Life Story Visitation
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
4:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Please join us for a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
Mass of Christian Burial
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
10:00 AM EDT
St. Augustine Cathedral
542 W. Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Burial at Hope Cemetery immediately following mass.
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Family was the pillar of Romeo Amat’s life. Nothing was more important than spending time and sharing his heritage with those he loved most. A gifted artisan, Romeo became well known for his tile and terrazzo craftsmanship, a skill he began learning in England, but truly perfected after immigrating to the United States. Visits to his hometown of Fanna, Italy were an integral part of his life, and Romeo often shared local traditions and family history with his children and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed, but leaves behind countless memories to cherish forever.
On July 15, 1934 Enrico and Irene (Stellon) Amat welcomed their son, Romeo. Although he was born in Liverpool, England, Romeo was raised in Fanna, Italy and the town always held a special place in his heart. The church festivals, local culture, welcoming people, and deep sense of community created a lasting impression on young Romeo. Mount Raut was always one of his favorite views behind Fanna. He took great pride in being from the Friuli region which was a unique part of Italy all its own, including the dialect of Furlan he spoke his entire life.
As a young boy, Romeo worked alongside his father in Italy on a small family farm and in the local fields. Much of his childhood experience included life in northeastern Italy during World War 2. His Catholic Faith was not only an integral part of his childhood, but a central component of his community, bringing people together with feast days and festivals. He was even an altar server at Madonna di Strada, the local church. At 14 years old, he was helping to care for a group of orphans. Shortly after his father died, Romeo moved to England when he was just 16 years old. Here, he began learning what would become a lifelong passion for tile and terrazzo. Romeo travelled the country working in his trade, and occasionally enjoyed a pint of English Ale while doing so. While in England, Romeo was drafted into the British army. He served two years in Japan managing a munitions team and leading a group of Japanese workers who befriended him.
Romeo emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 24 looking for a better life and work after WWII left Europe in turmoil. After taking a ship to New York, he boarded a train to Jackson, MI where his immigration sponsor lived and had a job all lined up for him. Upon arrival, Romeo discovered the job didn’t pan out, but his sponsor told him to keep going on the train to Kalamazoo, MI where there was work. Before long, he was hired as a tile and terrazzo mechanic by Central Tile and Terrazzo Company. Romeo was excited for the opportunity at the time and, years later, with his dedicated work ethic and genuine personality he became their lead project manager and part owner in the company. Romeo took great pride in his work and went from “working with tools” to leading the men on the job. He became well known for his beautiful terrazzo work. Generous by nature, he often shared his time and talents with friends and family. Romeo truly loved what he did. It wasn’t uncommon to hear Romeo say when passing some school in southwest Michigan that he helped put in the terrazzo floor there.
Nita Vanderhorst became the love of Romeo’s life when the couple met at the International Club in Kalamazoo. Married in 1962, there was no more perfect place to honeymoon than Italy. They were wonderful dancers together throughout their life. They spent 50 wonderful years together building a full life and raising their 3 boys. Romeo loved music and enjoyed singing old Italian songs. Italian Alpine Corps choirs were among his favorites along with traditional accordion music. He loved the accordion so much that his three sons didn’t have a choice but to take lessons when they were kids.
Family meant everything to Romeo. He was part of many family dinners which were an event all their own. Romeo loved to cook and was known for his homemade Italian sausage, which became a staple at family graduation parties. He also made grappa using a home-made still in his barn. He had recipes for spaghetti sauce, risotto, and polenta all passed down to his children and grandchildren.
Romeo’s Friulano heritage remained an essential ingredient throughout his life. He loved going back home to Fanna for visits and seeing relatives and friends still there, sharing and passing on traditions to his family. In 1976, Romeo and Nita took their three boys to Europe to visit family in Italy and the Netherlands. Later in life, he guided trips with his sons, daughters in law and grandkids back there. He never wanted that part of the family history and culture to be lost.
Romeo enjoyed many hobbies and activities as part of his already full life. Romeo was an avid soccer fan and played with the Kalamazoo Kickers for a short time after he immigrated to the U.S. He loved watching his grandkids soccer games (and was known to offer his post-game coaching opinions as well.) He taught his sons to pheasant hunt behind his home property. He also liked to shoot clay pigeons and going on hunting trips with relatives on the Dutch side of the family. He enjoyed hunting for mushrooms and cooking them just as much. Every July the family would go to Gun Lake to celebrate birthdays and, of course, Romeo took his favorite place behind the grill, cooking for all his family. Romeo was always one to enjoy relationships with family and friends, eating, golfing, and entertaining. He also was a proud member of the Italian Club of Southwest Michigan.
As he became older, and beyond his profession of tile and terrazzo, Romeo truly developed his craft as a gifted terrazzo artisan. It was his unique and special gift which he loved to share. His work can be admired around the Kalamazoo area at the entrance of the Western Michigan University Medical School, in the floor of Bell’s Brewery of their various logos, and many other places.
Romeo truly lived for his family and his Italian roots. Blending the two was an essential part of his life. His terrazzo work will be admired forever, and he will be remembered as a good, strong, generous and genuine man devoted to his family. La famiglia e tutto which means “family is everything” in Italian, is how Romeo lived every single day of his life.
Romeo Amat of Kalamazoo, age 87, died on October 21, 2021. Romeo was born July 15, 1934, in Liverpool, England to Enrico and Irene (Stellon) Amat, but raised in Fanna, Italy. Romeo was preceded in death by his wife, Nita; grandson, John; and siblings: Angelo Amat, Bruno Amat, and Edda Mazzoli. Surviving are his children: Ron (Nanci) Amat, Ed (Lori) Amat, and Len (Mary) Amat; grandchildren: Brandon, Brianna, Joseph, Claire (Evan), James, Daniel, Christina, Abigail, Peter, Benjamin, and Sarah; great-grandson, Simon; and several nieces and nephews. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared 4-7:30 PM Tuesday (OCT 26) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. A prayer service will be held at 7:30 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 10 AM Wednesday (OCT 27) at St. Augustine Cathedral, 542 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, with burial at Hope Cemetery. Visit Romeo’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo FBO The John Robert Amat Fund.