sharing what he knew with others. He also owned Cycle Works and Sports with his dad for a time. His dad received many compliments about his son and the effort he put into each client’s interaction. Jason recently returned to college to study Information Technology Support. He made sure he led by example for his kids and got all A’s.
A man who led with his heart in all things, Jason loved hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, traveling, and animals. Sharing all of these loves with his family was his joy. Having two grandfathers who earned medals during WWII, he became fascinated by WWII with a thirst for learning more about their experiences. He took a memorable trip to Germany with his mother and Suzee, fulfilling his dream of visiting key historical places and observing the architecture and cars he loved. It was a fabulous trip, and he’d hoped to return one day. He and Suzee shared their love for animals and poured their care into fostering many dogs, including those that were blind or deaf. They helped bring the nonprofit, Speak for the Unspoken, to West Michigan and enjoyed taking the dogs to Meadow Run Dog Park. They fostered fifty-two dogs together, tending to their special needs and helping ensure they found safe, happy, forever homes.
Jason’s respect for animals led to his commitment to eating a vegan diet. He enjoyed exploring vegan restaurants and never missed an opportunity to frequent Big Burrito with friends. His friends were as close as family, and the conversations they shared were often deep and profound. Jason’s quiet and dry sense of humor often inspired surprised laughter. Once, while teaching Suzee’s sister, Beth, how to juggle he suggested she start with chainsaws because the stakes were higher. Another instance, after Suzee told him flowers were a cheesy gift, instead of giving her roses he bought her cheese from then on.
The perfect size for a perfect hug, Jason took good care of those closest to him. He could talk with anyone, and his friendly personality and care with words made people feel comfortable in his company. He loved working on Volkswagens and was meticulous with their care. Though he was known to swear while working on them, he relished in the challenge of keeping them in great shape. Even in the face of his own struggles, Jason was quick to focus on others. While going through chemotherapy, he and his son earned all the medallions for hiking all of the SWMLC preserves together.
Steadfast, loving, loyal, and kind, Jason embodied the principles he believed in. He welcomed each moment as a gift and treated every person as a friend. In Jason’s good company, everyone knew they were safe, valued, and supported. Clearly, life feels less certain in the absence of Jason’s companionship. As we face the uncertainties, may we find comfort in our many treasured memories and in the honor of carrying his legacy forward. In each moment, we listen with our hearts, choose our words carefully, offer ourselves in service of others, cheer on others’ endeavors, and persist in being kind, we celebrate the many ways Jason gifted our lives. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired each of us.
Jason Rutgers, of Kalamazoo, age 45, died on December 23, 2022. Surviving are his wife, Suzee; children: Tal, Calvin, Felix, and Koen; his parents; beloved cousins who knew him as Cousinbro; sisters in law who became his own sisters; and his father and mother in law. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation on Friday (JAN 6) from 4-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, 269-375-2900. Visit Jason’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories and photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Speak for the Unspoken (Ohio Chapter) or Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.