Mass of Christian Burial
Saturday, May 15, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
St. Ambrose Catholic Church
1628 E G Ave
Parchment, MI 49004
Private burial will be completed following mass.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew William James “Jim” Strehlow would agree he truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He was a constant source of strength and courage, even in the hardest of times. Jim treasured his family above all else, and he loved nothing more than being surrounded by their love. His passion for humanity and helping others allowed him to touch the hearts of almost everyone he met in such a special way. Deeply loved, Jim will be dearly missed.
William James was born on November 28, 1925 in Michigan Center, Michigan. He was the third child of William and Lena Strehlow, their first and only son. President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in earlier in 1925, giving the first inauguration to be broadcast on radio. Charles Francis Jenkins achieved "the first public demonstration of radiovision," leading to talking movies. The Chrysler Corporation was founded and John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby and Adolf Hitler published Volume 1 of his personal manifesto, Mein Kampf.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Jim enjoyed the outdoors, camping and swimming in the local river with his friends and his dog Jyp. He was raised in the family home alongside his siblings, Marj and Marion. Throughout his school years, Jim began to learn the value of hard work and frugality, raising rabbits and helping his Uncle Clarence deliver vegetables to the markets in Detroit. In 1943, he graduated from St. Mary High School in Jackson. Soon thereafter Jim enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Near the end of WWII, he was reassigned to serve as a naval radar officer on a troop transport completing several tours to Europe, Japan, and Korea. Witnessing the horror and aftermath of the war influenced his path in life. Upon discharge from service, Jim attended Jackson Jr. College and went on to graduate from Western Michigan University in 1949, majoring in World History, English, and Social Studies.
From 1950 to 1954 he taught school and coached sports in Bangor. Jim also served as township recreation director and tended bar on the weekends. The following year, he drove across country to Atascadero, California, for a teaching position, where his sister Marion lived. Jim returned to Michigan after only a few months to work for Penn Mutual Life Insurance and became the director of training for the State of Michigan.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Jim as he met the love of his life Mary Jo Seckinger in the spring of 1955. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Jim and Mary Jo were married on November 5, 1955 at St. Mary’s Church in Jackson. In 1956 they settled in Grand Rapids where Jim taught at Bowen Station, which is now Kentwood. In the summer of 1958, he received a master’s degree at the University of Michigan and was hired as the first Director of Guidance for Parchment Public Schools in the fall of that year.
Parchment is where he would stay, raise his family, and continue to work at the high school. He was a charter member of the Teacher’s Association which became the teacher’s union at Parchment. Jim enjoyed sports whether he was actively playing or not. He was the official score keeper for basketball games and the head of the chain gang at the football games for many years. He formed a men’s softball league in Parchment primarily for the social aspect. Jim retired from Parchment in 1986 after 28 years of service. Jim remained very close to many of his former students, and he greatly enjoyed attending the many class reunions to which he was invited. As a result of his involvement in the Parchment community, Jim was selected as one of the first members of the Parchment Hall of Fame. He was extremely honored to accept the award.
Following his retirement from Parchment schools, Jim worked at Kalamazoo Valley Community College as an admissions counselor, where he loved interacting with all students. He was a constant positive influence that touched and improved countless young lives.
After a second retirement from Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Jim volunteered for the Probate Court as a probate advocate in the juvenile division. Jim stayed active in his community in both his career and through his volunteer work. He promoted progressive causes such as human rights, environmental reform and conflict avoidance. He was instrumental in collecting petition signatures against the local paper mill pollution in the 1960s. He enjoyed campaigning for and supporting like-minded political candidates and foundations.
Jim was thrilled to become a father to seven children including Mark, Nan, Laura, Nard, Kirk, Gina, and later discovered the eldest, Bill. His children became the focus of Jim’s life, and he raised them to be strong, self-sufficient individuals who understood the priceless value of education, knowledge and humor. Over the years, Jim’s family grew to include several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Jim and Mary Jo traveled extensively with Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) programs, visiting various locations throughout the United States, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Costa Rica, and Vietnam. Jim also traveled to Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Vietnam with a group of graduate students and professors from Western Michigan University.
In Parchment, he grew an abundance of fruits and vegetables in his summer gardens. Jim made his own wine from concord grapes, and often recruited the children to stomp the grapes with their bare feet. Though the wine was never award winning, he enjoyed the process and the time spent with his family. Jim poured much love and hard work into his prized mulch pile, and was very particular in how it was tended. Jim’s faith was an important element in his life. He served on the church council at St. Ambrose Church in Parchment and was active on various committees at the parish.
In 2002, Jim and Mary Jo moved from their home in Parchment to The Fountains Retirement Community in Kalamazoo. They enjoyed easy living, activities, and meeting new friends. Jim was very knowledgeable regarding history and politics, and loved to discuss and debate a wide variety of topics and engage in conversation. His sharp wit, sense of humor and welcoming personality allowed him to connect with anyone he met.
Jim considered himself blessed to have so many friends and family members by his side, especially when he needed them most. He was a shining example of hard work and concern for the less fortunate. Though he will be deeply missed, Jim leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones are proud to carry forward.
William James “Jim” Strehlow, age 95 of Kalamazoo, formerly of Parchment, peacefully passed away Monday, May 3, 2021. Surviving are Mary Jo, his wife of 65 years; seven children and spouses: Mark Strehlow, Nan Dayton, Laura Strehlow (Walt Oberheu), Nard (Barb) Strehlow, Kirk (Michelle) Strehlow, Gina (John) Evans, and Bill (Carolyn) Mosiman; nine grandchildren: Jenny Dayton, Michael Dayton, Alex (Meryl) Brydges, Bror Brydges, Kylee Evans, Zachary Evans, Melena Strehlow, Shelby Strehlow, and Karly McLean; eight great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. Jim was preceded in death by his parents, William and Lena, and two sisters, Marj & Marion.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Saturday (May 15) at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 1628 E G Ave, Parchment. Private burial will follow. A Celebration of Life will be held 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (July 17) at The Fountains Event Center, 535 S Riverview Dr., Parchment. Please visit Jim’s personal webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may also archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. In lieu of flowers, please consider memorial donations to Catholic Charities – Ark Services for Youth, or a charity of your choice. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.