Sunday, December 12, 2010
4:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
7:30 PM Scripture Service
Monday, December 13, 2010
11:00 AM EST
St. Ambrose Catholic Church
1628 East "G" Avenue
Parchment, MI 49004
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.
Caring Network-Teddy Bear Picnic
Catholic Family - 1441 South Westnedge Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Tom Rafferty, it is amazing to see how the touch of just one man could reach so many. He never met a stranger and would give the shirt off his back to help another. Tom was a true Irishman through and through with the red hair and rosy cheeks to prove it, and a Notre Dame fan to boot. It was common to see Tom with a coffee cup in his hand, and he always started his day long before the first glimmers of the sun appeared on the horizon. A true blessing in the lives of many, Tom will be deeply missed while his legacy of hard work, integrity, and compassion towards others will live on in the lives of the generations he leaves behind.
As WWII raged on overseas, 1943 found countless servicemen and women fighting for the freedoms we still enjoy today. Back home, families remained hopeful while rationing on common goods such as coffee, gasoline, and staples such as flour and sugar was in place. It was within this eventful time that there was great cause for celebration in the family of Francis and Marie (Conway) Rafferty since it was on November 19th of that same year that their lives were enriched with the birth of their son, Tom. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Tommy, as he was known to most, was the middle of three children in his family including his brother, Pat, and his sister, Jane. He was raised in the family home on the east side of Kalamazoo. Tommy’s father worked at the Eckrich meat packaging plant while his mother had more than enough to keep her busy at home. He enjoyed playing golf with his father and whenever he was out on the links, Tommy putted as a lefty but played right-handed. He attended St. Augustine School and graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1961.
This would prove to be an eventful year for Tom because not only was it the year he graduated, but it was also the year he met the young woman with whom he would share an abiding love. Her name was Sharon Kent and they lived in the same neighborhood. Tom regularly showed off with his dad’s ’57 Chevy but as the story goes, she was less than impressed. He grew on her over time, however, and the couple eventually began dating. In love, Tom and Sharon married on October 24, 1964, at St. Augustine where they had the first mass carried out in English rather than in Latin.
After a honeymoon in Chicago, the couple settled into their lives as husband and wife in Kalamazoo. A short time later, they were blessed with their first of three sons, Tucker, in 1966. Tim joined their family in 1968 and with Troy’s birth in 1969, their family was complete. Tommy worked at Ralston’s Auto Parts, first in delivery and later in sales. Then for about nine years, he owned and operated Kar Parts, a wholesale car parts distributor. In 1981, Tom started his coffee business, R&R Distributing, until Cadillac Coffee bought him out. After that, Tommy commuted to and from Detroit for one year during which time he worked for Standard Coffee Company. In 1988 Tom started Imperial Coffee and Vending. He owned and operated that business until he sold off the vending portion of the business six years ago. Together with his wife, Tommy owned the Crooked Lake Market for eight years, and they lived above the store as well. Their store was always open, too, including after dinner on Thanksgiving. Tom just walked right downstairs, turned the open sign on, and sat and watched the games.
Throughout his life, Tommy’s days were filled with a myriad of interests. He enjoyed gaming and going to Las Vegas, although he never brought enough money with him. The trips Tom took with his boys were among some of the best times of his life. In fact, there was nothing of greater value to Tom than the times he spent with his family no matter what they were doing. It was plain to see that his family was his greatest source of pride and joy. Tom was especially overjoyed when his son’s married three wonderful girls. He loved his girls.
Nothing could have been better in Tom’s book than becoming a grandfather to four grandchildren, three of them girls! He made a habit of spoiling all of his grandchildren as much as humanly possible. Tom had a heart for all children and loved spoiling them all as he was known to give kids candy at the store whenever he could. He loved visiting his son, Tim, who is a golf professional in Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as his son, Troy, in Florida. Although Tommy hated to fly, he treasured the trip he took to Ireland on one occasion. His parents instilled within him his love for Notre Dame, but he was also a Lions fan through thick and thin.
Much of Tommy’s life was spent caring for others. He never met a stranger and would talk anyone’s ear off. Generosity was something that came naturally for Tom and some would even argue that he was generous to a fault. His door was always open including to any of his boys’ friends who were going through some tough times. Tom could be so funny, but he couldn’t ever tell a joke since he erupted in laughter long before he could ever make it through the whole joke.
Life will never be the same for those who knew Tom Rafferty now that he is gone since he was truly one of a kind. A true salesman till the very end and when he was too weak to sell he became an expert supervisor, doing so often and sometimes loudly. He worked hard in whatever he was doing, wherever life brought him along his journey. Tommy’s family and friends could always count on him to tell it like it was – as long as it didn’t include a punch line! A loving husband, devoted father, and fun-loving grandfather, Tom will be forever cherished by those he leaves behind.
Tom Rafferty died on December 9, 2010 in Kalamazoo. Tom’s family includes his wife, Sharon Rafferty, 3 sons and 3 daughters-in-law: Tucker and Susan Rafferty, Tim and Jolanta Rafferty, and Troy and Ashley Rafferty; 4 grandchildren: Connor, Victoria, Lilly and Hannah; brother and sister-in-law, Pat and Gretchen Rafferty; and many nieces and nephews. Tom was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Jane Borden. Learn more about Tom, view his Life Story film, and visit with his family and friends on Sunday from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes - Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Drive, 375-2900 where a prayer service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday 11 a.m. at St. Ambrose Catholic Church. Burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery followed by a luncheon at church hall. Please visit Tom’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo, sign his memory book before coming to the funeral home, or make a memorial donation to Ministry for Community – Food Service or Caring Network – Teddy Bear Picnic.