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Rest Haven Homes
1424 Union NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
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Life Story / Obituary
Throughout his rich and rewarding life, James Winkler lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He was a hardworking man who worked tirelessly to provide for his family, and his strong work ethic was an inspiration. There was no greater gift in Jim’s life than his family, and although he loved being a father, becoming a grandfather and great-grandfather brought him great joy. A bit of a perfectionist, he didn’t do anything halfway as his attention to detail was unmatched. Life will never be the same without Jim here, but he leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The Roaring Twenties were an exciting time in America when innovation was transforming the way we lived our everyday lives. Ballroom dancing, jazz music, and radios were all part of the cultural fabric of our nation during this time. Amidst this exciting time was the year 1928 when Charles Louis and Ruth (Tibbetts) Winkler were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named James on October 3, 1928, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the younger of two children as he was raised in the family home on Webster Street on the West side of Grand Rapids alongside his sister, Norma.
In many ways, Jim was a young boy of his generation. He made some great friends while growing up, and many of these were friendships that remained throughout his entire life. For the most part Jim was a good kid, although he did admit to being a bit mischievous as he also referred to himself as a “stinker.” He and his buddies could often be found outside playing ball, riding bikes, and playing at Richmond Park through all four seasons. Jim attended local schools including Union High School, and he also worked as a pin setter at Wengers Bowling.
After graduating from high school, Jim and a friend joined the Navy Reserves. He then spent a short time on a ship, sailing to Cuba. After returning home from the service, Jim worked for Thomasma Brothers Meats for a time, but he later found work in the produce department at A&P.
Not to be forgotten during Jim’s years as a young man was his introduction to the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Kathleen Bueche, and they met after he returned home from the Navy Reserves. At the time, Kathleen was working at the soda fountain at Kay Drug store. Although Jim was smitten, the feeling wasn’t mutual. Lucky for Jim, his persistence paid off when she finally accepted a date. That date led to more, and they were married on May 27, 1950, at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. They did spend a short time living in Grand Ledge because of Jim’s job, but Kathleen disliked it there so they moved back as soon as he could transfer back. After a few apartments, the newlyweds settled into their longtime home on Eldon Street, NE. Together they welcomed four children including Ruth, Craig, Gayle, and Paul into their hearts and home with about 11 years between their oldest and their youngest. To support his family, Jim spent the bulk of his days working in expediting in the shipping department for Steelcase. Jim was responsible for planning the loads for the trucks, tracking everything all with paper and pencil. This was a great fit for him as he was meticulous and organized by nature. Jim was an amazing provider whose family never wanted for anything. When he was 55, he retired.
Although he put in long hours at work, Jim enjoyed time with his family as well. He was the disciplinarian at home, and he saw to it that things were neat and tidy around the home. They enjoyed camping during the summer - first in a travel trailer and later in a larger trailer. They also took a few trips to Florida to visit Jim’s family. Jim was an active part of his children’s lives. If they had friends over, his talkative and inquisitive nature meant there would be 20 questions - and then some! Jim was also the one to teach his kids lessons about managing money. Jim took meticulous care of his yard, really to the point of obsession. Life was drastically changed for Jim with the sudden death of his wife, Kathleen, in 1973. This sent Jim into a tailspin, and Ruth moved back home to help care for her younger siblings.
In time, Jim was introduced to Allaseba "Sebe" Gouthier, who had lost her husband a few years prior. They were a wonderful compliment to one another, and their relationship grew. They married in 1976 and moved into a place to call their own on Four Mile, NW, in 1981. Jim and Sebe loved dancing and often sang with each other around the house. Actually, he loved to sing and hum. Jim had song lyrics to match almost every occasion, although he rarely knew all the lyrics so most ended in la..la..la... He and Sebe were active during their retirement years, often traveling to places throughout the United States, Europe and enjoying cruises. Jim and Sebe volunteered with CARE: Concerned Adults Reaching Effectively, a volunteer organization through Steelcase. They took advantage of seeing their grandchildren whenever they could, taking them to Grand Haven, St. Joseph and many museums. Each grandchild was so special to Jim, and he was always able to make them smile like no one else could. His grandchildren loved how loving, kindhearted, generous, and funny he was. Jim was a great listener who genuinely cared for others and wanted to know what was going on in their lives. During Sebe's last years, she moved to Rest Haven where he faithfully visited her every day before eventually moving there as well just a month before she passed away in 2014. Although this was a major downsize, Jim enjoyed his quaint living space as well as the friends he made there. He mellowed as he aged, and his faith grew deeper as well, especially during his time at Rest Haven as he continued in daily Bible studies and faithfully did his personal devotions.
Warm, genuine, and kind, James Winkler was a blessing to everyone he met. He had a wonderful sense of humor and wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone. Truly charming, Jim had a way with people, and his devotion to his family was unmatched. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
James Winkler, age 88 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on April 17, 2017 after a short battle with Leukemia. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Kathleen; his second wife, Allaseba "Sebe"; grandson Jason Jennings; and step daughter Anna Marie Leck. Jim is survived by his children Ruth Abbott, Craig (Deb) Winkler, Gayle Winkler, Paul (Cheryl) Winkler; grandchildren Michelle (Craig) Taetsch, Stephanie (Michael) Malski, Kathleen (Esteban Pagan) Winkler, Brian (Ashley) Winkler, Danielle (Markus) Swagerty; great grandchildren Kylah, Conner, Malikye, Benjamin James, Elijah and Eliesel; sister, Norma Bont; son-in-law Stuart Leck; sister-in-law Ilah Galonska, and several nieces. The service to remember and celebrate Jim's life will be held on Saturday at 5 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE where friends may visit with his family from 4 to 5 PM and for a time immediately following the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Rest Haven Home are appreciated. To read more about Jim's life, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com