Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

James W. Kersten

December 31, 1936 - December 26, 2022
Kalamazoo, MI



Saturday, January 7, 2023
4:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

A reception will follow in the Life Story Center where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.

Driving Directions


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.

Kalamazoo Animal Rescue
P.O. Box 3295
Kalamazoo, MI 49003
(269) 349-2325
Web Site

Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
448 N Burdick St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-2974
Web Site


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

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With a huge, generous heart and a great sense of humor, James Kersten lived a life rich in family and friends. Jim was a man who fully embodied the principles he believed in, proving a powerful role model for all who were lucky to know him. A hard worker and man of his word, Jim was loyal, trustworthy, humble, and a man people wanted to be around. He loved his family fiercely and mastered the art of balancing hard work with restorative play and adventure. A proud farm boy, son, brother, grandson, nephew, uncle, husband, father, businessman, and friend, Jim was revered and cherished by many.

Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, the power of hope undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. On December 31, 1936, in Cleveland, Ohio, James was born to Lorraine Tobey, a woman who Jim would grow to know and love as his “Auntie L.” Shortly thereafter, he was brought into the loving home and family, then adopted by his parents, Marten and Lillian (Kline) Kersten.

James was raised with his two older siblings, Crystal and Phyllis, as the third generation on the W.M. Kersten and Son Farm, est. 1911 in Fulton, Michigan. His father and grandfather were farmers, and his mother and grandmother, Maude, were farm wives. His mother later became the longtime Postmaster for the town of Fulton. The family lived in a farmhouse directly across the street from the original farm where his grandparents lived and farmed. When they moved into the farmhouse, his father expanded the farm’s acreage and crops. Jim loved his childhood on the farm, especially the ponies, horses, dogs, and barn cats. He even had a pet skunk for a short time when he was young boy!

Like many farm kids, Jim grew to be a hard worker with a keen eye for detail in his chores, proudly helping to work and run the family farm. He also enjoyed playing in the creek and cemetery near the farm. He spent a lot of time with his sisters and cousins and always spoke highly of his cousin Jack. As a 15-year-old, Jim met the love of his life, Beverly Campbell, over the fence that separated the backyards of her parents' home and Jim's sister and brother-in-law's, Phyllis and Del Charles, home in Vicksburg. Instantly smitten, the schoolmates became friends and later began dating.

While tending the farm, Jim attended Fulton schools and then Vicksburg High School, where he played basketball, track, and football. After graduating from Vicksburg High School in 1955, he attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. A member of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, he developed lifelong friendships while at the University. After graduating high school in 1957, Jim's sweetheart and future wife, Bev, joined him at MSU, where she continued her schooling. During his years at MSU, Jim became an avid Big 10 and MSU sports fan. This love of MSU sports was a lifelong passion.

On September 12, 1959, Jim and Bev happily married at the United Methodist Church in Vicksburg, Michigan. The following year, the newlyweds were excited to begin their much-anticipated family with the birth of their first born child. They joyfully welcomed a total of four children, all born during the1960s: Craig, Ricky, Tammy, and Nic. They were the centers of their world, and Jim and Bev proudly devoted themselves to their care. Happy family life was disrupted at two points in time with the death of their son, Ricky, as an infant in 1963 and then the tragic and unexpected death of their daughter, Tammy, in 1977. Both tragedies affected Jim and Bev deeply and left lifelong scars on both of their hearts. The family lived in Howell, Lawton, and Paw Paw, Michigan, before settling on the west side of Kalamazoo on Croyden Avenue and then in 1970 building their family's dream home on Bunkerhill. Jim relished family life. With his beloved at his side, he worked to provide his children with a supportive and loving home.

A proud farm boy as a youngster, upon graduation from MSU, Jim began his career in 1959 as a Fertilizer Salesman with Agrico, traveling throughout Michigan. In the early '60s, he made a career change to Residential Real Estate with Ty Carter and Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Several years later, he found his true career passion, Commercial and Industrial Real Estate, by establishing the Kersten Real Estate Company Early. In this endeavor, he wisely partnered with Ben Morris, beginning a decades-long partnership forming Kersten-Morris Real Estate and Leasing Company which he would run until his retirement nearly 50 years later.

The family enjoyed trips to the Elks Club on West Main Street in Kalamazoo to swim in the pool and take in the 4th of July firework shows, as well as golfing and swimming at the Kalamazoo Country Club. Special occasions were spent celebrating at the Beacon Club or in Paw Paw at La Cantina. During many summers in the ‘70’s & ‘80’s Jim would load up his kids and headed "Up North" to Watersmeet and the family cabin at Camp Daly in the Upper Peninsula. He was famous on those trips for making spaghetti and mini pancakes. All enjoyed the evening that they traveled to nearby “Bud’s Bar” for a night of games, pizza and shorty beers, and shorty pops, and stopped by the local dump after dark to watch the bears have their evening feast. Local adventures included trips to Gene the Pumpkin Man in Kalamazoo every October, the drive-in A&W Root Beer stand, and Bruno's Pizza. One Saturday a month Jim would bring home a box of Dunkin' Donuts, and winters included skiing throughout the state. Timber Ridge, Crystal Mountain, Boyne Mountain, and Sugarloaf were the families favorite Michigan destinations. Many more treasured memories were made on skiing adventures in Colorado and Utah, trips to East Lansing to Cheer on the MSU Spartans sport’s teams, and golfing. In 1996 Jim & Bev first began spending their summers at their vacation home near Lake Michigan in South Haven. For 26 years they enjoyed time in South Haven grilling, reading, boating, fishing, and watching the sunsets from South Beach and the Pier and Lighthouse. They loved their trips to the local Farmer’s Market and meals out at the Yacht Club and Clementine’s.

A long-time member of the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, Jim was a no-nonsense businessman. He was a man of his time, and he took the ethos of "provide and protect" very seriously when it came to his approach to his career and family. Methodical and principled, he loved making deals, as well as the social aspect of being in the real estate business. He often shared the story of his good fortune in his partnership with Ben Morris. He was eternally grateful to meet, partner, and learn from Ben. He also told the story of his and Ben's singular professional disagreement during the decades as partners, which took a couple of days and $500 to settle the dispute. He was also well known for telling the people who worked for him, "You are up for the task."

From an early age, Jim had a deep love for animals. His beloved childhood ponies and three Beagles in young adulthood, who were all named Joe, were the first of his treasured animal companions. In 1976, his love for Miniature Schnauzers began with Whiskers, followed by Misty, Daisy, Misty II, and currently Precious. Their rescue kitties, Peanut, Shadow, and currently Sweetie, and his grandpup, Penny Lane, were also treasured companions.

While Jim never shied away from hard work, he also thoroughly enjoyed life's simple pleasures, like going to Kalamazoo with Bev and attending movies at the State and Capital theaters. Attending John Denver concerts, annual trips in January with Bev to Aspen, Colorado, and annual ski trips to Park City, Utah with his buddies every March always proved a good time. Many wonderful gatherings were enjoyed in East Lansing with college friends, fraternity brothers, and their families for MSU basketball and football games.

As we face the future in the absence of Jim's steadfast companionship, may we find comfort in our many treasured memories. A fine man, who embraced every moment with gratitude and every person as a friend, Jim showed us how to live a wholehearted, generous life filled with love, laughter, and many, many good times. May we also find comfort in knowing Jim and Bev's animals will lovingly be cared for the remainder of their lives by their son, Nic, and in the honor of carrying Jim's inspiring legacy forward.

James W. Kersten of Kalamazoo, Age 85, died peacefully at his home on Monday, December 26, 2022, after a fierce and valiant struggle with Diastolic Heart Failure. Jim is preceded in death by his loving wife of 61 years, Bev Kersten (2/28/2021); his beloved children: Ricky L. Kersten (1963) and Tammy L. Kersten(1977); his parents, Marten and Lillian Kersten; his in-laws, Lloyd and Louise Campbell; sisters and brothers-in-law: Crystal & John Horst and Phyllis & Delbert Charles; along with nephews: Marty and Joel VanDerVeen. He is survived by his adult children: Craig Kersten, Artist of Palm Springs, CA, and Nic Kersten, Animal Rescuer of Los Angeles, CA; brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Kathy Campbell; nieces: Marisa Campbell and Kristie Ward; grand-nieces: Kaylah, Amanda, and Molly Anderson; nieces: Cheryl VanDerVeen, Lynn VanDerVeen Campbell, Rebecca Charles Delabarre; nephews: Jim Vanderveen and Bradley Charles.

A service for both Jim and Bev Kersten will take place Saturday (JAN 7) at 4 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. A reception will follow in the Life Story Center, where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. A special thank you to all at Arcadia Home Care & Staffing and Centrica Care Navigators. The Kersten family asks that donations be made in Jim's name to Kalamazoo Animal Rescue or Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries. Visit Jim's webpage at Betzlerlifestory.com, where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his guestbook.