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Life Story / Obituary
With a ready smile and a generous heart, Jo Anne McCrumb embraced each day as a gift and every person as a friend. Jo was intelligent, witty, and wise. She possessed a great sense of humor and an inspiring sense of adventure. She believed in living authentically and being the space for others to do so as well. Whether celebrating life’s joys or facing its hardships, Jo embraced every moment with unwavering faith and gratitude. As a devoted mother, grandmother, and friend, Jo proved an inspiration to all who were blessed to know her. Treasured by many, her beautiful legacy of wholehearted living will long be remembered and celebrated by those she loved.
1946 was a year marked by much celebration and hope. With the victorious end of World War II, families listened to the celebratory tunes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and the Andrews Sisters. At the same time, children delighted in the debut of the slinky. While the nation relished in a renewed sense of peace and newfound hope, even greater promise for the future was celebrated by Donald and Helen (Miller) McCrumb as they welcomed their daughter, Jo Anne, to their family on December 5th.
Jo’s father, a WWII veteran, worked for AT&T in communications, and her mother was a school teacher before choosing to dedicate herself fulltime to motherhood. Growing up in the Lansing area during the ’50s, Jo and her brothers, Jock and Jed, attended Grand Ledge Public Schools. She and Jock walked a mile to a little one-room school for three years. From the start, Jo and her brothers shared a friendship that would last their entire lives. They participated in 4-H, rode rodeo, showed horses, and encouraged each other in every way.
After completing her junior year in Grand Ledge, the family moved to Vicksburg, where Jo quickly and easily made friends. She played clarinet in the high school marching band, pitched for the softball team, and even though she was only a Bulldog for a year, she was elected Fall Homecoming Queen in 1964. Jo always had a deep sense of adventure and a willingness to pursue her dreams. She participated in several mission trips during her high school and college years.
Jo proudly graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1965. She then attended Western Michigan University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in liberal arts. Over the years, she worked for several companies, including ROLM communication systems and Western Michigan University. Jo enjoyed setting up the complicated phone systems and training employees on how to use them. She enjoyed her years at WMU in communications setting up and maintaining the university’s telecommunications systems. After many years of a great career, Jo retired from WMU.
Involved in various church groups In high school and college, Jo’s faith was the firm foundation upon which she consciously built her life. She was a woman who embodied the principles of her faith and never hesitated to serve others. In her earlier years, she was a member of the United Methodist Church in Vicksburg. After moving to Kalamazoo, she joined Unity of Kalamazoo where she was highly involved.
It was through church that Jo met and came to know her husband, Jeff Smith. For over 20 years, Jo and Jeff built a life together centered around their two children, Troy and Amy. As a natural caretaker, Jo created a loving and encouraging home for her children. Troy had many health issues as a child, and Jo ensured his well-being at every turn. While direct and firmly rooted in her principles, Jo never yelled at her kids. A fact that is still remembered by her son today. She knew what she wanted, what she would tolerate, and what she wouldn’t. She insisted on respect and granted it as well. As the voice of reason, she guided her kids with wisdom, love, and unwavering faith in their greatness.
Jo enjoyed spending time outdoors and readily shared this passion with her family. She kept her childhood horses, and one of her ponies, Dandy, lived well into his 40’s. It was a special treat for Jo to watch her children enjoying her special equine companions’ good company during their childhoods, even when it meant having them chase after the horses on more than one occasion when they got loose. The family enjoyed time on their boat in the summers and taking vacations to the Upper Peninsula, where they stayed in a cabin on Lake Michigan near the Mackinac bridge. One night a week was always date night for Jo and Jeff, and another night was always reserved for friends as they were very social.
Even though Jo and Jeff eventually divorced, they always got along well. They remained strong support for one another and their children, continuing to celebrate special events and holidays together. Without complaint, Jo also cared for her daughter, Amy, when she became sick. Jo lovingly tended to Amy every day until she died in 2015. Despite growing health challenges that came with a long battle with COPD, Jo lived each moment to the fullest, determined to enjoy the time she had with the people she loved. One special memory she helped create was taking a family trip to Disney World the first Christmas after Jeff died. Though her health challenges were growing, and she rode a scooter most of the time, she took advantage of being able to make the trip with her family, including Troy’s mother-in-law.
A creative spirit, Jo always found beauty in life. She made beautiful stained-glass windows and jewelry boxes, often working with a family friend. Her kids enjoyed watching her score, cut the glass, and create delightful patterns. She loved the open road, riding in convertibles, renting vacation houses on various lakes, and traveling to spend time visiting friends. In her younger years, she went scuba diving, white water rafting, and traveled to Costa Rica with Troy. She relished being a grandmother and never missed an opportunity to share time with Alex and Faith, especially when attending their plays, ceremonies, and special events. For many years, she cherished frequent gatherings with her close group of friends affectionately named DaGroup, who were major supporters in her life. She enjoyed gathering together on holidays and special events with her family, and she was considered a very important part of the family of Troy’s wife, Shannon. Jo also shared a special friendship with her constant canine companion, Baxter. For over 16 years, they were two peas in a pod.
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Jo’s bright and beautiful presence. May we find comfort in our many wonderful memories and the honor of carrying her legacy forward. With each moment we pursue our dreams, greet the day with a smile, envelop others with acceptance with joy, and treasure the time we have with those we love, we celebrate the many ways Jo gifted our lives. In doing so, we keep her spirit alive and inspire others as she so inspired us.
Jo Anne McCrumb, of Kalamazoo, age 73, died on May 25, 2020. Jo was preceded in death by her parents and her daughter, Amy Piper. Surviving are her son: Troy (Shannon) Smith; grandchildren: Alex and Faith; siblings: Jock McCrumb, Jed (Linda) McCrumb; and nieces and nephews. A private gathering will take place with burial at Vicksburg Cemetery. Visit Jo’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Unity of Kalamazoo. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.