Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Bill Van Domelen

December 27, 1929 - December 9, 2015
Kalamazoo, MI



Monday, December 14, 2015
4:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Food and refreshments will be served.

Driving Directions


Tuesday, December 15, 2015
10:30 AM EST
St. Augustine Cathedral
542 West Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-5147


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.


In lieu of memorial contributions and in the spirit of Bill, find your passion on where you can help people that need it most.


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


Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, William “Bill” Van Domelen was a humble and selfless man whose lifelong passion was to help those impacted by the pains of poverty. He was a self-made man who believed that everyone should be given the opportunity to have basic needs such as housing, education, and healthcare. A more devoted father would be hard to find, and Bill was so blessed to share the best years of his life with his true companion, Julia. He was a visionary, a dreamer, and an entrepreneur who was intuitive when it came to bringing his dreams to fruition. Life will never be the same without Bill here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that is deeply rooted in unconditional love, selfless generosity, and endless compassion that his loved ones will proudly carry on.

The year 1929 was a year to remember in America as it was the year when the historic crash of the stock market sent our nation spiraling down into the Great Depression throughout the entire decade that followed. With that unforgettable day, the prosperity of the 1920s quickly became a thing of the past. It was also in 1929 that Frank Van Domelen and Florence Van Dyke were blessed with the birth of the baby boy they named William F. on December 27th, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bill was raised primarily by his grandparents in addition to other extended family members like his aunts, uncles, and cousins who all referred to him as “Little Billy.” He attended school in Grand Rapids including South High School where he ran track and did the high jump. In addition to holding down his studies, Bill worked as a busboy at the Schnitzelbank and at the Wurzburg’s restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids. He also had a newspaper route, worked at a movie theater, and set pins in a bowling alley. He was always doing something and had an impeccable work ethic throughout his entire life. After graduating, Bill enlisted in the Navy. He was gone for a year, serving in North Chicago and then San Diego.

As a civilian, Bill returned to Grand Rapids and lived with his grandparents. He had excellent math skills and worked as a millwright at General Motors. Always resourceful, Bill sold pots and pans door to door. In 1960, he had an opportunity to start a Burger Chef franchise on Lake Street in Kalamazoo. This was anything but easy, and for a time he continued selling pots and pans to make payroll. A bit later, Bill opened a second Burger Chef restaurant and a Dunkin’ Donuts location. His business ventures continued on from there as he opened the first two Wendy’s in Michigan in downtown Kalamazoo and grew the west Michigan chain . A true visionary, Bill started his own restaurant operation in 1984 called Hot ’n Now. It focused on a simple drive-thru burger concept with low overhead, low prices and fast service. He sold the business in 1990 to focus his time and energy on blessing others.

Even though his work was very fulfilling, nothing was more near and dear to Bill’s heart than his family. He was an amazing father to his four children, Mark, Mary Jane, Kathy Jo, and Kimberly Ann. They loved spending time at a cottage they rented on Lake Michigan every summer with extended family members. New and exciting changes were in store for Bill when he met a woman named Julia Goff through mutual friends. Having experience in the restaurant business herself, she helped him in franchising his Hot ’n Now restaurants. They dated for several years, and on July 29, 1993, Bill and Julia were married in Spring Lake. They were both passionate about working together and having fun together - they were true partners in every way. Bill was a great husband, and Julia took amazing care of him until the end - always making sure he was impeccably dressed. Bill and his wife have a home in Naples, Florida and loved spending time together on the beach, with friends, and playing golf and tennis. After selling the burger franchise, they were both passionate in helping those in need and took great pride in doing it alongside one another. Over the years, Bill and Julia significantly helped several organizations in both Michigan and Florida. Together they were very disciplined in the Catholic faith as well.

Being more interested in sharing experiences with his family and friends, Bill wasn’t into hobbies too much but he did live an active life. He was always multitasking and keeping the big picture in mind. Bill was a car buff. He enjoyed eating out, more to observe the operation of the restaurant itself, and he never could resist ice cream. Bill was known as a snazzy dresser, and he had a quick wit and a fantastic sense of humor to boot. He enjoyed reading, however, he mainly read periodicals rather than books, and he was also an animal lover. He loved being active and doing things like hiking, long walks on the beach, and boating with family and friends. A Michigan native, Bill liked the Tigers and Lions as well as other Michigan sports teams.

All who knew Bill Van Domelen would agree that he was a blessing in the lives of all who were within his reach. He had an ever-present smile, and the most amazing blue eyes. Bill was patient, kind and he always gave the best advice. Forever ahead of his time, his business sense and savvy was truly unmatched. Bill’s greatest passion was found in helping others, and his family and friends were his entire world. Deeply loved, he will never be forgotten.

William F. Van Domelen, of Kalamazoo and Naples, Florida, died December 9, 2015 at his home in Holland. Bill’s family includes his wife, Julia Van Domelen; 4 children: Mark Van Domelen (Lynette Baber), Mary Jane (Paul) Trim, Kathy Jo Van Domelen, (Scott Klassen) and Kimberly Ann (Paul) Mistaleski; 4 grandchildren: Amber Rabbani, Angela (Kája) Lill, Emily and Paul Mistaleski; sister-in-law, Leslie Goff Oppat and her children: Jason, David and Kelsey; brother-in-law, David (Patty) Goff and their children: Brian, Zachary and Lauren; his Godson Steven Loftis; and mother of his children, Jane Gibson; along with many friends and extended family. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Monday from 4 – 8 PM at the Life Story Funeral Homes, Betzler – Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Drive (269-375-2900). Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday 10:30 AM St. Augustine Cathedral. Please visit Bill’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook before coming to the funeral home. In lieu of memorial contributions and in the spirit of Bill, find your passion on where you can help people that need it most.


Several videos are available below. To view any of these videos, copy and paste the links below into your web browser.

Video 1) Highlighting Bill's accomplishment's in business - https://youtu.be/EhzN-R2W2Uc

Video 2) Van Domelen Center Dedication - https://youtu.be/yCrMUipZqZw

Video 3) Clip from funeral service - https://youtu.be/UPJB0npvqIk

Video 4) Clip from funeral service - https://youtu.be/0JL58iqmzCY