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Erlinda Rolls

January 3, 1942 - May 14, 2023
Portage, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Driven, selfless, and devoted to her community, Linda lived her life to the fullest. Known for her love of reading, she held a special place in her heart for any library or bookstore. Linda modeled courage and a strong work ethic as the first African American librarian on the campus of Western Michigan University. She leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories for her many special friends and family to cherish forever.

Linda’s story began during a time that was marked by WWII. It was 1942 and families in the United States were experiencing a gas rationing of only three gallons of gas a week and a new breed of movies with war themes were debuting. During the years of Franklin D. Roosevelt, William and Hazel (Woodyard) Hill were pleased to announce the birth of their baby girl, Erlinda, on January 3rd in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her birth brought much joy and promise in an era of great change.

Linda lived a typical childhood of the times. She enjoyed playing the organ in church during her school years and reading. Her grandmother was a strong influence and encouraged her to get an education. She taught Linda the values of studying hard, striving for excellence, and never tolerating laziness. Her commitment to Linda’s success helped her earn a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Immaculata College. She later pursued her Master of Science in Library Science from Villanova University. These were significant accomplishments for her especially during a time when the nation was going through a time of great change with the civil rights movement. Linda took it all in stride and would never settle for less than her very best in her approach to anything in life.

While Linda was still in grade school. Jim managed to help her with her foot pedal while playing in church and kept his eye on her until they began dating when she was a junior in college. They shared a common love of learning and spent their time together between studying and obtaining their degrees. Once she graduated they joined in marriage and started their life together. In addition to their careers in biochemistry and library science, they enjoyed the arts, music, and volunteering. Linda and Jim lived a beautiful life together before his passing in March 2020.

Linda had a remarkable career. Starting as an assistant reference librarian at Pennsylvania State University in 1964, she felt fulfilled from her very first job. In 1968, she and Jim relocated to Kalamazoo where he began work with UpJohn. Linda accepted a position at WMU and never left. She held a variety of positions over the years within the university. No matter where she landed, she easily made friends with her co-workers. Her spirit was always bright and cheerful leading to a pleasant work environment. She especially loved mentoring others and supporting students. Although she chose her friends wisely, Linda loved all people. No one could deny that her sense of humor and smile could light up a room. Each and every year she would make plans to meet up with friends in Chicago to tour the museums, shop, or take a boat ride on the river. Her friends meant the world to her. Linda enjoyed attending the WMU tailgates with friends and always spoke fondly of her time as a Bronco.

In addition to her work and time with Jim and friends, Linda poured herself into many important causes. She was involved with the United Way, Catholic Family Services, the NAACP, the Plaza Arts, and the Circle Board. A favorite was her participation in the Kalamazoo Symphony. She also served as President of the Bach Festival for many years. Her love of the arts extended into being a member of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Linda loved attending the local art fairs and helping with the annual June show in Bronson Park. A highlight was the July Ann Arbor art show that she attended for many years. Over the years, she added to her remarkable collection of art and enjoyed making memories with her special friends.

Linda was especially important in leading the 2001 chartering of the Kalamazoo (MI) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated and served as its first President. The Links, Incorporated is an international organization of professional African American women devoted to serving the community with a special focus on children and families of the African diaspora.

Linda and Jim enjoyed weekend visits to Madison, Wisconsin to spend time with special friends Louis and Cora Marritt, Dee and Herman Smith, and Sid and Carolyn Williams at the University of Wisconsin for football games, lots of laughs, good food and drink, and serious discussions about how to solve the world’s problems.

Linda and Jim shared many of these active years together. They were both on the Kalamazoo Symphony Board and took on many responsibilities in the community together. They both enjoyed trying new restaurants and going on dates over the years. Linda loved sampling new and different wines as well as trying new dishes when they were out on the town. When Jim’s health declined, she was an exceptional caregiver. Losing Jim was hard on her, yet she leaned on her special friends and family for support.

When it came time for relaxing, Linda preferred reading. She would spend hours reading, losing track of time, but always willing to put her book down when guests arrived! Her strong interest in reading, led to her having a wealth of knowledge as well as an interest in countless topics. She would stay up late into the evening hours finishing up books, even in her final days. Described as a vibrant, sweet person, Linda’s greatest legacy will be her impact on her community. Her dynamic presence, her special laughter, and her wonderful sense of humor will be deeply missed. May the countless lives she touched hold on to her special memories and allow them to warm their hearts for many years to come.

Erlinda Rolls, age 81, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, died on May 14, 2023. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jim. She is survived by her sister, Cheryl McIntosh, and her brother, William Hill, along with a close circle of friends. A celebration will be held at a later date. Visit Erlinda’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories and photos and to sign her guestbook. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.