Over eighty years ago , John F. Donovan founded Donovan Funeral Home in downtown Kalamazoo, and years later, moved the business to a historic mansion at 447 W. South Street. Roy Betzler purchased Donovan's in 1975, working with John's nephew, Charles. Ten years later Roy moved the business to the current, modern, single-story facility on Stadium Drive. In 1991, Roy's son Scott joined the firm. The family expanded their service to the community in 1999, when they bought the Thompson & Hawley Funeral Home in Paw Paw, and renamed it the Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home. In February of 2006 the physical form of The Life Story Experience was built – The Life Story Center. “It’s truly an extension of your home and doesn’t feel or look like a funeral home”, says Scott Betzler. This unique space allows families to hold services and receptions all under one roof.
Roy BetzlerLife Story Funeral Director
1944 - 2019
With deep compassion, warm hospitality, and a commitment to excellence, Roy Betzler lived a life rich in family and service to others. A great listener, Roy had a gift for knowing how to interject just the right humor into the seriousness of daily life. He could quickly read people and meet folks right where they were with encouragement, kindness, and comfort. A simple man, though Roy enjoyed nice things, he did not live lavishly. He was a perfectionist who took pride in providing the highest caliber of service, never missing a critical detail. Though his expectations were high, he also understood the importance of balance; he worked hard, and he played hard. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, friend, and servant to his community, Roy’s passion and good care will long live in the hearts and lives of those he loved.
As the nation looked toward peace in 1944 after WWII, Roy Aloysius and Edna Leota (Gable) Betzler Sr. celebrated their own hopes for the future as they welcomed their son Roy into their hearts and home on August 29 in Highland Park, Michigan. At the time of Roy’s birth, his father was serving in the Army Air Corp during WWII. After the war, Roy Sr. provided for the family by working in the automotive department at Montgomery Ward’s in Detroit where he sold tires and automotive supplies. Roy’s mother was a homemaker who lovingly raised the kids and created a secure and supportive home where the boys knew the deep comfort of being unconditionally loved. The Betzler home was a multi-generational home. Edna’s parents and Roy Sr.’s mother lived with them while Roy was a baby. Additionally, Roy’s parents rented out two of their bedrooms to supplement the family’s income for a time.
The oldest of the Betzler boys, Roy enjoyed the good company of his younger brothers. Twins Gary and Larry, Ralph, Thomas, and Dennis provided plenty of opportunities for Roy to hone his natural leadership qualities over the years. Many an hour of playtime was spent with his brothers and friends playing sandlot baseball and football, or hockey in the street or on the frozen pond. The family also enjoyed many summer vacations at Houghton Lake. Unfortunately, in 1952, the family suffered a deep loss when Tommy died of polio. In 1963, the family suffered an additional loss when Roy Sr. died. With signature resolve, Edna began working at K-Mart to provide for her herself and her boys.
Like many young men of the time, Roy had a paper route for the Detroit Shopping News and the Detroit Times. He found a taste for White Castle hamburgers, stopping after his route, which fueled a lifetime addiction to them. After graduating from Detroit Cathedral High School in 1962, Roy started college in computer programming. For a time, he took a job at the local hospital, but quickly realized he wanted more interaction with people and decided to pursue a career as a Funeral Director, graduating from Wayne State University.
While attending college, Roy met his first wife and mother of his four children, Bruce, Trisha, Scott, and Laura. He doted over Laura, nicknaming her “Curly” and “Little Butt.” He shared his love of gambling, cars, golfing and fishing with his boys. He enjoyed watching his girls swim meets, college tours and house hunting with Trisha, and teaching Laura to drive a stick shift. He was always deeply grateful for his greatest gift, his children.
Roy purchased Donovan Funeral Home in Kalamazoo in 1975 and began the family business. With the struggle of being a small business owner, he joked to his daughter, Trisha, that she’d be taking over the business and could turn it into a roller rink or pizza parlor. In 1989, Scott joined the business followed by Bruce in 1991. Roy was tremendously proud to have his sons at his side. With continued growth, Thompson Funeral Home in Paw Paw was purchased. While embracing traditional family values, Roy was also a pioneer and influenced change in the funeral industry.
After an introduction through a mutual friend, Roy met Rosalie Buck. Very much interested in courting her, Roy found ways to make conversation, eventually leading to their first date at Great Lakes Shipping Company, igniting a romance that led to him proposing on Valentine’s Day. The pair were married on May 3, 1997. Throughout their marriage, Roy loved showering Rose with his affections. He doted on his “Little Rosalie”, making sure they made the most of their days together. Every night since the day they were married, Roy would ask Rosalie to scratch his back; without fail she honored his request and scratched his back for 23 years.
A man of many interests with a perpetual drive to be of service, Roy was rarely idle. He practiced and explored his faith as a member of St. Augustine Cathedral, the Knights of Columbus, and several service clubs. He served as Past President of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association and enjoyed his relationships with his colleagues. With much happiness in having his sons succeed him in the family business, Roy retired in 2008.
Roy’s special niche was planning trips. He enjoyed finding new places and painstakingly researched locations, rental options, and things to do. Over the years, Roy and Rose took in the splendor of Alaska, the entertainment of Las Vegas, and traveled to most of the states visiting family and friends. They sailed the oceans on many cruises and explored Europe. Despite Roy’s careful planning, they once arrived in Austria on a Sunday only to find everything closed! While traveling they fell in love with Palm Springs which became their winter getaway. He loved telling the story of it snowing in the California mountains and people making snowmen in the back of their trucks and driving them through Palm Springs until they melted.
Roy enjoyed RV camping on Crooked Lake in Kalkaska where he dreamed of building a log cabin, but the lake dried up. He took many fishing trips to Canada, where he especially enjoyed a good blackberry brandy. Though Roy would also go hunting with friends, the trips were far more about eating, drinking and playing cards. They also purchased a pontoon boat, named the “R & R’s”, and spent many days on local lakes where Roy would fish and Rose would read and sunbathe.
In retirement, Roy spent a year building a custom O-Gauge train set in his basement, paying meticulous attention to the landscaping and details. Other hobbies included golf and gambling. He became very good at poker, playing twice a week at home with friends. He simply loved the ambiance of the casinos and was known to be very social, staying up all night to enjoy the atmosphere. Trips to Las Vegas became an annual highlight with Roy and his brothers. Monday’s at Four Winds Hartford was his regular hangout where he fed the slots and video poker machines.
Car shows and car cruises with his brothers evolved into gambling trips, great fun, shenanigans, and trips to the burger joint. Roy enjoyed his 1950 blue Ford Convertible with his brothers and lifelong friend, Matt Lee. Roy could also be found watching Fox News or Tom Brokaw, as well as the Detroit Red Wings or Tigers, while snacking on peanut M & M’s.
Roy’s greatest joy was his family. He was a proud father and grandfather who often expressed his love and gratitude and would do anything for his grandchildren. He loved spending time with family, reminiscing, and sharing stories of growing up in the best of times with the best of brothers. Roy said it best, “For years on special occasions, mom and dad would go all out and buy a $5.99 bottle of Mogen David. Every year we continue the tradition in our family. Every time someone passes on, we toast to them.”
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Roy’s steadfast presence. While we mourn the loss of our beloved patriarch and friend, may we be comforted to know that we carry the best of his legacy in our hearts and lives. With each line we cast, witty response and prank we pull, compassionate listening we offer, and comfort we provide, we celebrate Roy’s beautiful, heart-centered life. In doing so, we keep his spirit alive and inspire others as he so inspired us.
Roy Aloysius Betzler Jr., age 74, died unexpectedly on Thursday, February 21, 2019, in Palm Springs, CA. Roy was born on August 29, 1944, in Highland Park, the son of Roy Sr. and Edna (Gable) Betzler. Roy was preceded in death by his brothers: Tommy, Gary, Ralph, and Larry as well as Rose's son, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Robert "Bobby" Hunt, whom Roy was especially fond of. Surviving are his wife of 23 years, Rosalie; Roy’s children: Bruce (Sharon) Betzler, Trisha (Ron) Pemberton, Scott (Julie) Betzler and Laura Betzler; 12 grandchildren; 2 great-granddaughters; brother, Dennis “Bucky” (Jo) Betzler; Rosalie’s children: Susan Howell; Ryan (Dawn) Wilson and Brett Wilson (Logan Ambrose) and many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and drinks from 4-8 PM on Thursday (Feb. 28) at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900, where a Time of Sharing will be held at 8 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 AM on Friday (Mar. 1) at St. Augustine Cathedral. Burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery followed by a lunch in the Cathedral Center. Please visit Roy’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo of him and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Beagleopen.org or Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Scott BetzlerLife Story Funeral Director
Though he was born in the Detroit area, Kalamazoo is the place Scott Betzler calls home. He moved there in 1975 at the young age of five, accompanied by his parents and his elder siblings. The family lived above the Betzler and Donovan Funeral Home downtown on South Street, where Scott's parents ran the business. However, his primary interest as a young man was not the family business; instead, it was the game of golf. Scott played throughout his high school years, the freshman year of which he spent at Hackett Catholic Central. He then transferred to Kalamazoo Central High School, graduating in 1988. At Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Scott earned an associates degree, continuing to work on his golf game with the KVCC team.
Although Scott had grown up surrounded by the funeral profession, it was not until he began working for his father at the age of 18 that he really began to take interest in it as a career option. Working part-time at the funeral home allowed Scott the chance to witness exactly what it was that his father did. He flooded his father with questions, the answers to which inspired him to follow in the same direction. Scott decided to put his golf clubs into storage (temporarily) to pursue a degree in Mortuary Science from Wayne State University. By 1991 he had graduated, and was eager to begin his professional career.
As a welcomed addition to his father's funeral home, Scott was given the responsibility of managing both the funeral homes. One event that helped Scott identify with grieving families was the death of his close friend, Don Stone. Not only was the loss of his friend (who had been his golf partner and attorney) an emotional experience for Scott, it was also a life-changing event. It allowed him to truly see himself in each of the grieving family members he met. Scott still thinks of Don often, and his appreciation for life has inspired him to make his work more about the celebration of life than the loss of it.
Scott has seen the healing effect the Life Story Network® provides. It has completely changed the way he himself is able to serve grieving families. The positive reactions he receives from those who use the Life Story service are overwhelming, and give him the kind of reassurance he needs to work continually in an emotionally sensitive field.
Outside of his time as a Life Story Funeral Director, Scott remains committed to serving the community. He has sat on the board of directors and volunteers with the Kalamazoo Humane Society and is the founder of Precious Pets, Pet Cremation & Burial Services. Scott has a faithful companion (a Golden Retriever) named Hollie, who accompanies him daily to the funeral home as a therapy dog.
Scott and his wife Julie, who works as a RN, live on Paw Paw Lake in Mattawan with their two children: son Cooper (10) and daughter, Camryn (5). As a family they enjoy spending time on the water, exploring the outdoors and wilderness, bonfires, and snow skiing. And of course, Scott spends any of his remaining time at his second home - the golf course.
Joe BuysseLife Story Funeral Director
Joe was born at a very early age in Lapeer Michigan, but family lore has that he was found in an old chicken coop down by the creek. His childhood was pretty normal for being the youngest of five: survival, and trying to figure out which nickname he currently was required to answer to from his siblings. He has been working since the age of 12, and fate had it that on his last day of high school, he landed a summer job at the local funeral home taking care of the grounds.
During college, Joe landed employment at a funeral home and earned his cub-undertaking badge from a very caring and patient man who had schooled many young people over the years in the art of small town funeral directing. He eventually earned a Bachelor's degree from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. While living in Cincinnati, Joe met the future Mrs. Buysse. She was young, artistic and had the looks of the "little red headed girl" from the comic strip Peanuts. He eventually won her heart over and swept her off her feet to a storybook wedding on July 2, 1988.
Joe and his wife Jenny have lived in St. Bernard, Ohio, Columbiaville and Lapeer, Michigan and since 1997 in Portage, Michigan . His family also includes their son Adam and their daughter Emily-Jo. Because of the long and sometimes "non traditional" hours required by funeral service, much of Joe's free time is dedicated to being at home with his family.
Joe believes in giving back to the community in which he lives and that is one of the reasons he belongs to the Kalamazoo Sunrise Kiwanis. He is also a member of Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.Life Story Funeral Homes® has given him the opportunity, or permission, to serve families in a creative way that makes the funeral experience more meaningful and helpful to individuals and the communities in which he serves.
One of the best parts of Joe's job is inspiring people to take control of the funeral of their loved ones and making it personable and meaningful to them. If he fails in this task, all of the wonderful things that Life Story Network® provides would not have the same impact. Being a funeral director is a sacred job and Joe takes all of his responsibilities with utmost importance. He is very passionate about funeral service and has great enthusiasm for the path that Life Story Network® is taking to shape the future of the funeral profession. He is proud to be a Life Story Funeral Director® and to work for Betzler Life Story Funeral Home. Life Story Network® will only enhance Joe's abilities and talents to help change the outlook and future of funeral service, one family at a time.
Patrick BauschkeLife Story Arranger
Patrick takes advantage of opportunities. He'll tell you there are always unknowns, fears, and anxiety when you take a chance but that the best experiences of his life have been born from the most unexpected opportunities. Like the Marines, the Pentagon, Germany, and love. Pat says his life would be fine having said "no" to any of these, but instead, is significantly enhanced for taking a chance. Plus, by doing so he feels blessed for being able to positively influence the lives of others along the way.
When the offer to join Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes came along Patrick was the Branch Manager for Lake Michigan Credit Union's downtown Kalamazoo office. He says he never expected he'd join the funeral profession but is proud and excited for the opportunity.
Patrick's first job was working at Big Apple Bagel during high school. From there he moved on to First Community Federal Credit Union where he started as a teller and was promoted to Member Service Representative and then to Branch Manager. Patrick enjoyed the challenges of hiring, training and coaching a team for success.
Patrick was born and raised in Kalamazoo. He grew up in Parkview Hills where he spent a lot of time swimming in the pool, fishing in the lake, and playing pool at the club. He graduated with honors from Loy Norrix High School and went on to Kalamazoo Valley Community College. His real education, he says, came from the United States Marine Corps where he earned rank and recognition quickly. His first deployment was to Port au Prince, Haiti on a humanitarian mission. Then to Iraq where his mission was to provide route and convoy security. From there he was assigned to the Pentagon where he served as an event speaker with the ‘Why We Serve' program for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. That lead to an opportunity to be the Logistics Coordinator for a Joint Civilian Orientation Conference where he escorted 80 civilians and public opinion leaders on a tour of U.S. bases overseas, including stops in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Djibouti. During his time in Washington, D.C. Patrick had the honor of meeting General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and George W. Bush, President of the United States.
Patrick is a member of Southridge Reformed Church where he volunteers as a lighting designer for services. Christmas 2014 was his first major service to rig and program, which led to his friend and mentor asking if he'd join him on a lighting project in Germany. Patrick said yes, having no idea what it would entail, much less how to pay for. Three months later they were in Erfurt, Germany as part of the production team for a worldwide Youth Leadership Conference.
In his spare time, Patrick enjoys photography as a hobby and also "plugs away" at ancestry, saying, "that where we came from is important and helps us understand who we are and why." He builds on the research done by family members from previous generations, but today has the benefit of technology and the online availability of family records.
Patrick is definitely a "glass is half full" type of guy. "I try to live my life by simple rules," he says. "Do what's right, which is not necessarily what's popular. And treat others with respect." His granddad's mission in life was to make people smile. Patrick tries to live by that philosophy too.
HollieRegistered Therapy Dog
September 2001 - February 2018
As far as Therapy Dogs go, Hollie was a born natural. She lent her sweet temperament to anyone needing a friendly paw. If you ever visited Hollie at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, you probably know she was the first to greet you at the door…and the first to show you her favorite treat jar. As a Therapy Dog, she brought comfort to our entire community, and in those moments, she soothed the souls of special individuals. You could say that her family was much larger than the Betzler’s. It was everyone! She never said no or acted out. Hollie knew her mission was simply to love everyone and love often. In her younger years she was quite the ball of energy, enjoying afternoons Captaining the boat with dad or leisurely picking up rocks found just about anywhere. Later, as she gracefully aged, she did what any good retiree does. She kept coming to work every day. After all, she had to train her baby sister, Ellie. Together, they made quite the pair weaving through peoples legs at visitations, enjoying plentiful belly rubs, and bringing calm and comfort to those who needed them most. Kids and adults all showed their affection. Hollie was a local celebrity in her own right. But for a special few, she was family. Hollie was the oldest daughter of the Betzler’s and helped look after Cooper and Camryn. She took her baby sitting duties very seriously, almost never laying down on the job unless it was under a crib during nap time. She’d play dress-up, even at work reluctantly, but no matter what she did Hollie made sure everyone was smiling while doing it. This Golden beauty, a part of so many lives with a heart unmatched in love, leaves a legacy like no other. All of our love goes with you Hollie. Thank you for the 16 unbelievable years!!!
It’s been said that there’s nothing like a sweet little puppy to warm your heart on a cold day. And that’s exactly what I was, the last one and the smallest one to be born in a litter of ten beautiful English Golden Retriever puppies. It was February 21, 2015, a cold winter day in Lansing, MI, the Capitol City in the middle of Michigan’s great ‘Winter Wonderland’. It was an exciting day for me and my parents. My dad was Sir Brody Maximus and my mom was Lady Lily of the Valley.
They say I was special from the moment I was born. Of all of my siblings, five brothers and four sisters, I was the baby. Plus, I was tiny. There was something else about me, too, so I’m told. My sisters and brothers didn’t quite know what it was about me but they all felt I was exceptional and bound for a career of service to others. The breeders at the kennel nicknamed me “Tink”, short for Tinkerbell. My sisters and I were all named for Disney Princesses! I like thinking I’m a princess.
As soon as I was old enough I became part of the Betzler family. Julie, Cooper, and Camryn searched for me, found me, and gave me to Scott for his birthday, eventually renaming me Ellie. And thus, a new legend of Betzler family lore began. I love my family, and I especially loved my big sister, Hollie. I started going to work at the funeral home with Hollie and Scott every day, either to the Kalamazoo location or the Paw Paw funeral home. I learned from Hollie how important the work of a therapy dog is. Hollie showed me the ropes and taught me the tricks of the trade, hoping that one day she could retire feeling good about me taking over her work.
I would sometimes I have trouble paying attention, but I learned fast—especially where the treat jar is! And that being cute gets me more treats! I completed my training, but I learned so much more from Hollie about what is expected of me at the funeral home and how important good behavior is! Basking in the attention I get from families and guests at the funeral home is one of my favorite things. Scott teases me about that.
You’ll notice I’m whiter in color than Hollie was. That’s because I’m an English Golden. People tell me our personalities are the same, though! I think they mean I’m sweet, patient, gentle, affectionate, outgoing and social. I enjoy making friends and I do try hard to please them. I hope that I will be a caring and uplifting presence for people at the funeral home. Though I have a lot to live up to, I think Hollie would be proud of me.
Service is defined as helping, assisting others. For Sue Wunderlich, there is nothing more important than provide the highest level of service possible. Working for Life Story Funeral Homes – Betzler gives Sue the opportunity to offer grieving families the caring service that they need.
Sue’s story begins in the town of Paw Paw, Michigan, where she grew up as the youngest of four children. With three older brothers and just four years separating them all, Sue learned at an early age that sports were going to play a big part in her life. Her dad was the president of the local Little League and coached all four kids on their baseball teams and taught them all to play golf. For Sue, just being outdoors was fun. From climbing trees, wandering through the woods and swimming at “the lake” in warm weather to sledding and snowmobiling in the winter, Sue was always on the go. Nowadays, she’s found a new hobby (or fetish), collecting Longaberer. Sue has her mother to thank for that. The two take bus trips every-other year to Dresden, OH (“the Longaberger capital of the world”) and shop ‘til they drop!
From 1985 to 1989, Sue attended Paw Paw High School graduating in 1989. While in high school she was immersed in sports. Those four years were filled with studying, playing basketball, softball, and running track. Davenport University was the next stop on Sue’s path where she earned her degree in Accounting.
The year 2000 found Sue achieving a new goal, starting as secretary/receptionist for Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes. According to Sue, “In funeral service no day is ever the same, with more experience - the more knowledge I have”. Sue is now the office manager.
All of this experience and knowledge is what makes Sue the caring person that she is. Her mission at Betzler’s is to do as much as she can for each family, so that they may grieve in their own personal way. With honesty and integrity, Sue does just that. She appreciates that Life Story Funeral homes celebrate the life that has been lived, honoring the memories and legacies that will be passed down from generation to generation.
Sue now lives at Eagle Lake in Kalamazoo with her life partner, Margo, and her two cats, Birdie and Homie. Sports are still a big part of her life as she plays golf every week and she takes great pleasure spending time with family and friends. Oh yes, and cheering for the University of Michigan Wolverines and enjoying a good tail-gate party.
Kristin WalkerOffice Manager
Born on July Fourth, Kristin had no shortage of memorable birthdays growing up in Kalamazoo. A bookworm from an early age, her love of reading has remained a constant throughout her life. While attending Loy Norrix High School, she began her first job at Bob Evans Restaurant in 2005, where she befriended coworker John, whom she later married in 2014. Kristin went on to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University and majored in Psychology and English. She enjoys music from the 1940’s to the 90’s, travels at every opportunity and researches her genealogy along the way. She lives with her husband Johnny, daughter MJ, and cat, Kitten, in Paw Paw. In her free time, she can be found reading, taking photos, and enjoying time at home. Her friends and family would describe her as a creative and enthusiastic french-fry fueled perfectionist who dances like Elaine on Seinfeld.
Kristin works primarily in the office; she began working at Betzler in 2017 but it didn’t take her long to realize that she wanted to make it permanent. She considers it an honor to be in a position to serve families throughout their grief. She is passionate about helping others and enjoys every opportunity to use her creative skills. She appreciates that Betzlers continually breaks the mold and new ground by helping families honor their loved ones in a way that resonates with them. Everyone’s story has value and Kristin believes the Life Story experience is truly a gift to future generations. While researching her family tree she often thinks how incredible it would be to stumble on a Life Story of a great grandparent. “The team here does it so well, it’s really a privilege to be a part of the process.