Life Story Funeral Homes®
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Life Story Funeral Homes®
The exclusive providers of the Life Story Experience

Nira Belle Watkins

February 21, 2024
Kalamazoo, MI




Nira Belle Watkins of Kalamazoo passed away on February 21, 2024, at the age of 97. She was born on July 3, 1926, in Fredonia, Kansas, the youngest daughter of the late Homer and Hattie Scarborough. On February 17, 1951, she married Robert Glenn Watkins. Bob and Nira met in Sunday School at a Methodist church in Wichita, Kansas, and together shared 70+ years of marriage before his death in June of 2021.

Nira attended Great Bend High School, in Great Bend, Kansas, where her father was Superintendent of Schools, and Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas, graduating with a degree in chemistry in 1948, at a time when less than 5% of women graduated from college and even fewer majored in the sciences. She worked for General Mills as food scientist until her children began arriving. After that, Nira worked as a homemaker and stay-at-home mom until her children were older, when she became a substitute teacher. She later went back to school and received her Masters Degree in Library Science from Wayne State University in Detroit and was able to eventually use that degree as a cataloguer for the U. S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D. C., where she finished her career as a supervisor, retiring in 1992.

Nira and Bob loved to travel, visiting many European and Caribbean countries. They enjoyed camping as part of their travels with the children. Nira was also a skilled seamstress and knitter. She was independent minded and loved to read, with an eclectic taste in books, and was in many book clubs over the years, everywhere she and Bob lived, which included, in addition to Kansas, Michigan, Virginia and Arizona. She volunteered for the Red Cross at blood drives, and at the Shepherd's Center and Discovery Shop, in Kalamazoo. Surviving are her children, Charles (Barbara) Watkins, Carol (Steven) Watkins-Babcock, Katherine (James) Yoshida, five grandchildren -- Olivia Watkins (Seth Chanin), Michael Watkins, Nora Watkins, Stephen Yoshida and William Yoshida -- and a great-grandson, Leif Chanin. She was preceded in death by her husband, Bob, and her siblings, Mary Lou Kelso (Eugene) and Homer C. Scarborough (Phyllis).

Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of her life at Westwood United Methodist Church, 538 Nichols Rd., Kalamazoo, MI 49006, (269) 344-7165, on April 27, 2024, at 11:00 a.m., officiated by Pastor Sean Kidd. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Nira's memory may be sent to The Shepherd's Center of Greater Kalamazoo, or Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, Her online memorial can be viewed at