Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Bill Barnes

June 13, 1939 - April 11, 2021
Portage, MI



Tuesday, April 20, 2021
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900
Driving Directions

Mass of Christian Burial

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
St. Joseph Catholic Church
936 Lake Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Web Site


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.

Centrica Care Navigators
7100 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 345-0273
Driving Directions
Web Site

St. Joseph Catholic Church
936 Lake Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


All who knew Bill Barnes would agree that he truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He treasured his loved ones above all else, and he never took a single moment with his family for granted. Bill was a constant source of strength, even in the hardest of times, and his zest for life was contagious to all who were near. He continuously touched the hearts of all around him with his acts of kindness and selflessness in such a special way. Dearly loved, Bill will be deeply missed.

Although the 1930s were times of trial due to the Great Depression, it was during this eventful time that William and Cecilia (Whitcomb) Barnes were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named William LeGrand Barnes, on June 13, 1939, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The name William would continue to be a tradition in the Barnes family.

A lifelong resident of the Kalamazoo/Portage community, Bill grew up as a typical young man of his generation. He was raised on Reed Street near Washington Square, alongside his younger siblings Kent, Lucinda, Cecilia, Thomas, Kathleen, Therese, and Philip. Bill’s parents were an example of hard work as his Father owned a grocery store in Otsego, and later Peerless Water Softener company. In addition to raising 8 children his Mother was a Registered Nurse working in the hospital and private duty sector. Throughout his childhood, Bill enjoyed riding his bike, playing sports, hanging out with the neighborhood kids, and being involved with the Boy Scouts. While with the Scouts, he took a trip to Chicago with his troop. All of the boys were required to write an essay, and Bill won the contest with his eloquent and descriptive narration of their trip to the Windy City.

Bill’s faith was an important element of his life from a young age. The Barnes family attended St. Joseph Catholic Church on Lake Street, which Bill would continue to attend throughout his life. He went to Catholic schools, and in his high school years, he also worked as a soda jerk at a local ice cream shop, Murch’s. Bill was always busy balancing his education and athletics, and he proudly became an all-state linebacker. He graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1957, and following his graduation, he entered the Navy on July 2, 1957. He went on to serve as a Boiler Mate 1 on the USS John S McCain (DL3) for four years. Bill was also in the color guard drill team, and was involved in a goodwill tour to India to deliver humanitarian supplies. His military service was always very important to him, as he remained an active member of the VFW post 5855 for many years.

New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Bill as he met the woman who would become his future wife when he was a young man. Her name was Sally Lynn Metz, and the two quickly realized that they were made for each other. In the presence of friends and family, Bill and Sally were married in 1957. Over the years, their family grew to include their five beloved children, Bill, Kimberly, Scott, Christopher, and Carrie. Sadly, Sally passed away in 1976.

Upon returning home from his military service, Bill worked for his father at Peerless for a short while before beginning to work for United Parcel Service in 1962, launching his 36 year career. He enjoyed his job and dedicated himself to his work and the company, which earned him many accolades over the years. Bill usually drove the big trucks, and by the time he retired in 1999, he had driven over 3,000,000 individual “safe” miles, and earned himself The Circle of Honor Prestigious Award. This award was only presented to those that achieved 25 years of safe driving. On May 6, 1981, Bill also became one of the 12 tractor trailer drivers referred to as “The Dirty Dozen”, who logged 15,000 days of safe driving within five and a half years. They also logged 4,500,000 miles. He was a proud member of the Safe Driving Circle of Honor, and was also recognized by the state of Michigan and also Nationally, for his safe driving skills. He mainly worked third shift, and after work, he often enjoyed winding down with a drink at the Studio Lounge in Portage, where he even had his own parking spot!

In the fall of 1978, a sweet woman named Karen Van Arkel captured Bill’s eye and heart. The two dated for a couple of years, and their relationship blossomed into something much deeper. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Bill and Karen were married at St. Joseph Catholic Church on May 3, 1980.

Among all the things Bill loved, he treasured his family the most. He raised his children in the Catholic faith, and he taught them the importance of family dinners and time spent with loved ones. Bill was involved in his children’s athletic activities and he even coached their rocket football teams and softball teams. He was thrilled to become a grandfather, and even a great-grandfather later in life. The Barnes family was very close to the Biss family, as Bill and Louie were lifelong friends. After his retirement, Bill and Karen loved to take fall color trips. He enjoyed reading, especially books on WWII. Bill liked listening to music by Johnny Cash, Crystal Gale, Ann Murray, and Neil Diamond. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was a favorite dancing song of his and Karen’s. Bill was a member of The Knights of Columbus, and earlier he was also a member of the Moose Lodge. He also enjoyed bowling, barbecuing, and riding his Notre Dame three-wheeled motorcycle. Bill remained an avid sports fan throughout his entire life. His favorite teams were Notre Dame, the Chicago Bears, The Cubbies, and racing legend Rusty Wallace. He loved the great outdoors as evidenced by the many camping trips he took with his family. Vacation spent with loved ones in nature was always time well spent.

Later in life, Bill began to suffer from memory issues. Following a fall in 2018, his health began to decline. Bill moved to Vibrant Life Senior Living in July of 2020, where he could receive specialized care and undivided attention from the staff.

When reflecting on the life of Bill Barnes, it is easy to see his unwavering strength and unconditional love for his family and friends. He was a shining example of faith, even in times of trial (Jesus, Mary and Joseph). Bill worked tirelessly to care for his loved ones, but he was never too busy to appreciate the little blessings that came along. He was outgoing and bold with an infectious sense of humor. His personality and wit could always light up a room. Though he will be dearly missed, Bill leaves behind a priceless legacy of family and friends who will proudly carry on that legacy long after his passing.

Bill Barnes, age 81, of Portage died on Sunday, April 11, 2021 at Vibrant Life Senior Living. He is survived by his wife Karen; 5 children: William Barnes Jr., Kimberly Tackett (Chuck- deceased), Scott (Dawn) Barnes, Christopher Barnes (fiancée Christine Avard), Carrie (Kirt) Brown; 9 grandchildren: Will, Clint, Amber, Blake, Haley, Tyler, Colton, Hunter, Emma; 5 great- grandchildren: Spencer, Breydon, Melody, Brooklyn, and Traeh; 2 brothers: Kent and Philip Barnes; 4 sisters: Lucinda Barnes, Cecilia Atchison, Kate Barnes, Terri (Mike) Boltz, 2 sisters-in-law: Linda Thole and Susan Barnes, and a former daughter-in-law, Catherine Barnes. Bill was preceded in death by his first wife Sally; his brother Thomas; and Dad and Mom, William and Cecilia. Cremation has taken place. Visit with family and friends on Tuesday, April 20th from 5-8PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where a Rosary will be recited at 4:30 pm. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11AM on Wednesday, April 21st at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Private burial with military honors will take place at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Bill’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can read his life story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Joseph Catholic Church or Hospice Care of SW Michigan.