Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Robert Jay Wilkerson

July 13, 1967 - October 26, 2018
Battle Creek, formerly of Kalamazoo, MI



Monday, November 5, 2018
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Food and refreshments will be served.

Driving Directions


Tuesday, November 6, 2018
12:00 PM EST
Friendship Baptist Church
326 W Paterson St
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 381-4189

Final viewing beginning at 11am.


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.

Friendship Baptist Church
326 W Paterson Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 381-4189


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


All who knew Robert Jay Wilkerson Jr. would agree that he was one of the most caring and kindest people around. Any room Jay entered was made better simply by his presence. It has been said that he had the sweetest soul ever. Heaven has gained a beautiful angel.

He was an amazing man and we will never forget him. He worked hard, but even in his work, his desire was to serve and enrich the lives of others. Jay accepted Christ at an early age, and his faith played a vital role in his life. He loved being a father, and he loved every moment spent with his family and friends. A peacemaker, Jay never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.

Amidst the eventful times of the 1960's it was a time of great celebration in the lives of Robert, Sr. and Anita (McKinney) Wilkerson as they welcomed their baby son, Jay into their hearts and home on July 13, 1967. Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he was the older of two children in his family as he was seven years older than his brother, Andre. His father worked as a mechanic trainer associate at Pharmacia while his mother also worked at Pfizer as a biologist, both companies beginning as the Upjohn Company. In many ways, Jay was a young man of his generation. He liked playing basketball from a young age since his dad took him to many sporting events. It was not uncommon for Jay to play basketball out in the driveway of their home with his uncles and friends. He also played church league basketball for Mt. Zion Baptist church for several years, YBL, YBA and also played for Kalamazoo Central Giants, his Junior year. Jay was into music from the time he was young as his parents were both into music as well. He accepted Christ from an early age and was a member at Mt. Zion Baptist Church growing up. Over the years, Jay attended several other churches.

Jay's favorite verse was Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.

He attended early and middle KPS schools graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1985. He played the cornet in grade school and excelled in his studies. Jay also became the first transfer student to study radio/broadcasting at Loy Norrix, as a DJ for WKDS taking the Metro there and back. While in high school he was generally known as Jam Master Jay. After graduating from high school, Jay was eager for all that life had in store. He worked as a counselor at Pretty Lake Camp in the summer between high school and college. Since his parents always had big gardens, he also worked as a garden supervisor for YOU a non-profit org., as he was very community service minded. Jay attended Specs Howard School of Broadcasting in Southfield, MI earning his degree. From there he enlisted in the Air Force with his buddy Darryl. Jay served from 1987 through 1991, taking part in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Jay supported the troops as a logistics specialist who was stationed in Holloman AFB, New Mexico. He always spoke fondly of his time in the military. With his time in the service complete, Jay returned to Kalamazoo. He married Denise Reno, and although they divorced several years later he was so grateful for their son, Tre, who was born in 1991. He and his son had a great relationship, and they spent a lot of time together. Jay was there to watch Tre play Little League Baseball, and Loy Norrix High School football, basketball, and baseball they had many adventures and memorable trips and went to different cultural events. They often enjoyed movies together, both in the theater and renting movies at home, and went to several sporting events. Jay worked hard throughout his life. After an honorable discharge from the Air Force, he started working as a journeyman welder, and he continued in this line of work for about 20 years giving it up due to health reasons.

In 2015 he began work as a Support Services Coordinator for Zero Day at the Silver Star working with homeless Veterans, which he enjoyed. Jay really enjoyed helping VET's, and since he had a natural way of connecting with people he really connected with them. He also took care of all the activities there and was known as the “music maestro.” Jay loved music and had an old soul when it came to what he listened to as he enjoyed Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra as well as Motown music. Later on, he liked Run DMC and some rap as well as contemporary gospel. Jay could often be seen listening to music on his headphones. At the Silver Star, he also led a Bible study group and was in charge of bingo. Throughout his life, Jay was a man of many interests. He loved Dr. J of the Philadelphia 76ers. while growing up, and he also loved his Doberman, Coffee; as a boy he helped train him at a training school for dogs. Jay followed U of M, Michigan State and met Stephen Curry of the Warriors. He enjoyed traveling, visiting places like Florida, Arizona, and Colorado, and the Carolinas. While he was stationed in New Mexico he learned to speak Spanish quite a bit better than he did in high school class.

Jay loved his mom’s chicken and dumplings as well as his dad’s turkey vegetable soup made after Thanksgiving Day. During the summer he liked grilling BBQ with his dad, and Jay did lots of cooking for various events through his work at the Silver Star. Jay liked shopping, which is something he got from his mom. Even battling diabetes for the past few years, Jay didn’t really slow down much. Although he was taken from his loved ones too soon, Robert Jay Wilkerson Jr. made a significant impact in the lives of so many. He was loving, kind, and respectful of everyone, and he had the most amazing smile. Outgoing and down to earth, Jay was there for anyone in ways both great and small. Joyful and content in whatever life brought, he was a blessing in the lives of all who came near. Jay will never be forgotten.

To Jay from Mom: Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.

Robert Jay Wilkerson, of Battle Creek, died from complications of a stroke that took place June 11th, 2018. He transitioned on October 26, 2018, in Portage. He was preceded in death by his grandparents: Bennie and Hattie (Phillips) Wilkerson and Fred and Frances (Davis) McKinney and 2 uncles: Bennie Wilkerson, Jr. and Craig McKinney. Jay’s family includes his son, “Tre” Robert J. Wilkerson, III; Tre's brothers Antione and Sherron Smith, parents, R.J. and Anita Mckinney Wilkerson; brother, Andre Wilkerson; niece, Mariah Wilkerson and her sister Destiney Williams, many aunts, uncles cousins and friends.

A special thank you to Ben L. Kievit at the Silver Star, a real brother in arms, Kelly Meier a faithful friend, and to Tina at the Medilodge of Portage and her "Dogwood Wing" day shift for giving Jay such special care.

Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Monday, November 5th from 5-7PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Services will be held Tuesday, November 6th at 12pm at Friendship Baptist Church, 326 W. Paterson Street, hosted by Jay's uncle, Pastor Jerry Wilkerson with final viewing beginning at 11 am. Burial with military honors will follow at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Jay’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Friendship Baptist Church.