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Life Story / Obituary
Jay Baumer was a dedicated family man, and loved fully and unconditionally. He was hard working and determined, and set an incredible example for his children to live by. Jay was a selfless person who placed the highest value on sharing his gifts and talents with others. He valued close friends, and he delighted all with his dry sense of humor and ability to bring reason and a positive outlook to any situation. Jay will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
Jay was born on September 21, 1947 in Milton, Pennsylvania. His twin sister Jayne was born ten minutes earlier. True to Jay’s sense of humor, he later joked that when the doctor said, “Grab ‘em” during their birth, Jay thought they said “Stab ‘em”, so he pushed his sister out first! Nine years later, their younger sister JoEllen was born.
Jay grew up in Milton on Boiardi Lane, just up the hill from the Chef Boiardi factory. His father, William Baumer was a teacher and counselor at Milton High School. Jay’s mother, Elizabeth (Gauger) Baumer was a registered nurse and also worked for Milton schools.
Jay enjoyed music and played the piano from the time he was a child. He was an athlete with a particular love for basketball. Jay also loved cars and tinkering with anything that had a motor and quickly became known as “Mr. Fix-It”. His trademark was to take no initial investigation as to why something was broken, but rather to take it apart piece by piece, stare at it, and put it back together. Remarkably, it worked every time.
After graduating from Milton High School in 1965, Jay attended Lehigh University to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He pledged the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and was nicknamed “Bat Baumer” as he always walked around with his bulky utility belt that resembled that of Batman, a popular show at the time. He was elected president of the chapter during his Junior/Senior year. Jay was known as the resident mechanic and the only one in the fraternity with a car, an old Volvo that was appropriately dubbed the “Bat Mobile”.
Jay left Pennsylvania and headed to Michigan to pursue a career at General Motors Proving Grounds. There, he worked on the 5mph bumper system and did crash testing. After two years he went to Advanced Product Engineering at GM Engineering Staff in Warren, Michigan where he met Jayne Potgiesser. Their connection started when the two engineers decided to replace the crash test dummy with Jayne in the car for some workplace entertainment.
Jayne moved to Kalamazoo to work at The Upjohn Co. A few years later Jay accepted an engineering position at Hawes Furniture in Elkhart, Indiana. Jay and Jayne were married on June 24, 1977 and made Three Rivers, Michigan their home. For their honeymoon they went water skiing. Jay would go skiing with Jayne but his true love was sailing. He had two sailboats and an iceboat that he built himself. Later he took a process engineering position with Hydramatic in Three Rivers, Michigan. In 1980, they made the move to Scotts, Michigan. They started their family in 1984 when Tim was born and in 1987 welcomed Anne Marie.
Jay was a loving and attentive father. He was always active with the kids, often playing ball in the lot next door. Jay was a fixture at all of his children’s sporting events. The most memorable quality times as Tim and Anne grew up were at the dinner table. It was not uncommon to have a three hour dinner telling stories, and cracking jokes. The kids looked forward to Jay’s Muppet voices and never knew what funny cross-eyed faces would emerge.
Around the house, if Jay couldn’t be found, one did not have to go farther than the garage, lovingly coined the “Man Cave.” It was fully stocked with model rockets and planes he had built, radio controlled gliders, and his beloved 1960 Austin Healy, where he was frequently found under the hood. When looking thrrough his thousands of tools for the one that was needed, it was not a surprise to run across his various stashes of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Skittles or Good & Plenty candy. He had quite an awesome workshop that was also home to his most treasured family photos, notes and awards. He often said, “the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."
Jay always placed a high importance on mentorship not only with his children, but actively looked for ways he could give back to his community. Like in his college days, he was known throughout the neighborhood as the resident mechanic and ‘tool guy’. He served as a mentor for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. In Jay’s retirement he worked with the Literacy Council. He tutored at Western Michigan University and the Portage Community Outreach Center. He also worked with children at Open Roads, a program established to teach young people mechanical skills under the banner of mentorship.
In January of 2015, Jay was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and in his true character, faced it with unwavering faith, determination, persistence and a positive mindset. He fought a good fight with those he loved by his side.
Jay G. Baumer, age 68, of Scotts, died May 20, 2016 at his home. Surviving are his wife of 39 years, Jayne Baumer; two children: Tim (Jessica) Baumer and Anne Marie (Troy) Vogel; granddaughter, Evelyn Baumer; twin-sister, Jayne (Jack) Gardner; sister, JoEllen Ripka; many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. Visit with Jay’s family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Friday, May 27, 2016, 5-8 PM at Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900. Please visit Jay’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.