Life Story Visitation
Monday, August 7, 2023
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where food, drinks, and stories are shared.
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
Jim Will lived his life to the fullest. Social and outgoing, he made many lasting friendships over the years. As much as he savored his career, his greatest love was his family. Nothing brought him greater joy than the moments he spent with them. Jim will be remembered for his genuine kindness and will be deeply missed by his special friends and loved ones.
In the year 1939, Lou Gehrig retired from the New York Yankees, the much-loved classic film, The Wizard of Oz held its Hollywood premiere, and the first commercial air flight crossed the Atlantic Ocean. On February 29th of that same year, Bill and Margaret (Hoekstra) Will welcomed home their newborn son, James, in Ionia, Michigan. Joining his older brother, Rodger, his birth brought much happiness to the family home.
Growing up, Jim lived a typical childhood of the times. He was always active and on the go. Participating on the basketball team in high school was surely a highlight. After graduating with the Class of 1957 from Kalamazoo Central High School, he pursued his interests at Western Michigan University. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Pulp and Paper Technology, he began his career selling chemicals to local paper mills. Jim had a natural way with people, making his work with the public a great fit. Hardworking and ambitious, he had a successful career that gave him a sense of pride as well as provided for his family.
While raising his kids, Jim traveled often for work but made sure to come home and spend weekends with his family. He was always encouraging to his kids and supported their many endeavors. He and his son, Ryan, enjoyed running in countless 5K and 10K races over the years. Jim entered several races well into his retirement years, earning several medals and awards. Between races, he enjoyed working out at the local YMCA. Being a member of the Y for over forty remarkable years meant that nearly everyone there knew him as soon as he walked through the door!
Through mutual friends, Jim met his second wife, Vonnie. She knew right away when he made her laugh that he had a wonderful sense of humor and that was all she needed! Jim and Vonnie made a beautiful life together. Once he finally retired in 1998 from Callaway Chemical which later became Exxon, then Vulcan, Jim liked spending his days golfing or at the pool in Florida. He looked forward to the annual South Haven outing with his children and grandchildren, which would often end with pizza and a few PBR’s or Miller Genuine Drafts. A lover of the sun, he and Vonnie also wintered in Florida. They never regretted their decision to purchase their own place in The Sunshine State and made many lasting friendships in their new surroundings. When they returned back to Michigan, they were always eager to see the grandkids and visit the beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan. It was evident to all who knew him that spending time with his family meant the most to him.
In addition to his career, family, and sunshine, Jim enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. He particularly loved University of Michigan football! Whenever they were traveling or out and about town, if someone had a UofM shirt on, Jim would strike up a conversation. A lover of all animals, Jim adored the family’s pets over the years. Dogs were always referred to as Pooches and cats were always Putty Tats! A regular at local restaurants like Friends & Co. in Battle Creek or Wayside in Kalamazoo, Jim enjoyed cheap beer and conversation with anyone he ran into. His love of music never wavered and his all-time favorite song was Rocky Top by the Osborne Brothers. Above all else, he lived his life with optimism and joy in his heart.
Jim’s wonderful sense of humor could be noticed anytime he engaged with others. He loved to give people nicknames or pet names to show his affection and build relationships. People were a priority in his life, especially as he grew older and understood the true value of connecting with strangers and family alike! Each and every person who met him was considered a friend. His exceptional sense of humor, jokes, and laughter, will be his greatest legacies. He will be greatly missed. May Jim’s many special friends and loved ones be comforted in knowing that he is now at peace and may his wonderful collection of memories be eternal.
James Will, age 84, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, passed away peacefully on Friday, July 14, 2023, surrounded by his loving wife and three adoring children. Jim was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Rodger; and sister-in-law, Irene. Left to cherish his wonderful spirit are his wife, Yvonne “Vonnie”; children from his first marriage: Ryan (Charlotte Amaro) Will, Heather (Troy) Sloan, and Susan Will; stepsons: Devin and Derick Passafiume; grandchildren: Colton, Carter, Eric, Kylie, and Riley; and nephews: John, Martie, and Eddie.
Special thanks to his great walking partners, Deb, Darci, and Kristin, and the many special friends and neighbors who supported him in difficult times. Thanks also to the many doctors, nurses, and staff at Bronson Hospital who gave him such great care.
Cremation has taken place. A Life Story Celebration where food, drinks, and stories will be shared will be held Monday, August 7th from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Come casual and wear bright colors or a University of Michigan shirt, as this would delight Jim! Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or a charity of your choice. Visit Jim’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, or to sign Jim’s guestbook.