Tuesday, December 5, 2017
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Drinks and refreshments will be served.
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.
The John Henry Foundation
403 North Susan Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, FL 33625
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Jim Conway was the type of man many strive to be. Despite setbacks beyond his control, he faced life’s challenges and obstacles with resolve, courage, and a hopeful heart. Born on February 12, 1966, he was the second of two children born to his proud parents, James and Lucille (Rossi) Conway. Young Jim was also welcomed by his grandparents and a large extended family of many aunts, uncles and cousins. He was especially an added blessing in the life of his big sister, Mary Ellen who always stood by Jim’s side through thick and thin.
The Conway family made their home in Kalamazoo, Michigan where Jim’s father owned and operated the University Bookstore. His mother, a homemaker, looked after their household. A young boy of his generation, Jim had a number of friends while growing up and enjoyed all that boyhood had to offer. With his large extended family, Jim learned to drive tractors and ATV type equipment whenever they attended family reunions. Devoted to their Catholic faith, Jim and his family were very active parishioners of St. Augustine Catholic Church where Jim served as an altar boy for many, many years. He graduated from St. Augustine’s Catholic School and Hackett Catholic High School.
Jim had a keen interest in gardening which he learned from his mother. He possessed a real talent for growing plants and flowers as well as making beautiful landscaping at their home in addition to the homes of many in the neighborhood. Every winter he and his father built an ice rink in the backyard for skating enjoyment which he loved. Jim went on to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University all while continuing with his landscaping projects. He ultimately opened his own business, Landscape Designs.
Unfortunately, at the age of 23, Jim experienced his first mental illness episode that would change the course of his life. With such hope and promise of a bright future, it was devastating to see a wonderful person such as Jim have their life plans derailed. Jim learned how to manage his illness and was determined not to be defined by his disease. Through the years, with dedication and hard work, he achieved many successes, including an award-winning landscaping project near Holly, Michigan. It wasn’t always easy for him, yet with perseverance and the love of family, Jim was able to carry on a fulfilling life.
Jim moved to California in 2004 to be close to his sister, Mary Ellen, and to take advantage of his family’s vacation home in Palm Desert, California. Jim was a good golfer and played often there. In 2008, Jim began residing at The John Henry Foundation in Santa Ana, California, a program that supports people living with Schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. His time there afforded Jim many opportunities he might not otherwise have had. He became an important mentor to others, a reliable participant in the program and a much desired partner to the staff in support of all the residents. Jim was very well-liked for his humor and respected for his industrious nature and his punctuality! Everyone respected how much he was in control of his life and how he was able to help others achieve stability. Jim’s life gave others hope.
This past July, Jim was sadly diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. After all he had overcome from a mental health perspective, it seemed inconceivable that he would also have to fight cancer. He never had any bad habits, ate a healthy diet and exercised daily. Jim faced the cancer battle with a quiet calm and resolute attitude. He underwent radiation and chemotherapy with bravery and gratitude for all the medical professionals who were helping extend his life. It never mattered to Jim what he was enduring, he always took time to be interested in them and how they were doing. The way Jim handled his journey with such courage all while maintaining so much compassion for others, was inspirational.
A kind and gentle man, Jim had a tremendous heart for others and his compassion was endless. Genuine in every sense, he was always eager to help those around him, regardless of the task. One in a million, Jim faced adversity with a strength all his own and through his fine example, he encouraged all who came his way. For these things and so much more, he will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
Jim passed away on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, having died peacefully in his sleep. Jim is survived by his sister, Mary Ellen (Conway) Stuart and brother-in-law, Joe Stuart. He leaves behind a large, loving extended family and countless friends. Jim always had a great interest in big cats such as leopards, jaguars, and cheetahs. His request was that in lieu of sending flowers, friends and family make a donation in his memory to Big Cat Rescue (www.bigcatrescue.org), 12802 Easy Street; Tampa, FL 33625.
Jim’s sister, Mary Ellen is so grateful to The John Henry Foundation, a non-profit organization for all the work they did to assist Jim with mental stability and personal growth, as well as coordinate his cancer treatments over the past months. She requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Jim’s memory to The John Henry Foundation (www.johnhenry.org), 403 N. Susan Street, Santa Ana, CA 92703.
Family and friends visited while sharing food and drinks on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at St Augustine’s Catholic Cathedral, 542 W. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo. Interment Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Please visit Jim’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can sign his online guest book, post a photo or share a favorite memory.