Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Joan Atwell

December 1, 1943 - December 12, 2021
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Service

Friday, December 17, 2021
4:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Food, drinks and stories will follow in the Life Story Center.

Driving Directions


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.

Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
Web Site

Special Olympics Kalamazoo
Web Site


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

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Joan Atwell leaves her family with a rich legacy of being a strong role model and a person exceptionally committed to the community she loved. Known for her sincere generosity and always seemed to put others first, Joan would do anything to help others in need. She treasured the time she spent with her family and was immensely proud of each and every one of them. There is no doubt that she will be deeply missed by her many special friends and loved ones.

In the year 1943, the Pentagon, which is considered to be the world’s largest office building was completed while at the same time America was rationing canned meats, butter, and cheese, during challenging times. In the midst of WWII, William and Leona (Crandall) Bachman welcomed home their newborn daughter, Joan, on December 1st, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Born the youngest of three girls, her birth brought much hope and a new feeling of curiosity to the family home.

Growing up, her parents both modeled a strong sense of responsibility. Her dad worked for the postal service and her mom worked in graphic design. Joan was very active as a kid and loved the outdoors. She enjoyed hiking with the Campfire Girls and spent any amount of time she could outside. As a teen, Joan was interested in writing, athletics, and music. She was on the fencing team for a brief time and enjoyed playing the violin. She was exceptional at balancing her studies as well as her social life. A proud graduate of the Class of 1961 from Grand Rapids Central High School, Joan was interested in furthering her education. She started out at Grand Rapids Junior College before transferring to Western Michigan University. At WMU, she worked toward her teaching certification and later earned her Master’s in Occupational Therapy while starting a family.

As a mother, she never settled for less than her best. Joan excelled as a single parent, raising Ian, Tyler and Morgan into the fine young men they are today. She taught her boys to love the outdoors as much as she did by taking them to various parks and local woods to hike together. She worked to make their holidays memorable by making her homemade icebox cake amongst other treats. On Christmas morning she would hide the tree behind a sheet to add to the boys’ excitement before the big reveal! She poured herself into her work as an occupational therapist and was proud to provide for her boys over the years. Throughout their lives, she modeled selfless patience and unconditional love. Through many small acts of courage and larger acts of sacrifice she helped craft them into the men they are today.

In addition to her career as a well-loved occupational therapist, Joan also coached gymnastics for the Special Olympics for over twenty years. A great seamstress, she even helped design and make many of the kids’ outfits for competition. She went on to help with the costumes for the New Vic Theater and was well known throughout the community for her volunteering. Over the past few decades, she worked at Loaves and Fishes and managed the call center. Her attention to detail and special way with people made her a natural fit. Joan loved giving back to the community and was never one to sit idle. In all of her busy years juggling a family, with her many obligations, and volunteering schedules, she never wavered in her abilities; and never showed up late for a pickup after soccer practice. Any challenge was also met with her even temper and ability to see the good in everything. There truly was no one other than Joan that could handle the chaos of deadlines and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Each activity she was involved in was left better from her being a part of it. Everywhere she went she left people at ease and made a lasting impression.

Not to be forgotten was her fiancé, Rod Budka. They met in 1982 and have been together since. Their first official date included a stop at Bilbo’s where they enjoyed each other’s company. They returned many times thereafter to rekindle the memory of that special evening together. Over the years, they both enjoyed the theater. Rod enjoyed acting and Joan loved tending to the wardrobe on set, making them a great match for one another! Fond of travel, they were able to travel to South Carolina annually with friends and even went to Italy for the trip of a lifetime! Back at home, Rod and Joan enjoyed dining out and spending time with the grandkids. Joan loved to take the grandchildren on trips around town. She especially loved to frequent the local bookstore where they would pick out new books, games, or puzzles to complete back at her home. Joan was always up for anything they wanted to do including arts and crafts or getting down on her hands and knees to play on the floor with them well into her later years! Kids were her everything! She had exceptional compassion for them in her profession as well as those she was lucky to call family.

Sadly, Joan was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Not one to ever feel sorry for herself, she never complained during her treatment. Her family bonded together to tenderly care for her right up until she passed away. A beautiful woman to know and to love, Joan always wanted the best for her family. Gone too soon, may the warm memories of the years they shared together endure in their hearts forevermore.

Joan Atwell, age 78, of Kalamazoo, MI, died, December 12, 2021, at her home in Kalamazoo. Joan was an occupational therapist for the Kalamazoo Public Schools for over 30 years. She was preceded in death by a sister, Sue Freye. Surviving are her fiancé, Rod Budka; 3 sons: Ian (Lea Anne Scott) Atwell, Tyler Atwell (Stephanie Abanto), and Morgan (Kacey) Atwell; 5 grandchildren: Aiden, Amelia, Payton, Kameron, and Kendall; sister, Mary (Bill) Thompson and nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Service on Friday, December 17, 2021, at 4 pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Food, drinks, and stories will follow in the Life Story Center. Visit Joan’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Special Olympics Michigan or Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.