Thursday, April 25, 2019
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and beverages will be served. The Rosary will be recited at 7pm.
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.
Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo - FBO St. Augustine School
1000 W Kilgore Rd
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
At the family's request please designate memorial donations towards St. Augustine Catholic School.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Josephine Ryan was a wise and kindhearted woman who was generous beyond compare. She took things as they came, never one to worry, and she encouraged others to do the same. Jo’s greatest joy was found in her family, and she was always there for whoever needed her in ways both great and small. She was a lifelong resident of the community she loved, and through her career she made a significant impact in the lives of those too numerous to count. Life will never be the same without Jo here, but she leaves a priceless collection of memories deeply imprinted on the hearts of many.
Nearly a century has passed since the deadly flu pandemic spread across the world in 1918, in the midst of WWI. When the United States and our allies were victorious in WWI, it was the first time our nation was seen as a world leader. It was during this eventful time that William and Blanche (Harrigan) Ryan announced the birth of the baby girl they named Josephine Ellen on November 9, 1919, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was one and a half years older than her brother, Daniel, and throughout their entire lives they were close. Jo’s earliest years were spent in Mattawan where her father owned Ryan General Grocery Store, and her mother’s family owned Harrigan Coal Company in Kalamazoo. When she was five, her family moved to Kalamazoo where they lived with her aunts and Jo helped raise her brother. She attended local schools and graduated from St. Augustine High School. From there Jo attended Kalamazoo College, St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame, and graduated from Western Teacher Normal College. It was also as a young woman that she joined the Catholic Daughters, a service organization, and became a lifelong member.
With her education behind her, Jo became a teacher at Hillside Middle School. Over the years she taught home economics and other subjects. Jo began her journey toward becoming a teacher as someone who loved school and enjoyed learning from the nuns. Her Aunt Emmie was a secretary at Kalamazoo College in the 1930s and was a large influence in Jo’s career path. Her work was a good fit and Jo didn’t miss a day of work in 35 years. She often said she would rather have a good martini than a day off! In fact, when she retired Jo had so much vacation time saved that she could have taken an entire year off before actually retiring. She didn’t do that, however, as she didn’t feel that would be fair.
Throughout her life Jo was all about family. One of her greatest gifts was to show others how to enjoy and appreciate your family. One of Jo’s greatest days was when her brother came home from the war in the Pacific. He was one of the last casualties, but went on to live a very fulfilling life. It has been said that Jo snuck whiskey to him while he was away at war, which made him very popular. She also volunteered at Fort Custer while he was away at war.
Jo was also the one to host holiday dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. She took great care in making these days so special, and her cooking was legendary. Everything was homemade from scratch, and even her grandnieces and grandnephews particularly looked forward to her meals with wide eyes and excitement as she never took shortcuts. Jo took such pride in being able to do this for her family.
Jo was always a bustle of activity. She was a world traveler who went to Ireland more than twenty-five times! One year she even spent the entire summer in Africa. Having been raised Catholic, Jo attended St. Augustine Cathedral where she was very involved with the funeral luncheons. She was a Eucharistic minister, helping others attend mass when they weren’t able to get there by themselves. For years, Jo took also communion to nursing homes. She was also an active member of her Cursillo Reunion Group. Her faith was always a cornerstone in her life, and she was a vital part of her church. She was a voracious reader and was usually in the midst of reading several books at one time. Though she was known for her cooking by many, she was also known as the Martini Lady as her signature cocktail was a staple part of her evening routine. As she got older and her fingers were no longer able to twist the cap off the bottles to make her drink, Jo kept a hammer and screwdriver handy for such occasions to puncture the bottle tops. She appreciated nature and liked watching and feeding the birds. Much of Jo’s time was filled with doing things for others, especially if there was cooking involved. She found such value in others and was so thankful for the people in her life, especially when she had visits from past colleagues and even the employees from Brookdale Assisted Living.
All who knew Josephine Ryan would agree that she was one of the most kind, generous, and gracious people around. She could always find the good in everyone and never had an unkind word to say. Jo was so thankful for everything in her life, and she never let life get the best of her. “What will be will be,” she would often say while gently patting your hand. Deeply loved by many, Jo will be forever missed.
Josephine Ellen Ryan, of Kalamazoo, died on April 19, 2019. Jo's family includes her nephew, Michael (Linda) Ryan; her 2 nieces: Katie (Don) Verkow, and Maggie Ryan; 1 grandniece, 1 grandnephew, 1 great grandnephew, 4 great grandnieces, and special friends, The Cavanaughs. Jo was preceded in death by her brother, Daniel Ryan; her sister-in-law, Annie Ryan; and her lifelong friend, Don O’Toole. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Thursday (APR. 25) from 5-7 p.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where the Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday (APR. 26) at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral, 542 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, with a luncheon to follow in the Crowley Center. Cremation will take place following the mass with burial at Riverside Cemetery at a later date. Please visit Josephine’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Augustine Catholic School Fund or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.