Thursday, May 3, 2018
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Rosary recited at 7:00 PM
Food and drinks 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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Jim Irmen’s life revolved around his faith and his family. A family man through and through, nothing brought him greater joy and satisfaction than being with each and every one of his loved ones over the years. Driven, determined, and devoted, he lived his life to the fullest. Content enjoying a beautiful landscape, spending time with family, or cheering on (and occasionally cursing) the Tigers, he found the simple pleasures in life fulfilling. No one ever had to question his deep love for his children. He wanted nothing more than to share in their happiness and looked forward to each and every family gathering. Jim’s nurturing ways and warm memories will forever be cherished for generations to come.
With banks still closing as a result of the Great Depression, the promise of a new election year waiting, and during the midst of one of the greatest droughts in American history, Stephen and Kathryn (Wendell) Irmen welcomed home their newborn son, James on December 5, 1932, in Toledo, Ohio. His birth brought light into an era of hard times.
Born the fourth of seven children, Jim had his fair share of childhood memories. Typical of teenage boys during those years, he played football and basketball. He grew to 6’1 tall, and perfected his “one hand push shot” and an unblockable hook shot. He graduated in 1950 from Central Catholic High School in Toledo. After graduation, Jim went on to study as a seminarian. But after two years he discerned that the Lord was not calling him to be a priest so he left the seminary. He went on to serve our country for two years in the Army during the post WWII occupation of Germany. He was a peacetime soldier which afforded him the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe. He cataloged his travel with his trusty camera and later shared that season of his life with anyone who was willing to watch (and some who were not) his epic slide shows.
After leaving the military service, Jim’s little sister Rita introduced him to Donna Wurdack. The two of them were eager to spend the rest of their lives together and were joined in marriage on November 29, 1958. With the beginnings of their family underfoot the happy couple moved to Kalamazoo for a job transfer Jim took with General Electric in 1961. He and Donna continued to add to their family until they arrived at seven wonderful children. After having four boys (Jim, Dave, Steve and Greg), he was delighted with the birth of his first daughter Mary Beth. After a short breather, they welcomed John and Jean. Jim’s excitement about the birth of his children never waned. When Jean was born, Jim was so excited about her arrival that one of the nurses asked him if she was his first child.
As a father, Jim relished in his years of coaching his boys’ Little League teams and even ended up as the President of the league. As a coach, he was always encouraging and calm. Winning was important, but what mattered most to Jim was the time he spent with them. When he wasn’t coaching, he was his kids’ biggest fan and cheerleader. He rarely missed a game. And when grandchildren came, he had a new generation to cheer for and encourage. Jim went out of his way to attend every game, piano recital, grandparent’s day, graduation, baptism and any other day of significance in the life of his family.
At G.E. Supply, All-Phase Electric, and R.W. Leet Electric, he held positions of great responsibility, often being the first to arrive and the last to leave. His desk was what you could refer to as “organized chaos”, yet he knew exactly where everything was.
Many weekends were spent packing all the kids into the station wagon for picnics at Lake Michigan, or traveling back to Toledo to spend time at his brother’s “farm” where many of the family gathered. He even found time to fit it an annual Cedar Point trip, always being sure to pack the Styrofoam cooler. With a strong faith, Jim and Donna raised their children with the same Catholic foundation they enjoyed as children. Jim was proud to put all seven children through St. Monica Elementary and Hackett High School. Their home was welcoming and loving. It was not uncommon for them to entertain large groups of kids to play hoops in the driveway. Dinner time was a sacred part of their child-rearing years, all having their designated place at the dinner table enjoying Donna’s Rice Krispie Chicken and Wilted Lettuce.
Retiring from R.W. Leet Electric in 1998 afforded him more time to spend with his abundant family. His grandchildren were his joy! Thoughtful beyond measure, he sent every family member handwritten holiday cards of all kinds. No Christmas, Easter, or birthday was ever missed.
After 44 years of marriage to Donna, she went to be with the Lord in 2002, surrounded by her loving family. Jim spent a lot of time in church throughout the following year, and there he met Eileen Tucker. Most of us are lucky to find love once, but Jim was so fortunate he found it twice. Both attended St. Monica’s and after a brief courtship, they were joined in marriage on July 3, 2004, at St. Augustine Cathedral. Eileen brought so much happiness back to Jim’s life, and was immediately embraced by the entire family. In their 15 happy years together, they’ve made so many wonderful lasting memories. They walked the Mackinaw Bridge, rode bikes on the beach at Hilton Head, walked the pier and enjoyed picnics in South Haven, golfed, explored Northern Michigan and loved traveling together. Jim and Eileen regularly gathered with his Toledo siblings and spouses for short visits, lunch and laughs. The group has affectionately become known as “The Day Trippers”.
Jim’s loving and generous example will be richly remembered. He valued being there for others by attending funerals and regularly checking up on neighbors. Jim faithfully attended daily mass to get his “daily instructions.” Always there for his family and many special friends, he will be deeply missed and fondly remembered for his wisdom, faith, unconditional love and gentle guidance to all who knew and loved him.
James L. Irmen, of Kalamazoo, died April 29, 2018, at the age of 85 years at Rose Arbor Hospice. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Donna; an infant brother, Richard; brothers-in-law: Bob O’Connell and Joe Colturi. Surviving are his wife of 14 years, Eileen Tucker-Irmen; 7 children: Jim Irmen, Dave (Tere) Irmen, Steve (Malia) Irmen, Greg (Janine) Irmen, Mary Beth (Ricardo) Herrera, John (Mary) Irmen and Jean (Todd) Conklin; 4 step-children: Mary (Jim) Doorn, Bob (Lilly) Tucker, Brian (Kim) Tucker and Don (Karen) Tucker; 29 grandchildren; 33 great-grandchildren; 5 siblings: Sam (Charlee) Irmen, Mary Ann Colturi, Jean O’Connell, Rita McInnis and Kathleen “Butch” (Pat) O’Neill; and many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and drinks on Thursday from 4-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where a Rosary will be recited at 7 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 10 AM at St. Augustine Cathedral. A luncheon will follow in the Cathedral Center with burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Please visit Jim’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Monica Church or St. Augustine Cathedral.