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Life Story / Obituary
Norma “Jean” (Babcock) Kiewiet delighted in life and the people in it. She always wore a smile and lent a listening ear to friends and family alike. There was “not a mean bone in her body,” and her kindness extended to everyone. In short, Jean was a joy to be around.
Norma ”Jean” was born October 5, 1931 in Owosso, Michigan during the harsh years of the Great Depression, when families were trying to make life pleasant in the midst of difficult conditions. She was the youngest of Harold and Dollie (Lockner) Smith’s four children growing up in the Battle Creek area.
A quiet young woman, Jean was dutiful in completing her education at Conklin High School. She began working at Bell Telephone and then took a job at Eaton Manufacturing. Her career blossomed, however, with the 34 years of employment in the payroll department of Durametallic in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was a career woman by the time she met Sid Babcock, who worked in printing and construction. Their marriage on May 8, 1955 was the start of an adventure that made the most out of their time together.
Jean and Sid loved the vastness of beach and water at Lake Michigan and made many road trips around the state. For some couples it might have been disastrous to get lost while on the road, but the two of them considered it a challenge. They happily wandered out for a day without knowing exactly where they were going just so they could find their way back and discover new sites along the way.
Though Sid was the cook of the family, Jean and he liked to eat out, especially Sunday breakfasts or buffet lunches. Except for ginger ale and lemonade and Sprite, she never drank when she socialized. Jean liked to golf and bowl with people from work, but her favorite sports were the ones her son Steve played and she could watch. She found camaraderie with others in the TOPPS program and was always game for a visit to the casinos. She was pretty lucky at Sun and Moon, and the machine quickly became her favorite. Whether at the local casinos or those near friends, Jean was always ready to play bingo and slots. Her usual first question for friends she was visiting was, “When‘re we going to the casino?”
When her beloved Sid died of pancreatic cancer in 1996, it was many years before Jean met Harm Kiewiet. Not surprisingly, it was while playing bingo that they first became friends. Several years later, they married on April 4, 2006 in Las Vegas. What could be more perfect than Jean and Harm saying their vows at the Hollywood Wedding Chapel and staying at the Riviera Casino for their honeymoon! The two of them often traveled from casino to casino and made sure Colorado was one of their destinations so they could visit her son.
At home, Jean liked to work crossword and jigsaw puzzles. She collected cups and music boxes that delighted her ear but likely didn’t play the popular music she preferred. Her heart was drawn to spiritual matters through the inspiration of TV personality Joyce Meyer, whom she listened to every day. No doubt her teaching brought comfort to Jean when she was diagnosed with heart problems in 2010 and then cancer in 2013. Jean’s life was meaningful and rich because of the love she gave and received.
Norma “Jean” (Babcock) Kiewiet, age 83 of Kalamazoo, Michigan, died on Monday, January 26, 2015 at her home. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Sid Babcock and siblings, Evelyn Borestein and Harold Smith. Members of her family include her husband, Harm Kiewiet; son, Steve Babcock; sister, Betty Howard; step-daughter, Anita (Leslie) Lehr and many nieces and nephews. Services will be held Thursday 11:00 AM at Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900 with a visitation beginning at 10:00 AM. A luncheon will follow the service in the Life Story Center. Burial at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Jean’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can read her life story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to the West Michigan Cancer Center.