Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Jefferson Bertolina

August 10, 1998 - March 30, 2021
Portage, MI



Saturday, April 17, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1112 N Drake Rd
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
(269) 615-7945

Due to COVID limitations at the church, please RSVP to the family.



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

Life Story / Obituary


Jefferson Bertolina was born to James and Janeen Bertolina on August 10, 1998 in Tucson, Arizona. A few years prior, the family moved there from Thomas Jefferson’s hometown Charlottesville, Virginia. That’s how he gained his dignified name, from the great statesman Thomas Jefferson. When asked if he goes by “Jeff,” the answer was always no. It’s definitely the stately “Jefferson.” He was born for greatness, and great he was. He was an impressive young man for all who knew him.

It didn’t take long before Jefferson sported some rare type seizures which brought the diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis. This ushered in a whole new world of “special needs” to the family. Regardless of that label, Jefferson was a much-loved part of the family and included in almost all the adventures. At the early age of 2, he was welcomed to Croyden Avenue School which was later replaced with Woods Edge Learning Center. There he received new experiences and therapies to help him develop his skills. One important thing he learned was “cause and effect,” meaning he could do something to cause something else to happen. This was a great discovery to him as he learned he could cause music to play on his iPad and, with a single intentional cough, and much to his delight, he could cause his parents to come running.

Jefferson was the youngest of four children and the only son. He enjoyed the love and attention from his three big sisters, all “J” names, Jessica, Jocelyn, and Jennifer. Like any little brother, Jefferson enjoyed being included in whatever they were doing. They built pillow forts around him, dressed him up in funny outfits, painted his toenails and gave him new hair-do’s. As they got older, they played him “young people music” which he preferred. They loved him deeply, and he loved them too.

One of Jefferson’s favorite things was playing on Lake Michigan’s beaches. He loved his “sand stroller” which allowed him to experience the fun of the sand and the surf. He laughed and swung his arms wildly with so much enthusiasm. His joy spread to onlookers who often stopped to express their appreciation for being able to witness such a scene. Another favorite activity was enjoying continual episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants. The mere sound of the show’s intro music brought him great comfort and joy.

Jefferson had a way of making people feel better in a spirit-to-spirit kind of way. Many have expressed how he made them feel comforted and uplifted, like he possessed some kind of magical power. What he may have lacked in intellectual and physical abilities, he made up for with sweetness and enthusiasm. He had big beautiful blue eyes and a contagious laugh. It was impossible to listen to his laughter and not start laughing too. He loved affection and closeness, and it was like heaven on earth to snuggle with him. This is what his family and closest friends will miss the most.

Jefferson passed away peacefully in his mother’s arms and with his father by his side on March 30, 2021. He suffered a long and painful struggle with recurrent acute pancreatitis. Throughout this illness he continued to be sweet and tried his best to be brave.

A special thank you to pediatric GI specialists Drs. Russell Cameron and Patrick Jones, and their medical assistant, Kelsey, for their critical support and expertise given to Jefferson over the last several years. Also, a special thank you to Dr. Robert Page and Bronson Hospital for being there for us continually since 1999. Another special thank you to Jefferson’s devoted private nurse, Stacy Simerman, who brought much joy to Jefferson’s life and helped him through many difficult struggles. She truly loved Jefferson with all her heart, and he loved her too.

Jefferson is survived by his parents James and Janeen; his sisters: Jessica (Michael) Bailey, Jocelyn (Joshua) Lakenan, and Jen Bertolina; grandmother, Shelley French; nephew, Miles Lakenan; and numerous uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. Private burial services will occur on April 9, 2021 at Portage South Cemetery.

A community memorial service will be held in Jefferson’s honor 11AM Saturday, April 17, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1112 N. Drake Rd., Kalamazoo. Masks required. Seating is limited due to Covid-19, so an RSVP is required to the family.

Jefferson has left an unimaginable impact on his family and the wonderful friends he made. Visit his personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com. There, you can share your part of his Life Story by archiving a favorite memory or photo and signing his online guestbook. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.