Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Walter T. Wunderlin

May 8, 1934 - October 12, 2022
Portage, MI


Life Story Visitation

Sunday, October 16, 2022
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. A prayer service will conclude the evening at 5 PM.

Driving Directions

Mass of Christian Burial

Monday, October 17, 2022
11:00 AM EDT
St. Martin of Tours
5855 East W Ave
Vickburg, MI 49097

A luncheon will follow in the church hall.

Web Site


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.

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
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

Polderman's Florist & Garden Center
8710 Portage Road
Portage, MI 49002
(269) 327-3656
Driving Directions

Life Story / Obituary


All who knew Walter Wunderlin would agree that he had a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near. He worked hard in everything he did, yet he also made the time to live life to the fullest each day. Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, Walter would say his greatest accomplishment was found in his roles as a husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. A well-loved teacher and part of his community, he was the sort of person everyone seemed to know. Although he will be deeply missed, Walter leaves behind a priceless collection of memories his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.

Although the 1930s brought us some of the most trying days we have faced as a nation due to the unrelenting grip of the Great Depression, there was much to celebrate when Walter was born into the loving arms of his parents on May 8, 1934, at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was the oldest of four as he was joined in the Wunderlin family by his younger siblings, Carol, Mike, and Gary, who was quite a bit younger. Throughout his life Walter was close to his siblings. His father was a beer distributor and drove a truck while his mother was a homemaker.

Raised in the family home in the Edison neighborhood, Walter was a typical young boy of his generation. He enjoyed hanging out with the neighbors, and it was much later that one particular neighbor would become a key piece of Walter’s life. He had a large paper route, and although he walked his route Walter was able to use a wagon on Sundays. Their home was a traditional Catholic home, and as a student Walter attended St. Joseph School and St. Joseph Church. His high school years found him at St. Augustine High School until he graduated in 1952.

One of the things Walter was best known for was his strong work ethic. He started working for his uncle who owned “Jaquays," a local grocery store, while still in high school. There, Walter did a variety of things including working the register, stocking shelves, waiting on customers, and even working behind the meat counter. He also worked for his brother at a party store called Ryan’s in Vicksburg. As Walter continued his education at Western Michigan University, he continued to work both jobs. During his last summer in college, he worked at Sutherland Paper Company. Although he first thought he would continue to work there, Walter did pursue his teaching certificate instead. After graduating from college in 1957, he did his student teaching in Coloma while living in a one-room apartment.

Just when he finished his student teaching, Walter was drafted into the Army. He was sent to his basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in the spring of 1957. Although he weighed about 240 pounds at that time, he had lost a ton of weight by the time he was discharged. From there Walter was sent to Ft. Sill in Oklahoma, then to New York City, and later was aboard the USS Upshire to be sent to Germany. He was there for about 17 months and was a clerk like Radar from M.A.S.H. Walter really enjoyed this work and took a lot of pictures that he turned into slides, which later became one of his passions. He earned the rank of E-4 by the time he was discharged from the Great Lakes Navel Center in Chicago.

Not to be forgotten during this time was Walter’s growing relationship with his best friend Bob’s sister, Carol, who also lived two doors down. They grew a deep friendship as pen pals while Walter was in the military, and once he came home they began dating in 1959. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Walter and Carol were married at St. Joseph Church on June 4, 1960. Together they were blessed to raise their daughter, Michelle.

After a honeymoon in the Upper Peninsula, the newlyweds settled into their new life together. Walt began teaching in September of 1959, and he spent his entire career teaching 8th grade social studies in Decatur. He also taught adult education in Paw Paw and Portage at night, and for one year Walter taught summer school. Summers later found him painting, and he eventually started his own painting business, "Walt's Painting and Decorating.” He even recruited his good friend Gary, and together they painted for about 25 years. By the time he retired from teaching, Walt had built his business to a full-time job. He continued painting until his heart attack and triple bypass in 2017 caused him to retire. He also worked at his brother’s store, Natural Health Center, for many years.

Throughout his life Walt was one to keep busy. He had a lifelong hobby with taking pictures, and it has even been said that he could have been the one to invent the selfie. Many of his pictures have now been transferred to DVD. Walter liked fishing for bluegill on Sugarloaf Lake in his dad’s boat, and many summer vacations were spent renting cottages on various lakes. As a history teacher, most of their vacations also involved plenty of history as their travels took them to places like Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C. as a chaperone on a class trip. By that time Walt was an advisor at Decatur. This was a great fit for him as he loved being part of all the activities. Walt had a vegetable garden for more than 40 years and grew just about anything including the best tomatoes around. He wasn’t into cooking during his younger years, but once Carol got sick he got quite good at it. Carol especially loved his omelettes, which she called “the big yellow thing. ”Walter’s favorite meal was spaghetti and meatballs. During his early years he was a beer drinker, but later on Diet Coke was his drink of choice. An avid reader, Walt liked war and history, and he was also into model war ships, cross-stitch, word searches, and was crafty and creative in many ways. He was an active part of the community as a member of his church for 66 years and was also part of the Knights of Columbus for 70 years. Later in life Walt was thrilled to become a grandfather, and his two grandsons were the light of his life as well the addition of his two great grandchildren. After Carol passed, Walt spent the bulk of his last two years wintering in Florida, traveling and going on adventures with his daughter Michelle and her David.

With his warm, genuine, and outgoing personality, Walter Wunderlin touched the lives of so many in a special way. He gave everything he did his all, and he brought out the best in everyone around him. Walt was happiest when surrounded by the ones he loved, and he was the sort of person who was generous beyond compare. Dearly loved, he will be forever remembered.

Walter T. Wunderlin, of Portage, Age 88, died peacefully October 12, 2022, in Portage. Walt was preceded in death by his wife, Carol in 2020 and his sister Carol Hamilton. Members of his family include his daughter, Michelle Buist (David Sellyn); grandchildren: Tanner (Amaira) Buist and Carter Buist (Hannah Boyette); great-grandchildren: Axel and Rebel; siblings: Mike (Kay) Wunderlin and Gary (Beth) Wunderlin; and many nieces and nephews. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks and stories will be shared on Sunday (OCT 16) from 2-5PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49009 (269) 375-2900 where prayer services will be held 5PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday (OCT 17) 11AM at St. Martin of Tours Church with visitation beginning at 10AM. A lunch will follow in the church hall and burial will take place at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit Walter’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.