Life Story / Obituary
Many who knew and loved Phil have so many precious memories that will never be forgotten. He was known to be the “nicest man you’ll ever meet”. He was very thoughtful, caring and selfless in deeds. He was neighborly, always willing to lend a helping hand. He always had a story to tell and enjoyed company. For nearly forty years he loved and shared life daily with his special friends, known as his “Coffee Buddies.” He loved his career, building and fixing things, but he was known to love his wife, daughters, and grandchildren most of all.
Phil was born February 22, 1932, in Paw Paw Michigan to Elmer and Esther (Felt) Holm. He was the youngest of four children, joining his two sisters, Jean and Constance (Connie) and his brother, William (Bill). Phil grew up at 500 E. Main Street, Paw Paw, which was only a ½ block away from his school. His father was a WWI Marine Veteran. However, he was shot in both legs while in battle in France, and because of his injuries he mainly helped at home with the children while his mother worked various administration jobs, including as a stenographer. She worked for several attorneys in Paw Paw, the Van Buren County Probate Office, and during WWII she was employed with the Federal Civil Service Office in Battle Creek (The Federal Center). When Phil’s father could work he delivered large cuts of ice to local homes for their “ice box,” before refrigeration, and milk for the families. He did so wearing wooden legs! Unfortunately, his father passed away in 1939, just after Phil turned 7 years old. His older brother Bill was a great influence on him. He took him under his wing and taught him many things about building radios and working with electronics.
Phil didn’t talk much about his young childhood, but when he did, he reminisced about reading books, playing softball with his sister, Connie, riding his bike, staying out all day to play, and spending the day at the area lakes. The family didn’t own a television so the kids had to use their imagination to keep busy. Once and a while they were able to go to the Strand Movie Theater as well. He remembered seeing the premieres of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind there.
Before graduating high school, he worked at the Hotel de Hamburger, which he said had the “best hamburgers in the whole world.” He also worked for a local radio repair shop. A funny story he told was of constructing a makeshift can and wire telephone. He strung it between his bedroom window, up the telephone poles, across the street, and into the bedroom of his best friend so they could stay up all night and talk on the “phone.” The funny thing was, the “telephone” actually worked!
Phil received his education at Paw Paw High School and went on to graduate in 1951. While in high school he enjoyed various sports, including football and basketball. He was also in the radio and camera clubs.
Shortly after graduating high school Phil enlisted and served in the United States Navy. He served from 1951 to 1955 and in the Navy Reserves until 1959. He served during wartime with Korea, earned the rank of Petty Officer, Second Class, and had the title Radio-Telephone Second Class. Phil served as both a leader and technical expert in his field. While away he served on the U.S. Delta (AR-9) and Molala (ATF-106). His journey brought him to places such as North and South Korea, Shanghai China, and other surrounding areas, Hong Kong and Japan. He was awarded three medals for his service.
After returning home in 1955, Phil attended Michigan State University. His time there was cut short as his mother fell and broke her hip. He returned home to Paw Paw to help the family take care of her. It was also during this time he began his lifelong career working for Michigan Bell. He became a Switchman, a telecommunications specialist. Working the inside exchange lines, he helped to keep area residences connected.
One particular day in 1955, Phil was driving down the road from home and saw “the prettiest girl” he ever saw, wearing a yellow dress walking to church. He stopped and they got to talking. Her name was Carolann. From there they dated and on July 4, 1957 he married her in the St. Mary’s Catholic Church rectory.
Phil and Carol led a prosperous life. Carol continued her education in business at Western Michigan University, while working for First National Bank in the Trust Department. Phil continued his education by attending various Telephone Trade School classes. They built their first house at 407 West North Street, Paw Paw. They also loved to travel, enjoying many stops along Route 66 as well as Gatlinburg, Daytona Beach, Disney World and Disney Land, and lots of National Parks and Forests in-between.
Their marriage was mostly a happy one, but there were many miscarriages and heartache as they longed for a child. It wasn’t until 15 years later their first daughter, Nicole, was born. A second daughter, April, was born 17 months later. Phil and Carol were elated when their daughters came! At this time, they both decided that it would be best for Carol to stay home with their daughters.
In 1975, the family moved to the Winchell neighborhood in Kalamazoo. This new home was much closer to Phil’s work and allowed him more time at home with his family. Phil and Carol always made sure their daughters had the very best education and involved them in extracurricular activities such as ballet, piano lessons, swimming, and girl scouts. There was always a recital or activity to go to and Phil was sure to attend many of these activities. Carol attended most of the school activities during the day while Phil was at work. Travelling was still important to them both. Every year Phil would take his family to Gatlinburg, Daytona Beach, and Disneyworld. Once in a while he would swing up through Kentucky and visit Cave City with his family. There was also a trip to Mackinaw Island, Ontario, Canada, through North and South Dakota visiting the Badlands and Mount Rushmore, all the way to Lincoln, NE to visit his brother Bill’s family.
Holidays were exceptionally important to both Phil and Carol. Family feasts for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were made throughout the years at his sister Jean’s home, Carol’s mother, Ann’s (Poulin) home, and later at niece Rosemary’s (Shallhorn) home. The tradition continues today with the extended family gathering at the home of his daughter, Nicole.
In 1989 Phil’s beloved wife of over 30 years became ill with cancer and passed away Jan 03, 1990. He never remarried. At the time, both of his daughters were in high school and he was still working. Carol had been the homemaker and bookkeeper for the family and Phil had to learn quickly in order to keep his family on track. After things settled, Phil tried to keep busy. He took it upon himself to rebuild the engine and transmission in Carol’s car. He also learned, designed, and built his own custom kitchen. He was very proud of his accomplishments! Later, he joined a couple of senior groups and took up square dancing. His partner, Marcia Bricker, and he went on to dance for many years. It was a very happy time for him.
The real joy of his life was when his grandchildren came. Brian and Micah, then Madilynne. Katie, Eden and Bradley then came a little later. Phil was always there for them. He babysat often and played an integral part in each of their lives. He even helped to raise Brian for a little while. He built them a play fort with a slide, a monkey-bar, and swings for the backyard. He took the children on several walks around the neighborhood and had fun washing the cars with them. He always had a Pepsi, donuts or cookies on hand – even though Nicole and April said no, there was no stopping Grandpa from giving the kids sugar!
The last few years had been hard for Phil. His health was failing. He had heart, stroke, kidney, and cancer illnesses. Nicole and April made sure he got to all his doctor appointments and had the help he needed. Nicole’s best friend, Michelle Cooper-Kelley, was also instrumental in Phil’s care over the last few years. Michelle held a very special place in his heart and he considered her his other daughter. Michelle also took care of Phil’s mother Esther, and sister Jean, while they were, at different times, residing at Lakeview Continuing Care Center.
Philip Holm, age 88, died April 29, 2020 at his care home in Battle Creek. On his last day he blessed his daughters telling them goodbye and that he loved each of them. He died peacefully in his sleep at 5:09 A.M. His caregiver was by his side holding his hand while he passed. Phil was preceded in death by his wife, Carolann Poulin; 2 sisters: Jean and Connie; his brother, Bill; and his parents: Esther and Elmer. Surviving are his daughters: Nicole (Steve) Hudson and April (Ian) Kutsche; brother-in-law: Bill (Ann) Poulin; grandchildren: Brian, Madilynne, Katie, Bradley, Micah, and Eden; several step-grandchildren and step-great grandchildren; several nieces and nephews; his former son-in-law, Richard (Azucena) Wilson; and his “Coffee Buddies.” Private services will be held with burial at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Paw Paw. A Life Story Celebration will take place at a later date. Visit Phil’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Arrangements by Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M40 Hwy, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870.