Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Robert "Bob" VanVleck

April 20, 1942 - October 9, 2021
Lawton, MI



Thursday, October 14, 2021
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Paw Paw Location
60900 Michigan 40
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-3870

Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.

Driving Directions


Friday, October 15, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
New Hope Fellowship
201 W Michigan Ave
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 415-3021

Following the funeral service, burial will take place at Oak Grove Cemetery. A luncheon will then be held at New Hope Fellowship.



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.

Centrica Care Navigators
7100 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 345-0273
Driving Directions
Web Site

Kalamazoo Concert Band
PO Box 20060
Kalamazoo, MI 49019
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


Bob VanVleck was a vibrant person who loved people and enjoyed life. He valued the importance of listening and being accepting of others. As a farmer, Bob earned the respect of his community as people could always trust the high standards of his crops. His generosity with his time and knowledge have created a lasting legacy that will be treasured by his close friends, fellow farmers, clients, and his loved ones for many years to come.

The 1940s were marked by the tremendous hardships of WWII, but this was also a decade of innovation and celebration. Color televisions began finding their way into living rooms across the nation. M&M’s and Cheerios were quickly becoming household names. Gary Cooper and Joan Fontaine entertained people on the silver screen and The Glenn Miller Orchestra topped the charts with their tunes Moonlight Cocktail and I’ve Got A Gal in Kalamazoo. Closer to home, Edgar and Ruth (Sloan) VanVleck celebrated the birth of their baby boy, Robert, on April 20, 1942 in Potterville, Michigan. His birth brought much joy and promise in an era of great change.

Growing up on a dairy farm, Bob learned the value of a hard day’s work at a young age. Though he had many chores on the farm, he also knew how to have fun. Bob loved to race up the silo with his sister, one on the inside and the other on the outside to see who could reach the top first. His big feet, which often managed to find a warm cowpie between his toes, caused his mother to joke and buy new shoes for her girls, but would give the shoeboxes to Bob.

While in school, he thrived on the boys’ wrestling team and enjoyed pole vaulting. He was proud to graduate from Charlotte High School. Central Michigan University was the perfect setting for him to break from home and set his sights on earning his bachelor’s degree in education. He joined the Chippewa track team, earning a scholarship for his pole vaulting skill. Using a stiff pole and landing in piles of sawdust helped pave his way through tuition bills. He even held the team record for over a decade.

While student teaching, Bob soon discovered that teaching wasn’t the path for him and instead turned his interests back to farming. Bob’s work ethic landed him a job as a fieldman for Welch’s in Lawton. He didn’t know much about grapes at the time, which Welch’s loved because it meant Bob didn’t have any bad habits either. He later went on to purchase his own farm. He made friends in the community, learned quickly, and was soon delivering grapes to Welch’s, Fenn Valley Winery, and area retailers. Over the years, Bob loved nothing more than humbly sharing his wealth of knowledge with fellow farmers, just as they shared with him in his early years. Anyone who knew Bob trusted his service, the quality of his produce, and they had a friend for life!

Bob raised two children with his first wife, Linda. Bob’s second wife, Janice, was a teacher with Kalamazoo Public Schools. Her two children joined the family and together they enjoyed camping in the Winnebago, taking cruises, and travelling to several countries after their children were grown. They all pitched in around the farm, growing it to include peaches, raspberries, and some of the very best cherries around, all while living in the home that Bob built himself. He was always a supportive and encouraging father and took countless photographs of his kids’ and grandkids’ special events over the years. Any time he was with his family, Bob was truly happy.

Bob and Jeanette, had been friends for several years. After Jan died in 2005, Bob and Jeanette were drawn closer together. They married in 2007 and were perfect companions. She loved horses and raised a few on the farm. Though Bob was not as keen, he jumped in when needed helping to feed and care for them.

In addition to horses, the couple nurtured and trained Charlie, a therapy dog, who brought comfort to many people around town. They continue to share their other therapy dogs with the community to this very day. Both Bob and Jeanette were drawn to a close relationship with God and went on mission trips together, impacting lives as they were able. They also enjoyed vacationing to Hawaii and other destinations, which became easier and more frequent after retirement. One of their favorites was Canada. They loved hiking the incredible vistas and visiting friends. Bob’s motto was to explore different places and enjoy the journey.

In what free time he was able to carve out between harvests, Bob lived an active lifestyle. Civic minded, he was a volunteer fireman in his younger years and also joined the local school board to give back to the community he loved. He was an avid reader and enjoyed canoeing on the St. Joseph River, among others, and didn’t shy away from choppy waters. Bob had a particular talent in the kitchen. He loved to cook, but baking was perhaps his true specialty. His homemade cherry pies with crust made from scratch were simply irresistible!

Known for his charming smile and endless hugs, Bob will undoubtedly be missed by his family and friends. His steadfast values and ethics were as strong as an oak tree, but his warm personality was as gentle as a cherry blossom. Bob leaves his friends and loved ones with remarkable memories of living his life to the fullest. May their fondest moments live in their hearts forevermore.

Robert "Bob" VanVleck died on October 9, 2021 at age 79, but according to Bob, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his 29th birthday. With his determined work ethic and positive personality, Bob was known to many and never met a stranger. Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Jan; and daughter: Jessica Branch. Surviving are his wife, Jeanette; children: Scott (Anita) Locey, Shelley (Jim) Medsker, Dr. Mat (Ann) VanVleck, Betsy (Pete) Jacobs, James (Jennifer) Branch, John (Amy) Branch, and Jamie Branch; grandchildren: Brianna, William, Daniel, Mackenzie, Bryn, Ava, Thomas, George, Logan, Dylan, Hailey, Jessica, Juliann, and Jimmy; great-granddaughter, Alaina; siblings: Jim (Maureen) VanVleck, Phyllis Haynor, and Barb Gillmore; and many nieces and nephews.

Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared 5-7 PM Thursday, October 14, 2021 at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40 Hwy, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870. A funeral service will be held at 11 AM Friday, October 15, 2021 at New Hope Fellowship, 201 W. Michigan Ave, Paw Paw with burial at Oak Grove Cemetery in Lawton. A luncheon will be held at the church following the burial. Visit Bob’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Concert Band or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.