Life Story Celebration
Saturday, November 11, 2023
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
Life Story / Obituary
Intelligent, creative, and hard-working, Juanito Perez lived a life rich in faith, family, and friends. Juanito led with his heart, understanding that each moment was a gift and each encounter an opportunity to learn. He was a modern-day renaissance man who was always ready to give his best effort to a wide range of undertakings, adding to his knowledge and acquiring various skills to better his life and the lives of others. A gracious and outgoing host, Juanito knew how to make people laugh and feel welcome. A loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Juanito will long be remembered and so very missed.
In Almacen, Hermosa, Bataan, Philippines on March 8, 1941 Primitivo Tungol Perez and Apolonia Perez welcomed their son "Juanti" to their family. One of ten children, Juanito grew up surrounded by nature in a small fishing village. His father was a fishpond owner, and his mother was a schoolteacher. Humble and modest parents, they taught Juanito to work hard, study hard, and lead a generous life. Ambitious from a young age, he collected juice from palm trees to make into vinegar and weaved the leaves into mats that could be used for roofs or walls. Known as "Johnny" by his friends, Juanito enjoyed storytelling, singing songs and folk dancing with his siblings and friends from the village. Performing music and art was a passion that would follow Juanito throughout his life.
After graduating high school from the Jose Rizal Institute in Bataan in 1958, Juanito attended the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. In 1965, he earned his degree in medicine and came to the United States to complete his residency at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, specializing in internal medicine and gastroenterology. During the 1970s and 1980s, Juanito owned and managed his medical practice in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He then moved and practiced medicine at NavCare and was Medical Director at Samahan Medical Clinic in San Diego, California, until his retirement in 2007, when he returned to Kalamazoo, Michigan. He would return to Bataan often to not only visit loved ones, but also to give back to his community, providing much needed medical support and supplies as well as school supplies and scholarships to promising high school students.
A man of many interests, Juanito liked to paint, garden, cook, and design his own fashion. He eagerly shared his interests and creations with his friends at house parties and holiday gatherings and his vibrant personality made him a natural community builder. He'd regularly draw special designs on cards for his family and friends; it became part of his trademark, and a card wasn't the same without it. He held fashion shows where his family and friends would wear his fabulous creations and loved having live musicians at the events, all of which he planned to the fullest extent. At one of his luaus, the first 50 ladies who arrived were given a sash with a state name. With Juanito’s charisma and charm, the event became their own Miss America pageant.
A lifelong learner and generous teacher, Juanito attended art courses at Western Michigan University and also became an assistant professor for the Southwest Michigan Area Health Education Center (SMAHEC) program, teaching young doctors at Borgess Hospital. He taught Filipino folk dance for many years and was president of the Pilipino American Association of Southwest Michigan (PAASM) in Kalamazoo.
Juanito was an avid reader whose favorite authors included Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Eliot; some of the most celebrated and studied writers in history. His music tastes were eclectic. He loved Dolly Parton, Pavarotti, Cecilia Bartoli, Omara Portuondo, and Neil Diamond. If it was something he could dance to, of course he did exactly that! He was also a member of Saint Augustine Catholic Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He traveled the world with his wife, Josefina, and medical classmates. He enjoyed learning the history and cultures of the places he visited, including Israel, Egypt, and Nova Scotia. Israel was a favorite as he and Josefina renewed their wedding vows at Cana in the very place where Jesus turned water into wine.
The garden was Juanito's sanctuary. He enjoyed bird and butterfly watching, collecting roses, and harvesting his carefully tended vegetables. He continued gardening even through his final days. It brought him a sense of calm and comfort. Juanito possessed a persevering and hopeful spirit. Even after his stroke, which resulted in aphasia in 2017, he never stopped trying to express himself. His mind remained sharp, and he kept his enthusiasm for life. He worked diligently every day to get better. Without a doubt, Juanito's greatest happiness was his family. Seeing his grandchildren brought him tremendous joy. He never passed up an opportunity to hug them…or slip them a little extra cash.
Bright and beautiful Juanito's legacy of hard work, generosity, curiosity, and creativity will long live in the hearts of those he so dearly loved. A powerful role model, Juanito showed us in every moment how to live life to the fullest. Whether observing nature's splendors, creating art, tending to patients, guiding new doctors, dancing, entertaining, or sharing a meal with loved ones, Juanito thoroughly enjoyed life and encouraged others to do the same.
He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Josefina (Ruivivar) Perez from Legaspi, Albay, Philippines; children: Michael (Brenda) Perez, Christina (Scott) Campbell, and Melissa (Eric Resch) Perez; grandchildren: Jared, Jason, and Jenna Perez, Julia, John, and Maria Rose Campbell, Felix, Griffin, and Josefina Resch; siblings: Barbara (Perez) Gaza, Rosalina (Perez) Javier, Anita (Perez) Diolata, Dominador Perez, Estrella (Perez) Panagos.
Mass will be held Saturday, November 11, at 11:00 AM at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 1628 East G Ave., Kalamazoo. A reception will follow from 1:00 - 4:00 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900, where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. Visit Juanito's webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook.