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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of E-J Ohler, it is easy to see his insatiable zest for life. He was a family man through and through, and he truly treasured the time he had with his loved ones. The atmosphere that surrounded E-J would allow for building memories that will never be forgotten. He was known for living his life to the fullest, taking nothing for granted. E-J will forever be remembered and treasured in the hearts of those who knew him.
In the year 1953, George and Wilhelmina Ohler had moved to The Hague, The Netherlands in between postings. On July 9th of 1953, they gave birth to a baby boy, Evert-Jan. Due to his father’s career with Royal Dutch Shell, E-J’s family moved all around the globe, from Algeria to the Caribbean. A vibrant young boy, E-J spent most of his early years on Caribbean island of Curaçao, enjoying years of carefree snorkeling, sailing and enjoying unspoiled beaches. He loved being out on the water and could always be found on a boat. E-J and his two sisters, Diana and Hanneke, enjoyed a stress-free childhood. He was the apple of his mother’s eye, and he looked up to his father.
In 1963, E-J’s father thought that his children would benefit from going to school back in The Netherlands, so the decision was made to move back to their Dutch roots. E-J spent the rest of his teenage years in Heemstede, The Netherlands, continuing to foster a close relationship with his father and a love for the water. Learning to be skilled with his hands and having an aptitude for math and science, E-J attended and graduated college with a degree in engineering. Afterwards, during a visit to see his aunt and uncle in Michigan he fell in love with America. Shortly after returning home he decided to move to the United States where he continued his education. E-J attended Western Michigan University and graduated yet again with another degree in mechanical engineering.
New and exciting changes loomed on the horizon for E-J. Through a mutual friend, he was introduced to Doris North in Kalamazoo, MI, as both were WMU alumni. Initially, no sparks flew, but as they got to know each other over time, their attraction grew. Doris had always been intrigued by E-J’s European heritage and zest for life. After dating for a year he proposed, and Doris happily said yes. The couple then enjoyed a year-long engagement. On April 17, 1982, the best day of E-J’s life, he married his sweetheart at St. Mary’s Church in Jackson, MI with a reception at the Cascades Manor. Thus gaining a place in the large, boisterous and loving extended North family. Throughout the next several years, E-J whisked Doris across the country while welcoming two sons, George in 1985 and A.J. in 1987, into their hearts and home before they returned to the Kalamazoo area, raising their boys in Mattawan, MI.
Throughout his life, E-J’s greatest joy was to be a husband and father. He was a marvelous dad who was just a big kid at heart. E-J was very involved in his sons’ lives, and also the lives of many children in his community through coaching both indoor and outdoor soccer. He was also heavily involved with the Scouts, being both Den Father, and Assistant Scoutmaster for troop 161. His sense of adventure would be a lasting example that would guide those whose lives he enhanced for years to come. E-J loved to introduce his family to the many amazing wonders of the world, and he took them on vacations all over. From skiing in Swiss Alps, to castle hunting in the Rhine river valley, to sailing and boating all over North America. He defined the “Ohler Vacation”, where he had the day planned from dawn to dusk so the family could experience as much adventure as possible. Though his Dutch heritage will never be lost, after living in the United States for over 40 years, in April of 2018, he officially became a United States Citizen.
Always someone who had to be busy, E-J was a man of many interests. He could never sit still, he always seemed to cram two months of life into one. He was the handiest of handymen, as there was no project or problem he couldn’t conquer. The level of craftsmanship and detail he put into anything he worked on was second to none. If it had a motor or anything electrical or mechanical, he had to know how it worked. E-J was forward thinking, especially when it came to tools and gadgets, embracing technology often long before the masses. His unmatched work ethic continues to inspire all those that he reached, most especially both his sons. E-J could craft anything, fix anything, and still find time to have fun, all of which he passed on to his sons. His sons each enjoyed spending time with their father on projects such as restoring a classic MG Midget, to fixing up a handful of mopeds for the whole family to enjoy. This included spending countless hours building and remodeling all of the family homes, including his sons’.
After family, boating and the water were the most important parts of E-J’s life. From working on a wooden sailboat as a child with his father, to continuing the tradition with his own sons, he would eventually find himself restoring several Chris-Craft “woodies” back to their original beauty. Anyplace with water was just fine, but South Haven was a favorite place. E-J kept their boats there for many years. Soon the woodies were replaced with a rekindled passion for sailing, a passion that again started with his father. E-J and Doris along with their closest friends found themselves the owners of an Irwin sailboat. One of his most memorable sailing voyages was crossing Lake Michigan with his sons for his 58th birthday. After sailing it was time to downsize, and he and his wife became “Whalers”, with their acquisition of a Montauk Boston Whaler. E-J and Doris had whirlwind adventures for years, going from lake to lake, but none as exciting as their travels to the St. Lawrence Seaway and visiting the thousand islands. Boating was such an integral part of his life, that even off the water he took particular pride in volunteering, whether it was at the Maritime Museum teaching families to build wooden boats or becoming a certified United States Power Squadron vessel safety check examiner. E-J will forever be one with the water and the wind.
E-J was part-owner of Wilson-Brinker Associates, Inc., an independent and progressive manufacturers representative and distributor for Industrial & Commercial HVAC equipment. At Wilson-Brinker he was able to combine his engineering savvy with his monumental personality, but as a business owner and entrepreneur he had the flexibility to be with his family when necessary.
All who knew E-J would agree that he was the life and soul of the party. He had a great sense of humor, and there was “never a dull moment” with E-J around. His smile was contagious. He was loyal, reliable, and would always drop whatever he may have been doing to be there when others needed him in ways both great and small. E-J was a fantastic role model for anyone who needed one, and his children and their friends always had a special place in his heart. He lived by the lessons he taught such as the need to be kind, to work hard, and to know that anyone can accomplish whatever they desire. E-J loved his family and treasured every moment spent with his loved ones. Although he will be deeply missed, he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
E-J Ohler, age 65, of Kalamazoo died on Tuesday March 5, 2019. E-J’s family includes his wife Doris; two children, George and A.J.; two sisters, Diana Saager and Hanneke (Frits) Overeijnder. Cremation has taken place and an open house to celebrate his life will be held on Tuesday, March 12 from 4-7 p.m. at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Please visit E-J’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to the American Diabetes Association.