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Life Story / Obituary
A generous and faithful man, Bill Smith devoted his life to serving others. He accomplished so many things of which to be proud, but his greatest source of pride and joy was found in his role as a husband, father, and grandfather. He was an active member of his church community where he made many wonderful friendships over the years. Although he will be deeply missed, Bill leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories to be cherished forever.
Looking back on the 1930s, it is difficult to recall much of anything that wasn’t affected by the Great Depression. There were few jobs and a soaring unemployment rate that left countless American families without homes. Despite these tough times, Dick and Amy (Drenth) Smith celebrated with great joy the arrival of their newborn baby boy, William on October 26, 1935, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His birth brought much happiness and promise to the family home.
There wasn’t much of Bill’s life that didn’t involve some aspect of hard work from an early age. He and his siblings were accustomed to pitching in around the home and completing daily chores. He attended local schools and graduated with the Class of 1953 from Kalamazoo Central High School. Shortly after, Bill joined the Carpenters Local 297 Apprenticeship Program, sponsored by his Uncle John. He was very proud to be following in his late father’s footsteps. Talented as well as hardworking, Bill landed a job with Miller-Davis. In later years, he worked for John Menninga and Robert Shannon which enabled him to reach Master Carpenter status. In his early years with Miller-Davis, while he was involved with a project at Western Michigan University, he met Mary VenderWerf who would steal his heart forever! Smitten from the very start, he and Mary joined in marriage on May 12, 1956, at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. Together they raised three wonderful daughters: Terry, Karen, and Barbara.
As a father, he modeled hard work and dedication to being a strong provider. He also shared the importance of living a life of service to others. With a strong desire to raise his family with a solid foundation of faith, Bill was an active member of First United Methodist Church. Over the years, he helped with major remodeling projects at the church as well as at Sunnyside United Methodist Church serving as the chair of the building committee. Bill also enjoyed joining mission trips to Haiti and New Orleans helping them restore homes after being hit by natural disasters. His selfless acts of service didn’t end there, however, as he and his good friend, Tom Scaberg, also started the Ramp Up program in association with Disability Network. For ten years they, along with many others, built wheelchair ramps for those in need. In addition to the many building projects he was involved with, Bill’s greatest pride was the home he built for him and Mary with the help of many friends and family. They shared countless memories in their home over the years.
Bill also held many special interests including a love of travel. He and Mary toured Europe three times as well as trips out west. Remarkable to note, was the twenty-seven years they spent traveling to Mackinac Island for long weekends. It held a very special place in their hearts. Always one to enjoy trips that included famous stops or historical monuments, they also traveled to visit the notable Frank Lloyd Wright home, Fallingwater, as well as the Flight 93 National Memorial at Shanksville, Pennsylvania this past fall on September 11, 2019. He treasured any amount of time he and Mary were together taking in new sights.
Bill also cherished the time he spent with his grandchildren, especially spending the holidays with them. Thanksgiving was normally at his daughter Terry’s home and he and Mary always hosted Christmas at their long-time family home. Family was very important to Bill and he was overjoyed when he was blessed with his four grandchildren and his great-granddaughter. Bill’s warm personality made him easily likable by his many “adopted” children over the years as well. A hardworking, honest man, he will always be remembered for his unconditional love for his family and the acceptance of others. A quiet and gentle soul, Bill will surely be missed by his many special friends and loved ones.
William Smith, age 84, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, died on March 30, 2020, at home. Bill was preceded in death by his parents and sister LuAnn (Smith) Glupker. Surviving are his wife, Mary; children: Terry (Jon) Smith-Epstein, Karen (Tim) Smith-Norris, and Barbara (Fred) Klein; grandchildren: Tyler Klein, Riley Klein, Evan (Kelly) Epstein, and Rachel Epstein; great-grandchild: Aubree Klein; brother: Ryan (Sandy) Smith; and nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place. Visit Bill’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity or Disability Network Southwest Michigan FBO Ramp Up. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900