Dr. James McDonald

March 26, 1934 - August 9, 2016
Kalamazoo, MI



Friday, August 12, 2016
11:00 AM EDT
First United Methodist Church
212 South Park Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 381-6340

Following the service, food and fellowship will be shared in the church hall.

Web Site


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.

Cure HHT
P.O. Box 329
Monkton, MD 21111
(410) 357-9932
Web Site

First United Methodist Church
212 South Park Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 381-6340
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Dr. James McDonald was a true Renaissance man. A loving husband, father and grandfather, his accomplishments and interests were vast and varied. His family has happy and cherished memories of a life lived well.

With the economy still suffering as a result of the Great Depression, and the promise of a newly elected president who pledged to make American lives better, Clifford and Margaret (Woodman) McDonald welcomed home their newborn son, James on March 26, 1934 in Mt. Pleasant. He was born the middle child between his two sisters, Carol and Bonnie.

Jim was born in Mt. Pleasant but spent most of his childhood in Midland. A born tinkerer, he built model airplanes which hung by the dozens from the ceiling of his bedroom. Musically inclined, Jim started singing in the choir by the age of ten years old. With no formal music training, he taught himself to play the banjo and dulcimer. He sang for many years in choral groups which included The Kalamazoo Singers, The Bach Choir and First United Methodist Church choirs. He was a natural athlete, playing fast pitch softball with great enthusiasm as a young adult and teaching himself how to master a back-flip.

Graduating with the Class of 1952 from Midland High School, Jim went to medical school at the University of Michigan. He and his wife of 57 years, Ellen, met when she moved in as a nursing student to the dorm in which he was a resident assistant. They met in the dining hall and Jim worked up the nerve to ask her on a bike ride. The rest is history. After two years of dating, the Methodist Church of Muskegon was the setting for their wedding on August 29, 1959. Shortly after in 1961 with their first daughter, Jamie, he enlisted in the United States Air Force making Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas his home for two years. This was followed by a residency in Pediatrics at the U of M and several years of general pediatric practice in St. Joseph, Michigan. Then he was back to Ann Arbor for a Fellowship in Allergy and Immunology. In 1972, the now family of five, Tim and Bonnie having been added in 1962 and 1964 respectively, settled in Kalamazoo, where Jim established a private practice in Allergy. In addition to running his practice, he very much enjoyed teaching the allergy segment of the Physician’s Assistant program for a number of years at Western Michigan University. Health conscious and physically fit, Jim biked or walked to work daily. After many dedicated and successful years of practicing and serving his community, he retired in 2003.

As a father, Jim was unflappable. Once, as a new 16 year old driver, daughter Jamie drove the car forwards, when attempting to back out of the garage. Sitting in the car next to her, not having flinched while she crashed through items in the garage and finally came to a stop. Jim calmly advised that perhaps she should put it in reverse next time. His calm presence and dry sense of humor were the balm for the family.

The family has fond memories of many vacations spent camping, canoeing or backpacking. Destinations included the Appalachian Mountains, the Everglades of Florida, Colorado and many wild places in Michigan. Jim even sewed tents, sleeping bags and backpacks, earning him long-ago fame in the Kalamazoo Gazette. A avid outdoorsman, he loved hiking, biking, canoeing, and even snowshoeing. However, he slowed down enough to examine and identify plants along a hiking trail and take many lasting photographs. He was an accomplished amateur photographer. He was a bird lover and enjoyed filling his feeders; he could identify every bird that came to feed. He was an amateur astronomer; his interest in the night’s sky is remembered by a granddaughter who tells of his careful and accurate placement of stickers in the form of constellations on her bedroom ceiling. He could build and fix almost anything. He made radios from odd parts as a child, and t.v.s from kits and clocks as an adult. A life-long learner, he read widely on subjects that included many things scientific, mechanical, historical and religious. In his retirement he finally started to read novels avidly as well. He loved to follow the sports of his Alma mater, even dedicating an entire room of his house to the Maize and Blue!

Jim’s family affectionately describes him as a tea snob. He traveled with his own teapot and tea. Friends and family knew not to refer to “herbal tea” in his presence; because that was herbal “beverage”, not real tea. His favorite food was homemade pizzas that he made from scratch almost every Sunday night, Fig Newtons, black liquorice, and Gummy Bears! He made English toffee and “church glass candy” for holiday care packages every year for many years.

Described as a man of principle, reserve, never apt to be the center of attention, Jim will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.

Dr. James McDonald, age 82, died on August 9, 2016 at Bronson Hospital. Jim was an Allergist in private practice for many years. A self-taught musician, he also sang in the Kalamazoo Singers for many years. Jim was a dedicated cyclist, an avid outdoorsman, amateur astronomer, keen photographer, aviation fanatic, technological guru, and chef extraordinaire. Surviving are his loving wife and soulmate, Ellen; grateful children: Jamie McDonald (Brian Kamm), Bonnie McDonald (Chuck Paget) and Timothy McDonald (Kathleen Hagenian); 8 grandchildren; sister, Carol Bowen, and many nieces and nephews. Memorial service will be held Friday 11am at First United Methodist Church (212 S. Park St) preceded by visitation at 10:30am. A luncheon in the church hall will follow. Please visit Jim’s personal memory page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to www.curehht.org or First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo.