James Randel Dean, of Schoolcraft, age 82, passed away peacefully with family and friends at his side on August 1, 2023, at Kairos Dwelling in Kalamazoo, MI.
James was born on the family farm in Portage, April 1941 to Leslie and Alice Mae (Burson) Dean. One of four siblings, James grew up in Portage and attended Portage High School where he was the senior class president and continued to keep the Mustang "59ers" connected through the years. He graduated from Ferris State University and was a brother in the Lambda Chi fraternity.
James met the love of his life, Diana Lou Williams, while working at Win Schuler's restaurant in Jackson, Michigan. Not long after meeting, James and Diana married on November 30, 1963 and spent nearly 50 years together.
For 32 years, Jim proudly guided the student dining services at Western Michigan University receiving recognition for the Broncos' "innovative and continuous unlimited food service program" that he helped provide. Throughout his life, he served his community, church and family. Jim found great joy in organizing social events, fundraisers, class reunions and family gatherings. He was an active member of the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church, Schoolcraft School board, NACUFS, president of Portage Central Alumni Association, Kairos Dwelling Board member, Schoolcraft Historical Society, Friendship Force, and Jim volunteered as head cook for the Schoolcraft 7th grade camp.
Jim took pleasure in collecting cookbooks, antiquing, traveling, tending to his gardens and developing friendships wherever he went. "Papa" treasured his relationship with his four grandchildren, chatting with them regularly when he couldn't spend time with them in person. Friends and family enjoyed receiving a nice note from Jim written in his meticulous cursive. Jim was generous with advice when sought and the occasional snappy comeback. Be it his sweet cookies or salty cheezits snack, that made our bellys and hearts hunger no more after spending time with Jim.
He is survived by his two children: Gregory (Kayla), Karen (Pete); four grandchildren: Alison, Connor, Molly and Brenna; his siblings: sister, Millicent Zentz of Goshen, IN and brother, Duane of Portage; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Diana, his brother Newell (Ruth) Dean; brother-in-law: Ron Zentz; and sister-in-law Sherri Dean.
While he lived nearly all his life in southwest Michigan, Jim caught the travel bug early when he took the train out to California and a bus to Massachusetts in high school for a 4-H exchange program. He and Diana enjoyed many trips together including flying to Hawaii and riding a train to Alaska. No doubt, he and Diana are looking forward to their reunion in the afterlife.
He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.
The family will receive friends on Friday, August 4th from 4pm to 7pm at the Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, 5975 Lovers Lane, Portage. A Celebration of Jim's Life will be held on Saturday, August 5th at 11am at Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, 7028 Oakland Drive, Portage, MI 49024. Private family interment will be at Schoolcraft Cemetery.
While at www.amsfuneralhomes.com please take time to visit Jim's webpage where you can sign his guestbook, and/or share your favorite memory with his family. In lieu of flowers those who wish may make contributions to Kairos Dwelling and/or Portage Central Alumni Association.
The Dean family is being cared for by the Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, 5975 Lovers Lane, Portage, MI 49002 (269) 344-5600.