Sunday, November 19, 2023
12:30 PM to 1:30 PM EST
1758 10th Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Sunday, November 19, 2023
1:30 PM EST
1758 10th Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
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.
People's Church of Kalamazoo
1758 10th Street N.
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Ivan Jerome Klinesteker was born October 3, 1926 in Burnips, Michigan. He was born at home as were most babies in 1926.The original Dutch spelling of the name was Kluinsteker. Both Ivan’s mother’s and his father’s ancestral roots trace back to Overisel and Drenth in the Netherlands. Both families came to the United States in the 1840s and ended up settling in north Allegan County. Ivan grew up on a 40-acre farm in a Dutch subculture. He often heard the Dutch language growing up and in fact his Mother and older brothers knew Dutch and commonly spoke Dutch around the house.
Ivan's mother, Anna Tanis-Klinesteker, died when Ivan was 22, a few years after he returned from the army. Ivan’s father, James Gilbert Klinesteker, was a veterinarian. He died when Ivan was around three years old. There were four siblings in his family including: Bernard, born 1910, Herbert, born 1912, Jonathan born 1920 and a little sister Geneva who was born in 1919 and died in 1921. In addition to not having male role models in his home, he had little guidance in terms of the nature of the world.
Growing up on a 40-acre farm was a rather isolating experience at that time, especially as his brothers were so much older. His mother sought extra work in order to keep up the mortgage payments on the farm. An extra nickel earned picking pickles might mean a popsicle treat for him from the General Store. Ivan had chores of course: tending to half a dozen dairy cows, scattering scratch feed to a few chickens, putting up hay for the winter and tending to their garden where they grew potatoes, sweet corn, beans, and pickles for canning. He also fondly remembers the flowers his mother planted including yellow roses, morning glories and more. Ivan said he learned how to entertain himself during these years. He enjoyed walking through the fields, riding the cows bareback, sliding down cows’ necks into the creek as they took a drink, and daydreaming a lot. His faithful dog Teddy was almost always with him. He also played accordion for several years which may have given him an early appreciation of music.
Ivan describes his memories of his elementary school years as “not pleasant”. He started school at the age of 4 and graduated from Zeeland High School at 16. This left him feeling “always behind” He told stories about being “mischievous” which of course was not to the liking of his often-strict teachers. He remembered his one room schoolhouse with a wood burning stove in the center. He told many stories through the years about sneaking out of the school to go sledding on the hill behind the school or about hiding in the wood box to avoid receiving one of the first immunizations. Ivan recalls he did not do particularly well in school and remembers the rod was rarely spared on his behind.
Ivan worked on the family farm and did other odd jobs until he was drafted into the army in 1945. After basic training he, along with thousands and thousands of other soldiers, boarded troop ships out of Oakland, CA. He was destined to become part of the Greatest Generation’s invasion force headed for Tokyo, Japan. While his ship was enroute to Japan however, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. When Japan surrendered, his ship was diverted to the Philippines.
He ended up serving in the Philippines for a period of time and then in October 1945 he served a little over a year with the occupied forces in Japan. He was proud of his years in the service as part of the Occupation Forces. His experience of living in Japan had a lasting effect on him throughout his life. Ivan vividly remembered the kindness of the Asian culture and passing out candy to the children with other soldiers. He learned the value of community and the common needs of all people. These years helped shape Ivan’s overall perspective that people are essentially more alike than different.
When he returned home from the service at age 20 he was at a loss as to what direction to go. He would have been eligible for the GI bill, he did not become aware of it until he was through with college. So, for the next few years he again worked in a variety of odd jobs including farming, oilfield rigger, factory jobs, highway construction, Security Guard at Charles Services, an attendant at the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital (before psychotropic medications) and as a salesman. He told many stories about these jobs but said he always felt a sense of boredom. He was looking for something else. Somehow, he got hooked on the classic works of philosophers. A new world opened to him as he devoured Will Durant's multi-volume Story of Civilization, which he read three times over the next 50 years.
At the age of 25 Ivan and his friends drove into the nearby town of Allegan where they spotted a small group of young women chatting in front of the post office. One of these women was Camilla Farnum. Ivan and his friends stopped to talk with these young ladies. In the following days, “chance meetings” and long conversations, as well as a shared interest in the Saturday afternoon opera and other classical music, brought them close together. A beautiful love story had begun. They married the following year in Hamilton, Michigan. Shortly after marrying Camilla, in 1951, they moved to Allegan where Ivan was a milkman for about two years. While working as a milkman, he and a friend who also had two children decided there might be better opportunities in Kalamazoo. Both families moved to Kalamazoo in 1953. Both Ivan and his friend then decided to go to college. They took aptitude tests first and then started at what was then called Western Michigan Teachers College, later Western Michigan University, with no idea what he wished to study. While Ivan did not expect to do well, it turned out that he thrived. He found his studies to be engaging. Going to college opened the world for him and he dove into a whole new life fueled by his constant curiosity, a love of reading, a love of learning and a love of teaching. They lived in married student housing on Western Michigan’s campus for a time with their 3 and then 4 children. Ivan ended up earning a bachelor’s degree. Later, he pursued his master’s as well as a specialist degree. His successes in college led to a lifetime of learning. He was always on a quest to learn something new and gain more understanding about a wide variety of interests.
Between 1951-1956 they had “four wonderful children”: Mark, Bryan, Corinne and William. Ivan said he had to “ad lib” being a father. He did turn out, however, to be an amazing parent. His constant curiosity and voracious reading of history and philosophy had helped him develop a framework for life. He spent many hours talking through these ideas with Camilla and their kids. This offered an education far beyond what the kids ever learned in school. Camilla often said, “I received my college education by listening to your father talk.” Ivan was a wonderfully supportive and encouraging father and always said that he thoroughly enjoyed fatherhood.
Ivan’s college education led to a 30-year social service career that included work for the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Court and the Michigan Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. While at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Ivan worked with individuals with mental illness, but for most of his career he worked with individuals who were blind. He helped his clients identify the education requirements needed to find gainful employment and took special pride in matching them to careers that gave them a sense of fulfillment. He enjoyed his career and continued, for the rest of his life, trying to find suitable careers for his friends, kids, and grandkids. Both in his career as well as in his everyday life, Ivan had a natural way of putting people at ease which allowed him to connect with people in a way that made people feel heard, valued and important.
Finding Peoples Church was one of the turning points in Ivan and Camilla's life. Through their involvement in the church, they developed a meaningful philosophy of life and close, long-lasting friendships. They also became more involved in the community. Both Ivan and Camilla served as active members of the Peace Council during the Vietnam War. Ivan was one of a dozen or so involved in helping young men make decisions about the draft. Ivan was also a founding member of Planned Parenthood of Kalamazoo. He was honored at their 50-year anniversary a few years ago. Both Ivan and Camilla actively worked for social justice over the years and their children grew to emulate both their beliefs and their love of all people.
For over 40 years, Ivan and Camilla enjoyed several months at their cottage in South Haven, MI. Here they often hosted dinners and special events for friends and family. It was also a place of solace for Ivan. He found peace and comfort watching the waves, swimming back and forth for as many years as he was able and walking the beach. He rarely missed his annual birthday swim. Having an October 3 birthday meant the water might be a bit nippy, but in he dove each year. Ivan was often reluctant to leave his home in Kalamazoo each May to move out to the cottage but once there he enjoyed it immensely. At the end of October, even though it was getting cold, he was similarly reluctant to leave the cottage to move back to town. Ivan and Camilla also made many lifelong friends at the cottage.
Ivan and Camilla enjoyed annual road trips with their family. The Chevrolet Impala station wagon pulled a small Wayfarer pop up tent camper. Double bunk bed cots held the four kids and the built-in double mattress provided sleeping space for Ivan and Camilla. The secondhand pull-behind trailer came with a few issues. The pop-up part was thin canvas and not completely waterproof. Water tended to collect between two of the upper support tubes. The weight of accumulated rainwater would cause the ceiling to sag in the middle. During heavy rains, water quickly collected and began steady and accelerating drips. The kids were needed to climb up on the top of the bunk beds and push the water up and over the side of the camper. In a good downpour this needed to be done over and over. The camper was not exactly mosquito proof. Many nights were spent slapping mosquitoes. However, amid these and countless other trials, some marvelous family vacations occurred with this little camper. A southern trip included Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. A western trip included South Dakota’s Wind cave, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Crazy Horse. A Northeastern trip sent the family exploring Nova Scotia and Maine. Curiosity with a lifelong openness to new cultures and ideas made these trips fun and left lasting impressions on his children.
Music was always an important part of Ivan’s life. Ivan and Camilla both loved the Saturday afternoon opera and a wide range of other classical music. Music heard around the house included folk, bluegrass, jazz, and later rock and roll as the kids grew up. Doc Watson; Odetta; Peter, Paul & Mary; Woody Guthrie; and Joan Baez were favorites, among many others. When their son Bryan was 12 years old and showing a strong interest in folk music, they surprised him at Christmas with a new Gibson J-45 guitar. He plays it to this day. Ivan and Camilla took their family to see Marion Anderson sing in 1965 at the old Kalamazoo Central High School, now Chenery Auditorium. The family sat in the front row, looking straight up into her closed eyes, amazed by this woman and her beautiful voice. One could always expect to hear classical music, and hearty whistling, when walking into Ivan and Camilla’s home and this continued throughout his entire life. Listening to WQXR, WCRB, WUOM or WMUK, he would often announce the composer name, the music selection and historical details associated with the artist. He had a fantastic memory for historical, scientific, and artistic details. NPR and PBS were decades long favorites and they contributed annually to these and many other organizations.
Ivan and Camilla were married for almost 68 years. It was a marriage of learning and growth, support and love. There were few disagreements and their love for each other was never in doubt. He often stated that he felt “fortunate” or” lucky” in life. Despite a rough start, he felt “incredibly fortunate” in his marriage with Camilla which lasted 68 years and with their “four wonderful children” who became “fine citizens, good parents and gave Camilla and Ivan great joy as well as grandchildren”.
Ivan was preceded in death by his wife Camilla, who died January 12, 2019; his parents: James and Anna (Tanis) Klinesteker; and siblings: Bernard, Herbert, Jonathan, and Geneva. Surviving are his children: Mark (Hester) Klinesteker, Bryan (Tracy) Klinesteker, Corinne (Dennis) Overmyer, and Bill (Janice) Klinesteker; grandchildren: Shawna (Mathew) Riddle, Colin (Becky) Klinesteker), Bryce (Anna) Klinesteker, Kristen Overmyer, Cody (Kristen) Overmyer, Michael (Katelyn) Overmyer, Kate Duffy, Chad (Danger) Klinesteker, abd Dylan (Kristi) Klinesteker; former daughter-in-law: Cathy Lair Klinesteker; great-grandchildren: Lena, Allegra Jovi, Mila, Genevieve, Riley, Molly, and Cheetah; step-daughter: Michelle Overmyer-Clark; and several nieces and nephews who loved him dearly.
Cremation has taken place. Services will be held at the People’s Church, 1758 10th Street N, Kalamazoo. Visitation will be Sunday, November 19, 2023 from 12:30pm to 1:30pm with a memorial service at 1:30pm. He and Camilla will be buried in Salem Twp. Cemetery at a later time. Visit Ivan’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and to sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to People’s Church, Centrica Care Navigators, or Planned Parenthood. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo, MI 49009, (269) 375-2900.
Ivan was an endlessly curious man. He was never afraid to try new things and approached every challenge with an optimistic spirit. At the same time he was humble. He knew and accepted his shortcomings, which allowed others to be themselves freely in return. He was kind, compassionate, and a devoted family man who kept an open mind and accepting heart until the very end. We will always miss him and take comfort knowing he touched the lives of family and friends over several generations. We will carry him in our hearts forever.