Tuesday, January 12, 2021
11:00 AM EST
St. Mary Catholic Church
939 Charlotte Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
Private burial will take place 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
When reflecting on the life of Sidney Longjohn, we find a family man, businessman, and a man of Faith who led by example. A brother, husband, father, grandfather, and a friend who made a difference in the lives of more people than he might imagine and, to an extent, that only God fully grasps. Sid would want us to remember him with a smile and your prayers. He would want us to pray for each other that we may continue our journey in the footsteps of Our Lord.
Although the 1930s were cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression, there was much to celebrate in the lives of William and Hazel (Allen) Longjohn as they welcomed the baby boy they named Sidney on February 23, 1938. Raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he was one of five as he was joined in his family by his siblings, Edythe, Peter, Hope, and LeEtta. Family was a big part of Sid’s life as his cousins lived next door. Together the cousins enjoyed building go-karts, which sometimes got them into their fair share of trouble. Sid helped his parents on their celery farm, and they had a rather clever approach as they planted celery sprouts in long rows and laid planks to shore up the stalks. This gave them something to walk on while tending the field without sinking into the muck. Sid loved spending time with his family and extended family. As a young man the Kalamazoo Speedway was a favorite hangout that fueled his enthusiasm for racing. He even built and raced stock cars with his cousins. They took an annual trip to see the Daytona 500. He also visited the Indy 500 several times. Racing was a lifelong passion for Sid.
After graduating from Kalamazoo State High School, Sid joined the Air National Guard where he performed aerial reconnaissance photography. Taking his high-flying personality to the next level, Sid later obtained a pilot license and flew his own plane for several years. His passion in photography led to a job at Norman Camera, where he made lifelong friends. Wherever he went, Sid was routinely armed with a camera, leading to a mountain of slides he would display at family gatherings to relive memories and adventures complete with his enthusiastic narration that made these events the best of shows.
Capable and daring, Sidney was an entrepreneur, having a keen business sense built upon upbringing, life experiences, intuition, and hard knocks. Sid managed Mall City Ambulance and, over time, acquired several failing ambulance services, turning them into successful operations. Where some advisers saw hopeless doom, Sid saw potential and opportunity. Sid also established Leisure Travel and Tours where he thoroughly enjoyed taking groups on color tours through Michigan. He also made several trips throughout the United States and took school groups to various events. In all his business ventures, Sid coached his employees to be their personal best, always treated employees with fairness and compassion yet maintained firm expectations. While serious about business, Sid brought a great deal of levity wherever he went, and the workplace was no exception. A classic example of Sid’s sense of humor is the time he brought in a beautiful cake to the office and employees enthusiastically dove in, but cut as they might nobody could carve out a piece of the “cake” because it was a frosting-covered foam cushion.
Life was forever changed for Sid when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Joan Stevenson, and they met at her father’s drive-in restaurant, The Pines Drive-in. They quickly discovered that they shared a love of cars, racing, and a good sense of humor. They soon fell in love and on October 13, 1962, they were married at St. Augustine Church in Kalamazoo. They enjoyed many races at local tracks, drive-in restaurants, and cruising around town. Together they welcomed four children into their home including David, Steven, Mary, and Daniel. As a father, Sid was active in the lives of his children and, in many ways, he was a kid at heart. He took them to Cedar Point on several occasions and may have had more fun on all the rides with his kids than they did! Sid was also known to surprise them with all kinds of fun things like go-karts, a custom tree house and even pet goats.
Along with bringing fun into the equation, Sidney was also serious and was there to mentor and equip his children as well. Being very mechanically inclined, he made sure to teach his boys how to turn a wrench and sink a nail. Sid quizzed his kids on how to fix things too, asking what size nut or ratchet to use. He involved them in his many building projects including just having them sit on a board to keep it from moving if they were too young to swing a hammer themselves. Sid also engaged them in all kinds of chores including painting the exterior of the house on several occasions. Over the years, Sid was proud to see his kids build upon the skills they learned and loved sharing in their successes.
As his family and friends can attest, Sid was always doing something. He and his family members helped build the home he lived in. Sid was always adding on to it, eventually converting a two-car garage into a giant recreational room and adding another four-car garage. He also built a goat barn and a custom tree house complete with a deck for his kids. Sid enjoyed tinkering in the garage during his retirement years and built several things from scratch. He was a regular at Menard’s and was even told he should work there because of the countless hours he spent chatting with the employees and walking the aisles. In fact, it would cause concern to the employees if too much time passed without him coming in. He also crafted many meaningful gifts for his grandchildren.
Sid converted a Greyhound bus into a custom RV, and his family enjoyed going on many adventures. He often chose the back roads with the scenic route rather than the freeway. His hunger for the open road once found him on a trip from Florida to Michigan, 22-hours straight through in a manual-shift Ford Escort, all just to help one of his kids and their family move. He liked his John Deere tractor which he’d tell you was perfectly made for mowing the yard. He even mowed the neighbor’s lawns because he liked the tractor so much. In addition to being an avid NASCAR fan, he liked old television shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke. The tunes of Kenny Rogers, the Statler Brothers, and Oak Ridge Boys as well as piano and organ instrumentals regularly filled the rooms of his home. Known as a jokester, Sid liked pulling pranks and particularly joking about the family heritage, warning others to not research it too closely as one might uncover horse thieves! He also hosted a memorable hobo cookout where he cooked the entire meal in a garbage can and wore overalls.
During his retirement years, Sid also enjoyed running missions to Chicago, trucking poinsettias and flats of flowers to retailers on behalf of Longjohn’s Floral Shoppe. He looked forward to his interactions with the many people he’d come across, including those he made home deliveries to. Perfect strangers were made to feel like they’d known each other for years.
All who knew Sidney Longjohn would agree that he was the heartbeat of wherever he went. Outgoing and caring, he told the best stories and simply loved to laugh. Sid treasured his Catholic Faith, his family, his friends and his country, and over the years he touched so many lives in such a special way. His legacy will long live in each of them.
Sidney Longjohn, age 82, died at home on January 2, 2021. Sid was born February 23, 1938 in Kalamazoo, the son of William and Hazel (Allen) Longjohn. Sid was preceded in death by his sister, Edythe (Darl) Eley, and his brother, Peter Longjohn-Adler. Surviving are his wife of 58 years, Joan; 4 children: David (Yuan) Longjohn, Steven Longjohn, Mary (Erik) McConnell, and Daniel (Heather) Longjohn; 6 grandchildren: Anthony, Ann, Dominic, Sebastian, Emelia, and Everett; siblings: Hope (Neil) DeKorte and LeEtta (William) Benke; and many nieces and nephews. A Life Story gathering will be held Monday (JAN 11) 4-7 p.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. Traditional Requiem Mass will be celebrated Tuesday (JAN 12) 11 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 939 Charlotte Ave, Kalamazoo. Private burial will take place following mass. Visit Sid’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Mary Catholic Church or Kalamazoo Right to Life.