Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Jean Durham

March 10, 1955 - July 2, 2022
Ada, MI


Life Story Service

Friday, July 8, 2022
4:00 PM EDT
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.

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.

Humane Society of West Michigan
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


Loving, generous, and kind, Jean Durham lived a life rich in faith and family. Never one to require accolades or the spotlight, Jean devoted herself to the care of those she loved. She enjoyed a good story, which she was known to embellish from time to time, and never wanted to inconvenience anyone. With a genuine care for people, Jean was a wonderful hostess who listened keenly, remembered important details, and always reflected the goodness she so easily saw in others. While firm in her beliefs, she was also flexible and rolled with life’s changes. A cherished wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Jean will long be remembered and so very missed.

1955 proved a year of vibrant growth, with consumerism taking off in previously unimaginable ways. With the sale of nearly 7.9 million cars, for the first time in history, seven out of ten families in the US-owned an automobile, and new laws were created to require seat belts to be installed on all new cars. This was the year Ray Kroc built the first McDonald’s, and TV dinners appeared, including the first fish sticks. Cans of Coca-Cola, Lego, Velcro, and The Mickey Mouse Club all made their debuts during this prosperous year, while Rock and Roll music continued to grow in popularity with more idols, including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry, and The Platters. Locally, this time of hope and plenty grew especially bright as Harold and Jeanette Newhouse welcomed their daughter Jean into their hearts and home on March 10th.

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jean grew up on Long Lake in Portage. Her father was a paper box salesman, and her mother a homemaker. Jean was the youngest of four, and there were 20 years between her and her oldest brother. She grew up with her nieces and nephews, who were closer in age. Dutch traditions and an active faith proved the cornerstone of family life. While she was usually well behaved, she had her moments of mischief. Around the age of five, Jean went to church with a toy gun concealed in her tiny purse; her mom nearly fell out of her pew. Growing up, Jean loved lake life. Most days were spent on or in the water, often fishing with her dad or swimming and boating with her best friend, Debbie. She also enjoyed riding with her dad on sales calls to Grand Rapids. On one of these trips, her dad rescued a dog from the Humane Society. Jean and Biffi were inseparable, and she loved dressing him up. Other than Jean and her dad, Biffi didn’t particularly like people (especially Eric). This special companionship led to a lifelong love of animals.

Jean attended Portage Schools and graduated from Portage Central High in 1973. Though she couldn’t hold a tune, she joined the church choir to meet guys. After high school, she attended WMU and worked in the hardware department at Sears, where she proudly graduated from “Lawnmower University.” She loved studying history, but her dream was to be a mom.

While working at Sears, a coworker introduced Jean to the love of her life, Eric Durham. Their first date was to see fireworks for the 4th of July in 1976. The pair were soon dating, and the loud rumble of Eric’s corvette regularly signaled his impending arrival well before she and her parents saw him park the car. With their hearts set on sharing the future, the happy couple married on December 17, 1977, at Lakeland Church in Vicksburg. With hopes of spending their time cross-county skiing, they planned to honeymoon in Traverse City. However, since there was no snow in Traverse City they decided to head to Greenfield Village. En route, they found themselves in a snowstorm in rush hour traffic in Detroit. Never good at navigating, Jean’s poor road map skills resulted in the newlyweds’ first marital “tiff.”

In time, the couple settled at Indian Lake and started their family in 1981 with the birth of their son, Joseph. Jean was delighted to become a mother and dedicated herself to creating a loving and supportive home for her family, which grew to welcome two more children, Rachel and Charlotte. Eric worked in banking, a career that resulted in moving around some while raising the kids. Jean never complained of all the moving and always went with the flow. Jean and Eric were truly best friends and gifted their children a model for a marriage rooted in love.

Motherhood was Jean’s passion. She made sure her children were safe, supported, and had a good deal of fun. Whether helping with homework, cheering on their individual endeavors, or catering to their picky eating preferences, she was steadfast in her love and belief in them. With no love for cooking, she did her best and was actually better than she thought. Knowing that life wasn’t always fair she did her best to make everything equal for her three kids. These special skills ensured her children always received the same number of treats and gifts for birthdays and holidays.

Jean was a natural historian and knew all the important details, dates, and events in everyone’s lives and enjoyed celebrating them. The best hostess, she always had snacks and drinks for everyone and never allowed anyone to lift a finger. After each event, she was filled with satisfaction that her guests enjoyed a good time.

It truly brought her joy to carefully create ways of acknowledging her kids and grandkids. She relished witnessing the excitement on their faces as they opened the gifts she bought for them. Her favorite name was “Grandma Jean,” and she loved making holidays memorable. Whether hiding an equal number of Easter eggs for every child, reading holiday books with her grandkids, gifting each person a unique Christmas ornament, or spoiling them with candy; Jean celebrated every moment shared with her family. Her grandkids could do no wrong. She always looked at their pictures on her phone and gave the best hugs.

Jean and Eric never took a vacation without their kids. They enjoyed exploring the country together and finding fun activities for the kids wherever they went. After the kids were grown, they continued to enjoyed vacationing in the US and Europe. Sometimes some of the kids and their families would join them for parts of the vacations. Jean loved going to Hawaii to get a break from the winter weather because it was nice, but not hot and humid. It would be an understatement to say Jean did not like heat or humidity any more than she liked snakes. While Jean loved these trips, she also very much enjoyed the simple things in life, like the smell of fresh laundry, growing her collections, watching movies, and reading murder mysteries. She made friends easily and was proud to be a past president of the New Neighbors’ League in Omaha, Nebraska. Jean and Eric loved swimming, taking day trips, and watching Jeopardy together. Detroit Tigers fans, many of their vacations included attending professional baseball games at various stadiums throughout the country.

On Saturday, July 2, 2022, Jean felt unwell. Sadly, while on her way to the hospital, she unexpectedly died, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Though our days with her were too few, each and every one was filled with treasured memories. Jean embraced every moment as a gift and every person as a friend. In living a wholehearted life, she proved an inspiration for all who were blessed to know her. Her beautiful legacy of unwavering love, support, and kindness will long live in the hearts of those she loved.

Jean Durham, age 67, of Ada, was predeceased by a brother, Thomas Newhouse. Members of her family include her husband of 44 years, Eric Durham; 3 children: Joe (Laura) Durham, Rachel Durham, and Charlotte (John) Miller; 5 grandchildren: Hazel, Amelia, Molly, Mack, and Rose; 2 brothers: John (Sue) Newhouse and James (Irene) Newhouse; in-laws, Peg Newhouse, Jon Durham (Jerry Harty), and Becky (Roger) Knapp and many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. A Life Story Service will be celebrated on Friday (July 8th) at 4PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900, where a reception will follow in the Life Story Center. Casual attire is welcomed. Private burial at Canonsburg Cemetery. Please visit Jean’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can read her life story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society of West Michigan.