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.
Lawton Fire Association
125 North Main Street
Lawton, MI 49065
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew John Kole would agree that he was as hard working as they come. His family was the driving force behind his strong work ethic, and he always made sure his family had plenty of fun in life. John never worried about the little things, rather, he took everything in stride. He was a loving and devoted husband and father, and he was so proud to witness his family grow to include numerous branches of loved ones who made his heart fill with love. Life will never be the same without John here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
It was great to be an American during the decade that we commonly recall as the Roaring Twenties. Innovation was transforming the way we lived our daily lives and prosperity was largely felt nationwide. Radios, washing machines, and motion pictures in both color and sound were among the triumphs of the time. It was amidst this exciting time that Abraham and Martha (Stegink) Kole were celebrating a time of great joy in their lives as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named John on July 7, 1926, in East Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the middle of three as he was joined in his family by his brother, Carl, and his sister, Doris. John’s father was an agent for Standard Oil while his mother worked at their family-owned diner, Kole’s Diner, which was actually a railroad car.
It was while he was a young boy that John’s strong work ethic was born. One day, his father pulled him out of school because he needed someone to work on the oil trucks. John carried five gallon buckets to help his father fill the trucks. He also attended local schools, graduating from Lawton High School. John spent some time working for Ingersoll Steel, where he helped test amphibious military vehicles around Asylum Lake in Kalamazoo.
When he was just a young boy of 17, John was ready for all that life had in store. He joined the Navy and served as a gunner and machinist mate during both WWII and the Korean Conflict. Later on, John became a member of the American Legion and Decatur VFW. With his military duties fulfilled, John began his career as a machinist for Fuller Transmission in Kalamazoo. The company closed when he was just 56, which was a great time for John to retire. He ended up being retired for longer than he worked! John’s coworkers always enjoyed working with him, and although he had his own way of doing things, he was very good at what he did.
New and exciting changes were in store for John when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Betty, and they met while he was home on leave from the Navy. John and Betty had known of one another while in high school, but they didn’t begin dating until later. It was no secret that John found her to be quite attractive. They began dating and soon found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together John and Betty were married on April 20, 1947, after he returned home from the Navy.
Over the years both John and Betty were very social and had many friends. Together they welcomed three children including Patricia, John, and Kathy into their hearts and home. John was an active part of his children’s lives including as a Boy Scout leader. As a family, they loved spending summers on Gravel Lake or in Wellston where they had a trailer. Both John and Betty were expert mushroom hunters who also passed everything they knew about mushroom hunting onto their kids while on trips up North. John always made sure his children had their fun toys as well including a sailboat, motorboat, and snowmobile. Every holiday was spent with family at home and John and Betty hosted numerous summer picnics and dinner parties over the years. These were always times that everyone enjoyed and looked forward to. There was quite a celebration at their home in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. Betty decided to retire at the same time as John did so they could travel and enjoy life together. While traveling, they would often stop at a VFW or American Legion post to meet people and share a meal.
Throughout his life John was a man of many interests. He was an avid fisherman who typically cast his line for bluegill around local lakes. Betty also liked to fish, but she’d only use a cane pole while John had more modern tackle. He was hardwired with an amazing sense of generosity as he regularly served within his community. It has also been said that John was famous for volunteering his kids. He joined the Lawton Fire Department in 1948, while living just down the road from the firehouse, and eventually became the oldest living member. John was a talented handyman who could fix just about anything that broke. He was even good at welding and once modified a metal frame from a hammock to make a go-kart out of it. John could often be found tinkering in his barn even recently until he moved into Maple Lake Assisted Living. It has been said that he was always inventing something, particularly to play with on the lake. John brewed his own beer, which was always a favorite at the fireman’s picnics. The kids would help bottle it by siphoning it through hose. During their younger years John and Betty loved dancing at local establishments that had a band, and they spent many afternoons at Ramona Park. He loved westerns and war movies, and Turner Classic Movies was always on. John was very patriotic as many family members, including his son, were in the military. He liked to flirt, especially with his nurses later in life, but it was all in fun as John was totally harmless.
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, John Kole was a blessing in the lives of all who knew and loved him. He was a joker who loved to kid around, even if he seemed a bit too harsh at times. Known for his strong work ethic, John was an inspiration to all who were near. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
John Kole died on June 4, 2019, at Maple Lake Assisted Living. John’s family includes his children: John D. (Roberta) Kole and Kathy (Michael) Jones; 6 grandchildren: Joe (Tracy) Salvaggio, Brian (Tracy) Salvaggio, Katrina (Brian) Maher, Karrie (Justin Kling) Kole, Dani (Casey Minter) Jones, and Michelle (Seth) Hansen; 5 great-grandchildren; 1 great-great-grandchild; 1 sister: Doris Welling; brother-in-law: Steven Price; and several nieces and nephews. John was preceded in death by his wife, Betty; daughter and son-in-law: Patricia (Don) Salvaggio; and his brother: Carl Kole. Visit with family and friends from 5-7 PM on Monday (June 10) at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40 Hwy, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870 where services will be held at 10 AM on Tuesday (June 11). Burial with military and fire department honors will take place at Oak Grove Cemetery with a luncheon to follow at the Lawton Fire Department, 125 N Main St. Please visit John’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.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 the Lawton Fire Association or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.