Life Story / Obituary
Whole-hearted, selfless, and persevering, Jennifer Baggett lived a life rich in family and friends. Jen embraced every moment as a gift and welcomed every person she met as a friend. She listened with sincerity, saw the best in everyone, and made others feel that they were the most interesting person she had ever met. Jen possessed a wonderful sense of humor and quickly inspired smiles and laughter wherever she went. With unwavering devotion, Jen lovingly cared for her loved ones, always putting other’s needs before her own. In so doing, she proved a powerful role model for how to live an authentic and heart-centered life. An inspiration to all who were blessed to know her, Jen will long be remembered and ever so missed.
1971 was a year of many exciting new possibilities; National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasted for the first time, Walt Disney World Resort opened in Florida, and the 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Amtrak, Federal Express, and Greenpeace came into being, and with the invention of the microprocessor, the year marked the start of the digital age we now know. Nowhere was there greater anticipation of the future than in Detroit, Michigan as Doug Bates and Patricia (Reinhart) Baggett welcomed their daughter, Jennifer, into their hearts and home on March 23. She was instantly her mother’s pride and joy.
Growing up in the Lake Orion, Lapeer, and Ortonville areas, Jen enjoyed an active childhood. The oldest of six children, Jen was very much a “mother hen” to her siblings, Steve, Danielle, Rebecca, Gary, and Shane. She fiercely protected them and ensured they were always well cared for. Jen enjoyed the family’s small farm, which was always bustling with a variety of small animals. She and her brother would go down to the chicken coop with little baskets to collect the eggs, and she loved riding the family horses. The family didn’t have a TV, so the kids made their own fun games to play with each other like “Spanish poodle,” “Egg,” and “Donkey.” From her earliest days, Jen always wanted to have a big farm with “lots of kids and animals” when she grew up.
Jen possessed a daredevil’s spirit. She was always looking for adventure, regardless of the potential cost, and she had all the battle scars to prove it. Once, she took a corner too fast on a dirt bike and ended up in a tree with two broken arms. She also crushed her pinky working a log splitter as a teenager. Spirited and confident, Jen was a firecracker. She never hesitated to fight to protect those she loved regardless of who she came up against. She was equally known for her generosity, often treating her younger siblings to sugary snacks and drinks before dropping them off at school in the morning. She even taught most of her siblings how to drive in her Ford Escort.
During her teens, Jen worked at a blueberry farm in Grand Junction with her siblings. Later, she worked in the KVCC bookstore while attending the pre-nursing program. There was never a doubt for Jen that she would become a nurse. It was truly her calling, and she used her talents and compassion as a personal caregiver in nursing homes and private settings. Jen loved her job and the people in her care.
Unfortunately, Jen was diagnosed with leukemia in the mid-1990s. Though she had a bone marrow transplant in 1996, she experienced many health problems over the years. As a result of these challenges, she was unable to work outside of the home. Instead, she spent her days being the best stay at home mom and Grams.
Nothing was more important to Jen than family. Her siblings were her best friends, and her friends became a part of her family. She never went a day without talking to her siblings and children, and she organized almost all family events. Jen loved to garden and cook with her best friend, Jill, and her ability to carry a conversation was renowned among everyone who knew her. Even in the face of her greatest challenges, Jen always wore a smile and was happy to be surrounded by her loved ones. As the official family photographer, Jen was usually behind the camera, capturing every precious moment.
Raising her children, Gabriela and Jeremy, and helping take care of all her nieces and nephews was Jen’s great joy. The last eight years were what she considered her best years, as these were the years she spent with her granddaughters, Zoe and Callie. It was rare for a day to go by without seeing her “Lovebug” or “Callie girl.” She called her daughter, her life, her son, her pride, and her granddaughters, her heart. She even made up a special song she sang to her granddaughter Zoe almost every day “Lovebug, Lovebug, this is Gaga calling. Lovebug, Lovebug, calling soft and low…”
The family enjoyed several epic vacations together. In 2004, Jen, Jamie, Jeremy, and Gabriela drove down to Florida together. They spent two weeks relishing in the sun and joy of what Jen would long call “the best trip ever.” She was always the first to volunteer to accompany her loved ones on a road trip. Jen was also able to join Gabriela, Zoe, and Xavier on a trip to Texas in 2017. There, they met up with Gabriela’s childhood friends and their families and enjoyed a day in the Gulf of Mexico soaking up the saltwater and the sun. The beach was Jen’s favorite place to be with her loved ones. On their way home, they stopped in Memphis, Tennessee, and surprised Jen with a trip to Sun Records to see where Johnny Cash and Elvis recorded their music. She was in musical heaven.
Naturally positive and gracious, Jen found pleasure in the simple things in life. She was constantly gardening or doing arts and crafts with her granddaughters, and she was rarely without a book. Her room was filled with stacks of books, and she always kept one tucked in her bag. She especially enjoyed romance and suspense novels. She and her sister, Jill, and Gabriela would often read the same books, then discuss them at length, in their unofficial book club! When it came to music, it was all about the songs of her youth. She loved the rock songs of Def Leopard, Warrant, Bon Jovi, and Journey. Attending shows of 80s cover bands was always a good time for Jen and her family. When not rocking out, she enjoyed listening to Country music, especially the works of Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, and many more. She and her children could often be found watching a movie together. Her favorite movies included Gone in 60 Seconds, Lethal Weapon, Sabrina (1995 remake), and The Mummy. When it came to TV shows, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-o, Psych, Bones, and Erkenci Kus (Early Bird) were at the top of her list. She loved sports. The Green Bay Packers were her favorite football team and the Detroit Tigers, her favorite baseball team. She loved a strong cup of coffee; Diet Coke was her signature drink, and tulips her favorite flower. It will come as no surprise that Jen was known for her love of fur babies. It was rare for an animal not to love her instantly, and she often pet sat for friends and family.
Without a doubt, Jen’s days with us were far too few. And while we grieve her absence, we also proudly carry her legacy forward. She taught each of her loved ones to take the world on by the horns. She believed that no goal is unreachable when we’re willing to work hard for what we want. Through her own example, she showed us that strength is a mindset, and that even when our bodies are weak, our spirits can remain strong. Like the eye of a storm, no matter how chaotic the world around us was, Jen was the source of calm and comfort. With love, compassion, and unwavering faith, she had a way of making it seem like everything would be okay at the end of the day.
Jennifer Anne Baggett of Kalamazoo, age 49, died on April 19, 2020. Jen was preceded in death by her father, Doug Bates. Surviving are her husband, James Swartzell; children: Gabriela Baggett and Jeremy Baggett; granddaughters: Zoe and Callie; her mother: Patricia Baggett; siblings: Steve Baggett, Danielle Schwarz, Rebecca Blades, Gary (Kim) Reinhart, Shane (Mandy) Reinhart, Connor Baggett, and Chase Baggett; and many nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place. A Life Story celebration will be held at a later date. Visit Jen’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you may read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.