James Tiller

April 2, 1947 - July 29, 2016
Kalamazoo, MI



Thursday, August 4, 2016
11:00 AM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Followed by a luncheon in the Life Story Center.

Driving Directions


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
One Intrepid Square W 46th Street & 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Full of life and charm, James Tiller was a man of practical jokes. He had a dry sense of humor and a positive outlook on life. Whether he was into bikes, cars, tennis or poker, he gave it his all. His genuine and good-natured personality will forever be remembered by all who knew and loved him.

The 1940’s were characterized by WWII. Through the courage and dedication of those who fought, they spent much of this decade in a battle for a way of life that the country and western powers had spent two centuries building. By 1947, some of the most significant inventions that would impact lives for many years to come were created including the Transistor and the Mobile Phone. That same year, James was born to an elevator supervisor and homemaker on April 2nd in Battle Creek, Michigan. James brought his parents great joy.

Growing up in Battle Creek, James attended local schools and graduated with the Class of 1965 from Lakeview High School. James was often engaged in mischief as an adolescent. He loved pranks, once stacking all the glass milk jars, racing down the hall and hitting the ceiling causing all of them to come crashing down! Always up to something, he built a giant paper airplane and launched it from an upper level window where it flew straight into the open window of the classroom on the lower level where his sister Pam was seated! An Eagle Scout, his mind was always sharp and curious. He loved inventing things. He once built an elevator in a tree in the family’s front yard out of rope that his father brought home from work. He also kept an aquarium of fish happy during those years and housed snakes known to one day have over one hundred babies! James loved to tinker with automobiles. He often worked on his dad’s car on the weekends, adding a carburetor or making sure it was washed and waxed. His father was a double amputee from WWII who served in the Army. Heavily influenced in military lifestyle, James joined the Navy. Enlisting for more than six years, James worked on the USS Lafayette, one of the first nuclear submarines. From a starting class of 274 men only 4 graduated from that submarine school. He would joke that he was number four, last, when in fact he had made it into a very elite group of sailors. He sailed from Charleston to Spain and even into the Mediterranean. Navigating the ship and making maps of the ocean floor was not enough to keep him busy. Always one for a little fun and games, he and his fellow sailors would cook up creative ideas when they were on tour, including hiding the CO’s cabin door and spreading a rumor about a shortage of toilet paper, which created a shortage. James owned a Firebird and took it with him when he was stationed in Charleston. A friend would work on his car while James was at sea and not surprisingly, by the time he completed his service in 1972, it ended up having an 800hp engine in it!

While in the service, he met someone that helped land him a job with Borroughs Corporation after he was out. They put in one of the largest computers of the time in the Federal Center in Battle Creek where James’ dad worked. Later after the computer system was established, he went to work for Data General working from his home in Kalamazoo.

Not to be forgotten was the year 1996 when he met Gloria Walters, who would change the course of his life forever! Needing some advice to buy her first corvette, she gave James a call. The two of them talked for more than three months before they actually met in person! She purchased a 1988 Corvette and took it to the Corvette Club Rally where she met James. Embarrassed that her car wouldn’t start, he ended up getting it started for her and the rest is history! Giving her only a ten day notice between the proposal and the wedding, they were married at a Corvette event at the Mackinac Bridge on August 21, 1997. They had a beach reception with cake and s’mores on the beautiful shores of Northern Michigan.

True sweethearts, Gloria and James did everything together. They loved to make breakfast together, work on the yard, and even cook, clean and do the laundry together! When they weren’t cooking breakfast at home, they enjoyed going out to all the different restaurants around town. He especially loved his French Toast, bacon and coffee.

They never seemed to get tired of one another’s company. James was a valuable asset to her growing local business, Kazoo Books. James had the brilliant idea of putting the bookstore online and went to work on designing her website six months after Amazon was online! He was a wealth of knowledge and loved helping out by putting inventory online and adjusting the databases! When the business was quiet or they had a moment to sneak away, they loved to go out for lunch and take in an afternoon matinee!

A real meat and potatoes guy, he also loved Hunan Gardens’ Moo Shu pork. A foodie himself, he loved to experiment with recipes and perfecting his famous ribs. In addition to his meat, a close second was chocolate. James savored chocolate pie or Hershey chocolate cake. He also loved his Pepsi, even carving out Pepsi holders in his briefcase!

James had many special interests and enjoyed traveling. They were members of the Amphicar club and the Corvette Club and went to numerous car shows and Swim-Ins. A man who normally only wore jeans and tennis shoes, it was only in Hawaii where James would feel relaxed enough to put on a pair of shorts. He loved Hawaii so much; he traveled there many times over the years. In addition to the Pacific, he also owned a timeshare in Las Vegas. There, he and Gloria indulged in their favorite pastime of playing tournament poker or Texas Hold’ em. They also enjoyed gambling online as well as playing garage poker weekly. James was a great bluffer and loved the thrill of the bet! Described as being quick-witted and a lover of puns, James leaves behind a legacy of laughter and wonderful memories. Sadly, he passed away too soon and he will be deeply missed.

James Tiller, age 69, of Kalamazoo passed away on July 29, 2016. He was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his loving wife, Gloria Tiller of nineteen years as well as his sister, Pam (Joe) Bradley and many aunts, uncles and cousins. A Celebration of Life service will be held on Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 11:00 AM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home on Stadium Drive. A luncheon will follow in the Life Story Center. Please visit James’ personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. www.fallenheroesfund.org or a charity of your choice.