After a short illness, Jim Rikkers, of Portage, MI passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on September 28, 2023. He was born in Grand Rapids, MI in 1944 to William and Evalyn (Joppe) Rikkers. He was a graduate of Ottawa Hills High School and continued on, to receive 3 degrees from Eastern Michigan University between 1967 and 1982.
Jim began his career in public education with the Livonia Public Schools as an English teacher at Whittier Junior High School, continuing to become the Regional Community Education Director. In 1973 he had an opportunity to move to Penfield, NY to be the Assistant Principal at Penfield Central High School where he met his wife Diane who was then a Spanish teacher at the school. In 1974 he returned to Michigan as an Assistant Principal at Walled Lake High School. In 1981, now with 4-year-old triplets, they moved to Parchment where Jim became Principal at Parchment High School and then lead the district as Superintendent (1982-85). In July 1986, Jim became Superintendent of Schools in Portage, MI, where he served until his retirement in 2002. He continued to work for another 10 years serving the education community as a consultant for the Michigan Association of School Boards, Ferris State University, and Kalamazoo R.E.S.A. where he was Director of the Leadership Institute.
In addition to Jim's career as a dedicated educator, he was also a committed community leader. He served on the Boards of Directors of the Greater Kalamazoo United Way, the City of Portage Economic Development Corporation, the Kalamazoo County Chamber of Commerce, and the Plaza Arts Circle. He was a Cabinet Member of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum Capital Campaign and Pretty Lake Vocational Camp Capital Campaign, was on the KVCC M-TEC and Remynse Scholarship Advisory Boards, and was a member of the Kalamazoo County Children and Family Consortium.
Jim was instrumental in the establishment of many educational programs throughout the county including the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, the Vine St. Alternative Program, and the Vocational Education Consortium. In Portage, he took great pride, with the assistance of many able and dedicated staff members, in the development of the Curious Kids Childcare and Preschool Program and the International Baccalaureate program. His priority was always to provide a consistent level of growth, improvement, and opportunity for the students of Portage.
Jim was a very active member of Milwood United Methodist Church. Not only was he able to contribute his administrative experience and organizational skills to the congregation, but also his musical talent, satisfying his great love of music by participating in the choir for almost 25 years. However, he considered his greatest achievement in life to be his family. As a dedicated and loving husband, father, and grandfather, he worked tirelessly to balance the demands of his busy career with his commitment to be supportive of his three children and involved in their many diverse activities. He was in the audience or on the sidelines for their many games/performances, often in his suit as he ran over from the District Office. Family vacations and fun around the pool made summers seem way too short. Although his attempts to involve them in his lifelong love of gardening and building projects usually fell on deaf ears at the time, the results have manifested themselves numerous times as Scott, Cheryl, and Kevin took on homes of their own. As his grandsons grew and became more active, Jim was a proud supporter at their games and performances as well.
Jim leaves behind his wife of almost 50 years, Diane, his children Scott (Laura), Cheryl, and Kevin (Karen), and his two grandsons, Benjamin and Jackson. He is also survived by 3 brothers, John, Robert (Karen), Edward (Judy), Doris (his sister-in-law), and Diane's sister and brother-in-law Donna and Richard Hooker and 17 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother William, and his in-laws Hugo and Josephine Sisca.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Jim on Saturday, October 28 at 11:30am with a visitation at 10:00am at Milwood United Methodist Church, 3919 Portage St., Kalamazoo, MI.
In lieu of flowers, please consider planting a tree, bush, or flowers in Jim's memory. Contributions may also be made to the Centrica Care Navigators or to the Milwood United Methodist Church with a designation for the Special Music Fund.
Arrangements entrusted to Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial & Cremation Services, 411 E Centre Ave, Portage MI 49002.