Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Janis Nelson English

April 17, 1957 - September 11, 2022
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Visitation

Tuesday, September 20, 2022
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Dr
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Please join us for a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.

Web Site


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.

Bronco Athletic Fund FBO Men's Hockey
Web Site

Kalamazoo Humane Society
2272 River St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
(269) 345-1181
Driving Directions
Web Site

Kalamazoo Public Library
315 S Rose St
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 553-7800

Life Story / Obituary


Mitch Albom once said, "When you look into your mother's eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth." For Janis Nelson English, there was no job more important than being a mom. She was her sons’ biggest fan and fiercest defender. Her greatest joys in life were simple – cooking great meals for her family, sharing her love of food with Ben and cheering for J.T. in his many years of hockey. Her unwavering love and devotion were unmatched.

In 1957, the world watched as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first space satellite which many considered to be the beginning of the Space Race. Americans flocked to theaters to enjoy movies such as Twelve Angry Men and The Bridge over the River Kwai, or they curled up in their living rooms watching shows like Perry Mason and Maverick. Rock and Roll was the hot music of the times and in August of 1957, American Bandstand made its national debut, featuring all of the new music, dances, and fashion of the time. On April 17 of that same year, the Nelson family had a debut of their own with the birth of their daughter, Janis. A few years later, her sister Kathy would complete their family.

Even as a very young girl, Janis began to show an interest in cooking. At the tender age of four, when she should have been napping, Janis decided to “help” her mom by secretly adding some soap flakes to a batch of cookie dough. Imagine the family’s surprise with their first bite of the finished cookies! Thankfully, Janis vastly improved her cooking skills over the years!

As a child, many a spring break was spent at Bali Hai Beachfront Resort in Florida. It was a wonderful community with great neighbors and a safe place for kids. Their grandparents lived nearby so Janis and Kathy would visit often. High school was a busy time for Janis. She was active in musical theater and was a part of the Master Singers. Singing and music remained a passion and, later in life, Janis was a member of the Bach Festival Chorus. She was thrilled to make a trip to Boston following her college graduation to see the Boston Pops, though she was disappointed in the freshness of the pastries at the party!

Following graduation, Janis attended Hope College before transferring to Western Michigan University with her sights set on being an activities director for a local senior community. As is so often the case, Janis’ career took an entirely different direction. Her father was an executive at the Upjohn Company and Janis decided to take an accounting position, working for various divisions of the company. Keeping it in the family, her sister, Kathy, worked there as well.

While playing on a coed softball team, Janis met a young man named Robert English. He was attracted to her assertive personality and her love of sports. Bob sparked her interest as well, and the two hit it off. Following their first date, Robert won a bottle of Tanqueray Gin in a raffle. Janis showed up at his house the next day with a bag of limes! Their relationship flourished and they continued to see each other. One of the highlights of their courtship was seeing the Tigers beat the Royals to win the 1984 American League Championship.

After several years of dating, Janis and Bob decided that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and were happily married in 1986. Soon, their little family grew to include sons Ben and J.T. Janis was a devoted mother and nothing got in the way of supporting her sons. She was an avid hockey mom, taking J.T. to every one of his hockey games over a period of 18 years, becoming a life-long Bronco hockey fan in the process.

Janis and Ben shared a love of jazz and musical theater. She loved to visit him in New York and they took in a Broadway show together. She even surprised Ben once on his birthday with an unexpected visit. She loved exploring the local restaurants and would make recommendations on the best places to eat for friends visiting New York.

Cooking for her family was something that brought Janis great joy. Bob was the more social of the two of them, but Janis loved cooking for family and friends. The challenge was getting her to actually sit down and eat. She was much more interested in walking around and taking a taste of everything, making sure it was just right. She was known for her lasagna and her marinara was a family recipe handed down from her mom. Janis passed her love of cooking on to her son, Ben. They enjoyed trying new recipes together and could frequently be found watching the Fook Network, or “Chow Channel” as they often called it. Janis was always saving new recipes, amassing a huge collection, many of which she never had the opportunity to try. Each year, the family shared a special meal they called the “Fryapolooza” where every part of the meal was fried. The smell lingered in the house longer than desired, but it was well worth it for the enjoyment it provided.

In her quieter moments, Janis loved to curl up with a good book. Whether enjoying a great paperback romance novel or discussing the latest read with her neighborhood book club, Janis was happiest with a book in her hands. Her collection became so large in fact that Janis finally resorted to selling them at garage sales – probably to make room for more books!

Janis will be remembered for many things – her genuine kindness and understanding, her willingness to forgive and her inability to keep a secret when good news was involved! We will think of her fondly each time we share a great lasagna dinner, watch a Bronco’s hockey game, clip a recipe, or watch the Food Network. A loving wife, mother and sister, she will be dearly missed.

Janis Nelson English of Kalamazoo, died on September 11, 2022. Janis was preceded in death by her parents. Surviving are her husband, Bob; children: Ben (Anita) English and J.T. English; and her sister: Kathy Nelson. Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Tuesday (SEPT 20) from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Casual attire is welcome. Visit Janis’ webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook. In lieu of flowers, please remember Janis in a more special way. Plant some tulips, share a meal with your family, or make a contribution to one of the following organizations: WMU Bronco Hockey, Kalamazoo Humane Society, or Kalamazoo Public Library.