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Life Story / Obituary
Jim Landfair was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. A hard worker and a lover of all people, Jim was a friend to many and a stranger to none. He never seemed to have a hard time meeting new people and making everyone he met feel comfortable in his presence. Jim’s wonderful sense of humor and genuine interest in having fun will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.
There is no doubt that WWII had a significant impact on the 1940s. It was a time of great turmoil in our nation and Jim’s parents were affected by this as well. His father was a proud veteran of World War II and Peggy kept the home fires burning. By 1945, Glenn and Peggy (Shaver) Landfair welcomed home their son, James, on June 20th in Lansing, Michigan. He and his brother, Timothy, brought great joy to the family home.
Jim lived a typical childhood of the times. Active and outgoing, sports became his passion at a young age. He enjoyed playing on the high school basketball team. His coach made a significant impact on him during these developing years and inspired him to become a teacher. During his senior year of high school, Jim met the lady of his life, Kay. They saw each other at a football game, but didn’t meet until the next night at the school dance. Jim was quite shy, so he sent a friend to ask her to dance, but she politely declined because her eyes were on Jim. Jim overcame his shyness and asked Kay to dance. From that moment on, they were inseparable. The happy couple joined in marriage on June 26, 1964.
After Jim graduated from high school, he enrolled at Michigan State University to pursue a teaching degree. His first job landed him and Kay in Britton/Macon, Michigan. Jim’s teaching career began as a 7th & 8th grade science teacher. It would be hard to name a sport that he didn’t coach or an extracurricular activity he wasn’t involved in while he was there, but basketball was his passion. While in Britton, they grew their young family with the arrival of their first child, Jamie Jo. Jim and Kay’s next adventure was to move to the Upper Peninsula to the picturesque town of Munising. While there, Jim’s teaching career spanned from elementary school PE to high school, but finally landed at the middle school teaching level where he thrived. Again, Jim was involved in coaching many sports and mentoring students, but basketball remained his passion. During this busy and happy time, Jim and Kay welcomed their second daughter, Leann Kay, into the family. This officially made him a “girl” dad!
Later, Jim received his Master’s Degree from Northern Michigan University in Marquette. His strong work ethic and experience landed him a spot as a middle school principal. During his tenure, he received awards from multiple students as “most influential educator” and was chosen as Principal of the Year. Highly respected as a leader, the students all loved him and he made a wonderful career guiding countless educators and families over the years. Relationships were always important to Jim and that was evident by the several students who would remain connected to him long after graduation.
When Jim hung up his whistle, he continued to coach girls golf. Jim and his friend, Dave, announced football and basketball games on the local radio. Jim was the steady play by play announcer and Dave was the humorous commentator which created an entertaining team! The duo created their own radio show named “Coaches’ Corner,” often inviting other area coaches and students to appear as guests. They loved sharing their perspectives and commentary on a wide variety of topics during their show. A genuine and kind mentor who was passionate about helping young people pursue their dreams, Jim left a lasting impression on the school and the greater community.
As a dad, he was mostly known for his ability to cheer on his kids in their many special interests. Jim always encouraged them to find their own interests, whether playing sports or being creative. Leann remembers fondly how Jim would wake her up for school in the morning. He’d quietly walk into her bedroom and start singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, gradually singing louder and louder, and finally yank the blankets off in his famous “Donald Duck” voice! As they grew and started to pursue their own paths, Jim was always supportive and wanted nothing but the best for each of them. He was optimistic and remained a steadfast sounding board whenever they needed advice or a shoulder to cry on. Above all, they never doubted his love for them.
Once the family grew to include grandkids, Jim’s heart grew even wider! He and Kay moved to the Kalamazoo area to be closer to their family after retiring. Not to anyone’s surprise, Jim quickly grew his circle of friends, most whom he considered as close as family. He loved planning vacations, which always included his Clipboard ‘O Fun! He planned activities right down to the minute from the lodging, the entertainment, dinners, and even games! Once, when they were stranded at the airport due to a delay and things were looking gloomy, the kids realized all was well because dad’s Clipboard ‘O Fun saved the day! He had plenty of ideas to keep everyone distracted and upbeat. He knew how to make the most of everything. There was never any downtime with Jim around! His grandchildren grew to love his dad jokes and ability to be quick-witted whenever they were spending time together. Jim’s love for his family was evident to all who knew him.
Social by nature, Jim held a wide variety of special interests. He was an avid golfer and even got a coveted hole-in-one! He was an active member of the Lutheran Church of the Savior. He and Kay also volunteered for Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes where Jim helped with the trucks and working in the pantry. A lifelong lover of sports, MSU was his number-one team! He fondly remembers coaching against Tom Izzo when they were both coaching high school basketball. He and Kay took a trip where they stopped at every random college they passed so Jim could buy a random sweatshirt from these little college towns. Adventure lovers, they also traveled extensively in the U.S and abroad with many friends and family. On numerous occasions, he encountered people he already knew in unexpected places and even formed connections with strangers. On the Great Wall of China, he politely “booed” a stranger wearing an Ohio State shirt that sparked a conversation leading to the realization that the man was also a Yooper. His range of interests knew no bounds. It wasn’t all about sports. Jim and Kay attended several musicals, plays, concerts, and visited several museums. One of his most prized possessions, however, is a painting he bought from his grandson when he was in preschool. The painting hangs proudly in the family home.
Jim enjoyed being surrounded by his loved ones as well as the many special friends in his life. He never had a negative word to say about anyone and gave selflessly so much of his time and resources to those in need. Gone too soon, Jim’s caring ways and generous acts touched many lives over the years. May his loved ones cherish their special memories and may they be eternal.
James Landfair, age 78, of Portage, Michigan, died on June 26, 2023. Surviving are his wife of 59 years, Kay: his best friend and confidante. His children: Jamie (Jason) McCune and Leann (Chip) VanderWall; grandchildren: Anthony (Rachel), Gavin (Cati), Kate (Evan), and Ryan; brother, Timothy (Judy) Landfair; brother-in-law, Tom (Sheri) Sawyer; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents. He also has many friends that are waiting for him to join them in a round of golf.
Services will be held Friday, July 7 at 2 PM at Lutheran Church of the Savior, 3616 E G Ave, Kalamazoo with visitation one hour prior. A luncheon will follow in the church hall. Visit Jim’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories and photos and to sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.