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.
The First Tee of Kalamazoo
C/O Milham Park Golf Club, 4200 Lovers Ln.
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting back on the life of James Strate, words such as hard working, athletic, and likable come to mind. He was a simple man who was true to himself. No one ever had to guess what Jim was thinking, as he was usually thinking of his next tee time! A social person, he made friends easily with everyone he met. He enjoyed down to earth people and never passed judgment on anyone. Jim loved to go out for breakfast and shoot the breeze, yet above all else, he loved spending time with his family. Jim leaves behind a wonderful collection of fond memories shared over the years for his many close friends and family to treasure for generations.
Not much could be said about the 1940’s without some reference to WWII. In fact, June 6th of 1944 was the war’s most notorious day, D-Day, which occurred on the beaches of Normandy, marking the end of the war in Europe. During that same year, Jim was born to A. Randall and Virginia (Faust) Strate on September 3rd in Fremont, Michigan. Born a twin brother in a family of four boys, his birth brought his parents much hope and happiness.
Growing up on Hess Lake in Newaygo, he had an innate love of the outdoors. His parents owned the local Faust Grocery Store and bait shop. He and his brothers grew accustomed to digging for worms and helping to get ice in the winter. He lived a typical childhood and attended local schools where he and his brothers competed at nearly everything they set out to do. Jim excelled in both basketball and baseball. Later, he did pole vault on the track team where he fell into the sawdust pit injuring his back causing lifelong damage requiring several back surgeries throughout the years. He was most comfortable however skating on the ice, swimming, and golfing. Graduating with the Class of 1962 from Newaygo High School, Jim pursued an education degree from Western Michigan University. His passion for golf continued as a Bronco where he was able to walk on to their league as a freshman. His own schooling years fared him well as he was known to be a laid back teacher with a lot of patience for every type of learner. As a matter of fact, he remained teaching fifth grade at Lake Center Elementary School in Portage for thirty-three years before his retirement! While there, he also coached both boy’s basketball and girl’s softball. For his own satisfaction, he enjoyed many years playing golf and bowling on the teacher’s league. Even with his back surgeries, nothing seemed to slow him down. He managed a few 300s at the alley and a hole in one on the course! He loved to introduce new people to the sport of golf and could teach just about anyone how to perfect their swing. Jim was always polite however only offering up his advice if people asked for it.
By 1984, he married his companion, Sue in the backyard of her parent’s home in the East Cooper area. They settled into that same home for many years. While living in the rural area of Parchment he developed a love of horses and even raised a few pigs. Remarkably, he learned how to show horses working his way up from owning a pony to attending local fairs and horse competitions in the area.
Jim was a man of many special interests. An avid sports fan, Jim was known to wear headphones to listen to one game while watching the other on television. He was fond of both the MSU Spartans and the WMU Broncos as well as any Detroit teams including the Lions, win or lose! Jim was especially fond of the Detroit Tigers, if he wasn't watching them on TV, he was listening to the game on the radio. He would often make his own sports brackets and loved a good competition with his peers over the years predicting the outcomes of different championships. He loved to read; especially American History! When traveling, he treasured their stops at old cemeteries. Over their years together, in addition to their many horse shows, he and Sue visited the country of Spain, went on an exquisite Caribbean cruise, and took in the sights of beautiful Spokane, Washington. Known for his famous barbecue chicken as well as being a Plainwell praline pecan ice cream lover, Jim wasn’t shy when it came to good food.
After substitute teaching for a short while in the area after retirement, Jim and Sue chose Oklahoma as their next home. Here they enjoyed playing golf, tending to fields, walking their dogs, and taking care of their horses. They never complained about the heat as they wouldn’t trade it for another Michigan winter! Nearly eleven years later, they longed for more time with their family and packed up for the Jenison area. It was on their way home in September of 2016 that he began to experience pain and later was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Jim remained optimistic throughout his treatment even playing golf thru the month of November. Sadly, he passed away and his warm personality, as well as his unconditional love for his special friends and close family, will be greatly missed.
James Strate, of Jenison, age 72, died June 19, 2017, in Jenison. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Sue (Butler); four children: Stacey Strate, James (Tresha) Strate, Tonja Young (Gary) McCullough and Chad Young; grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a special grandson, Paul Young, who dubbed grandpa, Mott; brothers: Randall (Bonnie) Strate, Robert (Sue) Strate and Stephen Strate; and a brother-in-law, Patrick Butler, who was honored to build Jim’s casket; many cousins, nieces and nephews. Friends and family can visit while sharing refreshments on Friday from 5-8 PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269-375-2900), where services will be held on Saturday at 10 AM. A luncheon will follow in the Life Story Center. Burial will take place in East Cooper Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the First Tee of Kalamazoo. Please visit Jim’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo of him and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home.