Tuesday, November 1, 2016
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Food and drinks will be served.
A Prayer Service will be held at 7:30pm.
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.
Sisters of St. Joseph
3427 Gull Road, PO Box 34
Nazareth, MI 49074
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
There was no one quite like Jean Simmons. With her undeniable spunk, she was a blessing to everyone she encountered. Devout to her Catholic faith, Jean gave of her time and talents without ever expecting anything in return. She held her family close to her heart, and with ways all her own, she was unconditional in her love. Although gone from love’s embrace, the heart of Jean will live on in those who knew and loved her.
Born on December 15, 1937, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Jean was the daughter of Charles and Helen (Foley) McKenzie. It had been an eventful year altogether in the nation as The Golden Gate Bridge was brought to completion. News of the day included aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart’s disappearance which continues to remain a mystery while the explosion of the Hindenburg marked the end of the airship era. Although life continued to be a struggle for families, the repercussions of the Great Depression were slowly coming to an end and hope was on the horizon.
The second of four children in her family, Jean grew up on Egleston Avenue where the McKenzie’s made their home. Named after a well-loved folk song, “My Bonnie, Bonnie Jean”, her father often played the ukulele and sang. Jean also loved singing and in her youth, she was into dramatics. She received her early education at St. Joseph’s School before graduating from St. Augustine High School with the Class of 1955. There she was part of a close-knit group of friends that remained good friends to the last of their days. They each attended all the class reunions over the years and each month they got together for lunch.
Jean went on to further her education. She began taking business classes at Western College, yet before graduating, a young man swept her off her feet. Although Jean had aspirations of meeting a college man from the city one day, she was set-up by her family with a country boy by the name of W. Lee Simmons. It took several dates before Jean could get past Lee being a farmer and country boy, but once he became Catholic, she knew he was the one for her. Their relationship blossomed, and as true soul mates, the couple was happily married on May 14, 1960, at St. Joseph Catholic Parish.
After spending a memorable honeymoon at Niagara Falls, the newlyweds made their home in Scotts on the Simmons family parcel where Lee built a home for Jean and their family. It wasn’t long before they started a family of their own which came to include four children, Scott, Laurie, Rick, and Julie. In fact, each one of Jean and Lee’s children came to reside on the family parcel, too. While Lee tried his hand at various professions to support their family, Jean was content to remain at home taking care of her beloved Lee and children. Well organized and meticulous, Jean made a list of her daily agenda. It listed what she was going to do, when she was going to do it, right down to how many loads of laundry and preparing for their evening meal. Once everything was checked off her list, by 1:00 PM she headed next door to visit her mom and dad with her green, gallon glass jug of Carlo Rossi Paisano wine she loved.
Quite a homebody, Jean was the perfect mother. She attended to the needs of her children with loving care, and instilled in them, and later, grandchildren, devotion to their Catholic faith. Her mom and dad came over regularly to make homemade wine and pickles. Every week she had her hair done, and each Thursday she went for “Cousins Breakfast” as they called it. These were namely the things that got Jean out.
Jean was a fantastic cook. Even though it was flaming hot and spicy, her famous spaghetti was always a family favorite. She was known for her delicious lasagna, and her Christmas desserts were simply the best. For birthday dinners, Jean made their favorite dishes complete with the infamous, “you are special” birthday plate. Every Sunday, Jean had everyone over for one of her wonderful, all comfort food meals. She also made sure her children tried a variety of foods. Her spot at the table gave her the advantage of watching them, making certain they used good manners and were eating properly. No messing around at Jean’s table! She also instructed her children as to the way they should dress, and the proper way to act.
Right along with Jean’s knack in the kitchen was her skill as a hostess. She loved to entertain, and she could put on quite a presentation at the holidays. She made it all from the drinks to the appetizers which were all simply the best. Jean loved her coffee which she drank from morning until noon. A very weak brew, she frequently used the little teacups she collected. A woman who liked having quality, nice things, Jean was grateful to Lee for providing a good life for them. They found time for one another every Tuesday evening which was their “date night”. Jean always looked forward to these special times. They always went to the Cork and Cleaver where she learned how to make the best mud pie from their recipe. Gone for hours, it too was a process where they’d enjoy a few drinks, appetizers, and a time to talk and visit. They had a boat in South Haven where they also loved socializing. Lee liked having boats, campers, trailers, and cars, and Jean was more the bookkeeper.
While raising her family, Jean served as the treasurer for the Pavilion Township Hall. She worked out of her home where residents came by to pay their taxes. Later in the 1970s she helped Lee with his business, Simmons Insulation, after heno longer worked for the Upjohn Company. After her children were grown, Jean took a job at The Kalamazoo Gazette, working as an editor's Administrative Assistant. from which she eventually retired. In her free time, Jean liked playing Scrabble, working on her puzzles and knitting. An avid reader of novels and many Catholic periodicals, spiritual books, and the like, she always enjoyed a good story. When it came to music, she was very fond of Neil Diamond and John Denver.
Through the years, Jean remained faithful to her church. Every month her group, The Halos got together for dinner and recited the Rosary. They also enjoyed day trips to Notre Dame and other places, but most of all they were a good support for each other. Through the years Jean did some camping with her church where they camped in their little pop-up camper. Later, she and Lee rented a Winnebago, traveling to Florida and Colorado. She also volunteered at church often teaching English to the Spanish students, serving at funeral luncheons, and as a Eucharistic minister as well as giving of her time at Kairos Dwelling. Faithful in many regards, she watched Mass on TV every morning and prayed the Rosary. She was a member of RCIA and became an adult sponsor. Jean evangelized her faith in numerous ways.
Jean’s kitchen table was the hub of her home, and that was the one place those who knew Jean always found her. Proper etiquette was required there, and dinner was only to be eaten there. Her family and even her grandchildren to this day begin gathering around their tables at 3:00 PM to talk about the day’s events and simply to catch-up, followed by dinner. It was truly the one thing Jean was extremely stubborn about. With her sassy nature, Jean was ever loving and giving. She underwent surgery for some health issues ten days ago, but recovery was not meant to be for Jean. Deeply missed, she will be fondly remembered for the many ways she touched those who knew and loved her.
Jean M. Simmons, age 78 of Scotts, died on October 27, 2016, at Borgess Medical Center. Jean was preceded in death by her husband, W. Lee Simmons in 2004. Surviving are four children: Scott (Cindy) Simmons, Laurie Simmons, Rick (Deb) Simmons and Julie (Don) Hennessy; eight grandchildren: Kristin (John) Wykoski, Sarah Simmons, Jacob (Billy Jo) Snyder, Daniel Simmons, Luke (Alicia) Snyder, Scottie Simmons (Carly Whitman), McKenzie Hennessy and Kennady Simmons; six great-grandchildren: Alexis, Gavin, Eli, Lucy, Charlie and Warren; three siblings: Robert McKenzie, Charles (Jen) McKenzie and Karen Vosburg; many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and drinks on Tuesday from 5–8 PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where a prayer service will be held at 7:30 PM. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Wednesday, 10:00 AM at St. Joseph Church. A luncheon will follow in the church hall. Private burial of cremated remains at Boughton Cemetery, Pavilion Township. Please visit Jean’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Joseph Church or Sisters of St. Joseph.