Col. William J. Kowalski
Apr 23rd 1923 - Jun 18th 2014
A friend to many, Bill Kowalski was a man of integrity who led by example. Talented in many respects, he used his skills for the benefit of others, and gave selflessly of his time. Bill dearly loved his family and was a good provider. Together with the love of his life, Peg, they devoted their lives to raising their family based on faith, unending love, and commitment. Although now reunited with his beloved Peg, he will be forever missed and fondly remembered by those who knew and loved him.
The Roaring Twenties brought forth many changes to the culture of America. Women won the right to vote, and prohibition took effect, making way for bootleggers and gangland mobs alike. Yet nestled in the lakeshore city of Muskegon, Michigan, the birth of William Kowalski on April 23, 1923 was an added blessing in the lives of his family.
The youngest of four children, Bill grew up alongside his siblings, John, Steven, and Stella. His father worked as a pipefitter at the S.D. Warren Paper Mill while his mother was a homemaker. Bill enjoyed the adventures of childhood. Although the Great Depression during William's youth brought economic hardship to all, he attended the local schools and worked as a caddy at the Muskegon Country Club which began his interest and love for the game of golf. He also played the position of catcher on the high school's baseball team.
At the age of 18, Bill's advancement into adulthood was sadly dimmed by the death of his mother. It was difficult for his family, but Bill carried on with his plans for the future. After graduating from Muskegon High School in 1941, he went on to further his education at Western Michigan University where he earned his bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. While there he also played catcher on the university's baseball team.
While in a world history class at WMU, it was love at first sight for Bill when Peggy Rumery walked into the room. Quick to offer a seat next to him, Bill was immediately drawn to her gorgeous smile and sparkling eyes. He didn't waste the opportunity to have lunch with her after class, which was one of many more dates to come.
Even when Bill was called to active duty in the U.S. Marine Corp in 1942 during World War II, he and Peg corresponded often. Over the next two years, their love blossomed, and at the war's end, Bill returned home to his sweetheart. On August 4, 1945 they shared vows of marriage at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Allegan. It was truly a special day, especially when Bill realized Peg was converting to Catholicism on their wedding day.
Before long, Bill and Peg were blessed with the love of children in their lives. James came along in 1948, and daughter Kristine was born in 1951. Sadly, their third child, a son, died shortly after birth in 1958. They made their home in Bloomingdale, Michigan where Bill supported his family as a school superintendent before being called to serve once again during the Korean War. He eventually retired as a Colonel, but from officer's training and throughout his military career, Bill faithfully and proudly served with the Marines and for many years, the reserves.
It was clear to see the loving bond Bill and Peg shared as the greatest companions. They complimented one another well, and shared the joys of life, love and family together working as a team. Their home was always open as they welcomed guests and friends alike, and they loved entertaining. Bill loved and adored Peg. She was his bright, shining star, and even after all their years together, he still considered himself the luckiest guy in that history class. "For in his heart, she was with him every day", no matter the distance that would one day separate them.
In Bloomingdale, Bill also coached baseball and basketball for several years. In 1956 they moved to Kalamazoo where Bill took a position at the Kingscott Architectural firm and later with Western Michigan University as principal campus planner. For nearly 20 years, Bill assisted in the development of buildings and facilities for the university. With his positive outlook, Bill was a wonderful influence on those around him.
In addition to many community leadership roles, Bill was a member of the Lions Club of Kalamazoo, a member of the Marine Corps League, Alumni Club at WMU and also served on the board of directors for the American Red Cross. He loved supporting WMU athletics and attended many WMU sporting events. He continued his love of golf throughout the years, and followed Tiger's baseball.
After retiring in the mid 1980’s, Bill and Peg lived in Tennessee for ten years. Fairfield Glade was a wondrous place to retire and enjoy life in their new home. He enjoyed playing golf, and did so at every opportunity. Although an excellent golfer, including his time with the Senior PGA, Bill was very humble about his abilities. He and Peg also enjoyed traveling with good friends. Their travels took them to various destinations such as Europe, Asia and Canada. They also enjoyed traveling the continental United States as well as Hawaii, and loved seeing the sights in their motor home.
Grandchildren were an integral part of Bill and Peg's lives. They always looked forward to summertime visits from them in Tennessee, and in Michigan, Bill loved taking them to WMU games. As a hobby, Bill had an artistic knack for making stained glass panels which he often gave away. Today these precious pieces are the treasured handiwork of a well admired and talented man.
With Peg's failing health, they returned to Kalamazoo in 2002. Bill kept up on current events, and liked watching the history and military channels. Through his work with the Lion's Club, Bill was a staunch supporter and spokesperson for Project KidSight, an idea he brought back from Tennessee. It made his heart happy each time a child benefited from this valuable endeavor Bill was such a part of for the last 15 years.
Sadly, in 2005, Bill and his family experienced the death of Peg. Through the love and support of family and friends, his positive nature remained. He was an avid reader, but when his eyesight began failing eight years ago, it made it more difficult to do so. For the past six months, Bill was active with the Battle Creek VA where he enjoyed volunteering. Bill remained quite independent, and continued driving until the last year or so. In time, Bill moved in with his daughter. He loved watching Mimi the donkey and her horse frolic in the pasture from his view at the back porch each day. He also received great joy spending time with his great-grandkids.
On May 31, 2014, Bill and his son Jim traveled to Washington D.C. along with 80 other veterans on the Talons Out Honor Flight. They were able to visit the many memorials honoring our brave soldiers as well as Arlington Cemetery and witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He felt this momentous honor was an experience that all veterans should have the privilege of enjoying.
Larger than life, Bill Kowalski was a giant of a man inside and out. He lived by example which taught his children well, and he never met a stranger. He stood by his beliefs, and was patriotic in every way. Bill was a loving and devoted husband, dedicated father and grandfather, and a friend to many who will dearly miss him and remember him fondly.
At the age of 91, Colonel William Kowalski United States Marine Corps (Ret) died on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret “Peg” Kowalski; infant son in 1958; and by his three siblings: John and Steven Kowalski and Stella Crevia. Members of his family include his children: James “Jim” (Nancy) Kowalski and Kristine “Kris” Komatz; six grandchildren: Todd (Linda) Kowalski, Chris (Heather) Kowalski, Jen Ozolins, Cynthia (Joseph) Keck, Melissa (Curtis) Allen and Emily (Josh) Ingram; eight great-grandchildren: Elizabeth, Nick, Noah, Trevor, Savannah, Haley, Cameron and Isabella; many nieces, nephews and close friend, Al Walker.
Learn more about Bill and visit with his family and friends while sharing refreshments Sunday from 2-5 PM at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive; 375-2900. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday, 10:00 AM at St. Thomas More Parish. A luncheon will follow in the church hall. Burial at Oakwood Cemetery-Allegan. Please visit Bill’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Talons Out Honor Flight or Kalamazoo Lions Club KidSight.