Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Leon "Lee" Nemecek

March 22, 1939 - September 14, 2021
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Visitation

Tuesday, September 28, 2021
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

The family requests masks be worn at the visitation and service due to immune compromised people in the family. In addition, everyone is invited to wear their favorite maize and blue.

Go Blue!

Driving Directions

Mass of Christian Burial

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
10:00 AM EDT
St. Thomas More Parish
421 Monroe Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
(269) 381-8917
Web Site


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.

KVCC Foundation FBO Joann Nemecek Memorial Nursing Scholarship.
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

Life Story / Obituary


When reflecting on the life of Leon “Lee” Nemecek, it is easy to see that he was hardworking, loyal, and detailed with a deep love for the ones he treasured. He loved being outside and found true joy in the simple things in life as he was never about fanfare or fussing. A loving husband and father, Lee was proud to witness his family tree grow to include many branches of loved ones. Life will never be the same without Lee here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.

The 1930s in America were defined by the dark days of the Great Depression that covered our nation like a wet blanket throughout the entire decade. Although there was great trial and tribulation, the American spirit could still be seen as cities, communities, and families came together to weather the storm however they could. It was as March dawned in 1939 that Francis and Johanna (Trojanek) Nemecek were able to shift their focus to an exciting time in their lives as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Leon on March 22nd. His parents were farmers (dairy and general), and Lee’s father worked for the post office in East Jordon. Lee was the youngest of four boys joining his three older brothers Otto, Ivan and Lawrence. There were 10 years that separated him from his eldest brother.

In many ways, Lee was a typical young boy of his generation. He attended a one-room schoolhouse and later rode a bus to the “big” school. Lee was raised Catholic, and he and his brothers were altar boys while their father sang in the choir. They lived close to the church, and being 100% Czech was a big part of Lee’s upbringing. As was common, he helped work the farm, which left him no time for anything else. Lee’s high school years found him at East Jordan High School. After graduating in 1956, he started working for the East Jordon Iron Works foundry. Through his life, wherever he went, he would look for manhole covers from the Iron Works and found them as far away as the Czech Republic. He also instilled this habit in his children and grandchildren.

During these early years, he met the young woman who would change the course of his life forever. Her name was Joann Swoboda, and although she attended Boyne City they met through the church they attended, St. John Nepomucene in East Jordon.

Lee enlisted in the United States Air Force and served from 1961 through 1965. He did his training in Texas and Mississippi. He served overseas in Turkey as an electronic interception operator who listened to the Russians. Upon returning to the States, Lee was stationed in Omaha and spent many a long drive going back to Michigan to see Joann. After discharge, as an E4, he moved to Kalamazoo, started working at Sears, and married Joann, in October of 1965. She was working as a nurse at Borgess Hospital at the time. After his time at Sears, he worked for a chemical company before moving to Parker Hannifin for 15 years.

Lee and Joann built a home on 2nd Street in 1966, and together they welcomed two children, Monica and Mark, into their hearts and home. As a father, he was actively involved in the lives of his children. If his kids were involved, he was involved as well. Lee spent years coaching Mark’s Little League team, and he often helped with various fundraising programs as well. He was heavily involved with the Band Boosters, including serving as president and accompanied both Monica and Mark on their band trips. Halloween was always a fun time in the Nemecek family, especially since it was also Joann’s birthday. In 1994, Lee was deeply saddened with Joann’s death.

After retirement, he turned a lifelong hobby into a business, starting his own woodworking company. Lee’s shop and the woods where he harvested the trees to make his lumber were his sanctuaries. He built a timber-framed barn using materials that he felled, hewed and finished. Lee could make pretty much anything out of wood including: Adirondack chairs, headboards, rocking horses, toy boxes, cradles, entertainment centers, and all types of furniture for family and friends. In everything he did, Lee was meticulous.

He was also amazing in the kitchen and loved to cook everything the old-fashioned way over an open fire or in the smoker. Lee was known for all kinds of things including making his own maple syrup, sauerkraut, bacon, ham, beef jerky, smoking cheese, and other traditionally Czech and Polish foods.

Lee met a woman named Pat Costello through the Otsego Public Schools. Their relationship began as friendship, developed into love and they were married on July 3, 1998, at Stetson Chapel on the campus of Kalamazoo College followed by a pig roast reception back at their house. Together Lee and Pat loved to travel, visiting all of the states except North Dakota, visiting Monica and traveling around Europe. They both loved cooking and entertaining. They enjoyed challenging themselves and hosting themed dinners. Both Lee and Pat loved exploring new things together including new places, new foods, and new experiences.

Throughout his life Lee was someone who was forever on the go. He always made everything more fun, too. Lee was an outdoorsman who loved fishing whether it was for bluegill, trout, salmon, or lake trout in Lake Michigan. Even on vacation, Lee was an early riser who was usually up and ready to go at 4 am. As his family and friends can attest, Lee was a lifelong fan of University of Michigan football. He started with listening to the games by radio up on the farm. He started going to one game a year with his family and eventually graduated to becoming a season ticket holder. He and Pat even went to many away games.

All who knew Lee would agree that he was the heartbeat of wherever he went. He was outgoing and friendly, the sort of person who could strike up a conversation with anyone. Lee was hardworking and believed that anything worth doing was worth doing right. It was easy to see that his family was important to him, and he was happiest when surrounded by friends, family and food. Deeply loved, Lee will never be forgotten.

Leon “Lee” Nemecek, of Kalamazoo, age 82, died Tuesday, September 14, 2021 in Paw Paw after a rapid decline due to dementia. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Joann Nemecek in 1994; brother, Lawrence Nemecek and sister-in-law, Marlene Nemecek. Surviving are his wife of 23 years, Pat Nemecek; 2 children: Monica Nemecek and Mark (Jenn) Nemecek; 3 step-children: Michael (Dana) Costello, Steven (Jen) Costello and Ann (Jack) Costello-McLain; 9 grandchildren: Christian, Baleigh, Oliver, R.J., Emily, Lyla, Alyson, Alexis and Tennyson; 2 brothers: Otto (Joan) Nemecek and Ivan Nemecek and many nieces and nephews. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation on Tuesday (SEPT 28) from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Wednesday (SEPT 29) 10AM at St. Thomas More Parish. To RSVP and get information for the gathering afterward please contact: LeeNemecekRSVP@gmail.com. Cremation will follow with burial at Hill Cemetery, Oshtemo Township and St. John Nepomucene, East Jordan. Visit Lee’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to KVCC Foundation FBO Joann Nemecek Memorial Nursing Scholarship.

The family requests masks be worn at the visitation and service due to immune compromised people in the family. In addition, everyone is invited to wear their favorite maize and blue.

Go Blue!