Wednesday, August 11, 2021
4:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
A reception will follow in the Life Story Center where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
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.
KVCC Foundation FBO James WM Taylor Respiratory Care Scholarship Fund
6767 W O Ave, PO Box 4070
Kalamazoo, MI 49003
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Humble and kind, generous and determined, James Taylor lived a life rich in family and friends. A man who embodied the principles he believed in, Jim’s indomitable spirit and willingness to live a life of service inspired all who were blessed to know him. Gifted with a brilliant mind, Jim always led with his wise heart, embracing every moment and person as a gift. He generously reflected the goodness he so easily saw in others, confidently offering safe harbor in life’s storms and enthusiastically celebrating life’s joys. Revered by many as a devoted family man, practitioner, teacher, fisherman, and friend, Jim will forever be remembered and missed.
James and Mary Taylor welcomed their first born child and son, Jim, into their hearts and home on March 9, 1950. Jim was born in Christopher, Illinois at the Coal Miner’s Hospital and shortly thereafter moved to Wyandotte, Michigan where he was raised. Growing up in the Metro Detroit area during the 50s and 60s, Jim’s early years formed a firm foundation for the rest of his life. While his father was a steelworker, his mother was a housewife. From the start, Jim possessed a love of the outdoors and especially enjoyed spending summers on his granny’s farm in Marion, Illinois, where days were spent working the farm and of course, his outdoor activities of hunting and fishing. Jim got into his fair share of mischief as a kid, including flipping over a boat and, much to his surprise, discovering a nest of cottonmouth snakes underneath. He had a strong love for the outdoors and an adventurous spirit. During his early 20’s he had a need for speed and came to enjoy fast boats, motorcycles, dirt bikes, and cars.
After graduating from high school, Jim worked two jobs to put himself through college and was also a member of the swim team. Balancing his jobs at the steel mill and as a lifeguard with his studies and swim team commitment at Wayne State University, he proudly became the first member of his family to graduate college. Degree in hand, Jim began his long career as a respiratory therapist in Detroit, quickly making great friends with his coworkers. His career led him and several of his friends across the state to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, where the lifelong bonds were built and transpired into what he called, “The Old Farts Club.” The friends and coworkers shared many work adventures and would often meet for beers and conversations.
While working at Bronson, Jim had the good fortune of meeting Susan Noggle, who was working as a secretary in the administration area of the hospital. The pair began dating and soon fell in love. With their hearts set on sharing the future, they married and settled in Paw Paw, where they were delighted to become parents. Daughters, Jessica and Jocelyn, were the centers of their lives, and they worked as a team to provide them a loving and supportive home. Settling into their home on the Paw Paw River, Jim relished sharing his love of the outdoors with his girls, including “cricking” through the Paw Paw creek and catching anything and everything including snapping turtles. The story of the snapper Jim caught and intended to make a stew with quickly became a family legend upon Suzi’s discovery of its escape from the bucket and her battle to fight it off with a broomstick in the garage.
A devoted family man, Jim took great pride in working to provide for his family. He never missed attending the girls’ school or sporting events and enthusiastically opened their home to all of their friends. Jim and Suzi were second parents to many. He encouraged good manners and self-discipline, instilling strong motivation to never inspire “the look” he gave when an expectation wasn’t being met. The family enjoyed many vacations to Paradise Hollow, a small log cabin resort near Interlochen, where Jim and Suzi honeymooned. Two blissful summer weeks were traditionally spent at the cabin. The family tradition continued as the entire family grew and the “Paradise Hollow Crew” was established. The highlight of the year, the family was often regaled by Jim’s enthusiastic telling of the same stories along the way. Every August, the countdown began and the trip started with the 8-10 car caravan, led by Pops, that made its way up to this sanctuary year after year.
As his family grew to include grandchildren and great nieces and nephews, Jim embraced his role as Pops with signature pride and love. Each one of the kids had special one-on-one time with Pops while at Paradise Hollow. Pops always made time for everyone at Paradise Hollow, whether it was a fishing trip, time on the swing, morning coffee on Virginia’s porch, Kentucky Cabin conversations while trying to sneak in and get candy, pancake breakfasts, mucking it to find crawfish, snails, baby fish, and frogs, minnow catching, turtle hunting, night time catfishing or stories around the fire pit. He aspired to keep the campground pristine and every year would do the yearly clean up with the kids across the entire resort making sure no wrapper was left behind. Jim was delighted to share in his love of Paradise Hollow with any and all who wanted to experience it.
Though a private man who was prone to stoicism, Jim was also full of charisma. He enjoyed Motown music, jazz, traveling the world, learning about other cultures, and living each moment to the fullest. He was long known for his growing enthusiasm for his daughter’s annual Halloween parties. Each year he outdid himself with creative props and loved being one of them. His love for the holiday even found him volunteering at the Niles Scream Park.
Fishing was Jim’s special love. Whether casting from the small Kentucky rowboat on Lakeview Lake, or being the Captain on the Finsation, his 31-foot boat on Lake Michigan, Jim quickly found his bliss. He was always thrilled to give people an experience on his boat in South Haven and teach others about fishing. He built a strong network of his fishing buds, including his first mate, Kevin Outz. Big fish fishing with Jim had many traditions and superstitions from the lucky fish with jolly ranchers in it, rubbing the poles for good luck while serenading the fish with his “here fishy fishy fishy,” lecturing his crew about the importance of never bringing a banana (bad luck) on board, screaming “fish on,” or simply staying out of their way to avoid going overboard. Over the years, Jim perfected his legendary salmon dip but also enjoyed many fishing trips around the world, including the Amazon, where “The Adventures of Gator Jim” (YouTube.com) became a legend. He also enjoyed exotic fishing trips to Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands in which an opportunity was never missed to make a long educational slideshow for his family about his new adventures. A longtime member of the Steelheaders Club, he won several fishing tournaments in South Haven and was thrilled last year when he and his grandson won the big fish award. He and his daughter, Joce, also won a master angler award together for a fish caught in Lake Michigan. Most recently, he had the honor of participating in the South Haven Salute to Veterans Event in which his crew also won The Big Fish award.
A born leader, Jim always worked towards continuing his own education and encouraging others to do the same. With a brilliant mind and unwavering integrity, he stood up for what he believed and had a special way with words. With humor and humility, he lived by his motto, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” A past president of the Michigan Society for Respiratory Care, he spent most of his respiratory career in the NICU and served on the aircrew to rescue newborn babies. Jim spent his summers working as a lifeguard at an Asthma camp and transitioned from bedside to desk side where he became the founding member of the respiratory care program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Later in life, Jim earned his Masters and Ph.D. through Western Michigan University while overseeing all of the healthcare programs at KVCC as the Dean of Health and Sciences. He was instrumental in establishing programs for high school students through KRESA. Prior to his retirement, Jim’s last legacy for KVCC was the design and implementation of the new facilities in the downtown Kalamazoo campus. Incredibly skilled and knowledgeable, Jim had a lasting impact on many. It is no wonder that in March of 2017, his daughters threw him a surprise retirement party at Gallagher’s Pub packed with friends, colleagues, and family who were eager to celebrate his career and share the power of his influence in their life. Following his retirement, he was awarded with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the MSRP in April 2017.
For those who knew him best, Jim’s greatest lesson was how he lived his belief that though “You cannot change what’s happening to you, you can only control how you react to it.” Even in the face of dying, Jim chose to go in grace with courage, love, and gratitude for every moment he was given.
It is difficult to imagine life in the absence of the great man we were so privileged to know. Though our days with Jim were far too few, may we find comfort in knowing he has been reunited with Suzi and has embarked on the fishing trip of a lifetime. May we also find comfort in the privilege of carrying his legacy forward. In every moment that we enjoy nature’s splendor, choose grace and courage, reflect our faith in others, and unhesitatingly give of our gifts and talents, we celebrate the many ways Jim gifted our lives. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.
James Taylor, age 71, died on August 7, 2021, after a ten-month battle with cancer. Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Suzi. Surviving are his children: Jessica Cook and Jocelyn (Steve) Webb; grandchildren: Korin, Alaina, Taylor, Cale, Davis, Addie, Maya, Tatum, and Macie; and the Paradise Hollow Crew. Cremation has taken place. A Life Story Service will be held Wednesday (AUG 11) at 4 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. A reception will follow in the Life Story Center, where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. Visit Jim’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the KVCC Foundation FBO James WM Taylor Respiratory Care Scholarship Fund.