James Clarke

January 11, 1929 - December 24, 2016
Kalamazoo, MI



Wednesday, December 28, 2016
10:00 AM EST
St. Augustine Cathedral
542 W. Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007


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.

St. Augustine St. Vincent DePaul Society
513 Eleanor Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
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


Faith and family were the cornerstones for which Jim Clarke lived. A personable and good natured and thankful person, his genuine demeanor and friendly ways offered him lasting friendships. As a devoted and dedicated family man, Jim was ever present in the lives of his children and counted his family as his greatest blessing. Although he will be deeply missed, Jim created fond memories which will continue to be treasured by those he leaves behind.

By 1929, the days of the flapper and the infamous Roaring Twenties gave way to hard economic times. Just merely the beginning, the Great Depression was officially launched in a country that had seen much growth and prosperity. Despite these troubling times, Durwood and Frances (Miller) Clarke of Kalamazoo, Michigan placed their hope in better tomorrows, and this was especially true on January 11, 1929, when they welcomed the birth of their son, James Robert.

Jim was raised an only child in Kalamazoo in the West Main Hill neighborhood where he was a friend of many. In fact, Jim continued living in his hometown neighborhood throughout most of his life. During his youth he experienced the adventures of boyhood, and devout to their Catholic faith, Jim attended St. Augustine School. Quite athletic, Jim was involved in football, basketball, and track, and he was just as outgoing and well liked. This was especially true when it came to Jim’s high school sweetheart, Donna Bennett. Having moved to Michigan from the Dayton area, Donna lived across the street and three doors down from Jim. They began dating their senior year when Jim nominated her for Homecoming Queen, and she won!

Following his high school graduation in 1947, Jim went on to attend the University of Detroit for dentistry, but soon discovered it just wasn’t for him. With a deep, abiding love, Jim married his forever love, Donna on August 26, 1950 at St. Augustine Church and together they shared a memorable honeymoon taking the train to Niagara Falls. Jim and Donna bought a home on Hillsdale and soon started a family of their own. Eventually blessed with six children, Julie, Timothy, Joseph, Michael, Jaime, and Daniel blessed their lives abundantly.

Jim was involved in the lives of his children and faithfully attended their many activities. He loved having the kids play football in the yard, even if he had to re-do the grass every year after the boys tore it up. They also had a go-cart track, and Jim put on fireworks for the whole neighborhood each year. Jim also loved lining up his boys and throwing the football to them as well as shooting lots of basketball with them. With boys under his fold, Jim was sure to have a pool table or two and always made sure the kids had all the toys to keep them busy and occupied. Jim provided well for his family, and was proud of his children’s Catholic education as they attended St. Augustine and Hackett schools. He liked doing yard work and kept up their pool. Jim worked hard as a provider and took pride in his home and his possessions.

From his earliest years, Jim was a salesman at heart. From peddling newspapers as a young boy to working at the local soda fountain, he always found a way to earn a living. Early on, he worked at Upjohn for five years before setting out to become his own boss. From 1955 to 1973, Jim owned and operated Westwood Food and Beverage. He loved the store and the many friendships and customers he had acquired over the years. When the store closed, Jim then began working as a state salesman for St. Julian Winery, and later retired from the banking industry.

Jim was an active and faithful member of St. Augustine Parish for 77 years where he served and gave selflessly. He was also a 3rd Degree member of the Knights of Columbus for 63 years for which he was proud in addition to being a member of the Kiwanis Club for 45 years. One year he was even honored with being named Kiwanian of the year.

From the 1940s to the mid 1970s, Jim’s family enjoyed times spent at the longtime family cottage on Gull Lake. They did a lot of swimming and boating there where Jim kept his Chris-Craft wooden boat with a 327 Chevy engine in pristine condition. Great memories were shared there water-skiing and teaching his kids all about water sports. They loved having lobster parties at the cottage, too. He and Donna played Bridge with other couples, and volleyball at St. Augustine. They loved taking in the dances and socializing at the Knights of Columbus in addition to travels to the Caribbean and to Fort Lauderdale, Florida several times. As a couple they spent numerous times with their good group of friends from church.

Jim was quite handy around the house and could fix nearly anything. He built many of the shelves and items for his store, and he was mechanically inclined. In the 1950's he owned a Jeep with a plow to make extra money, and over the years he had three homes on the hill. An avid Notre Dame fan, he loved the school. Although he couldn’t watch their games in the evenings, he was sure to record them. In his free time, Jim loved working on crossword puzzles, and sometimes 20 to 30 a day! He enjoyed a good glass of Irish whiskey or wine, and he possessed a great memory, telling story after story. Right up until the last of his days he had great recall.

Faith and devotion to his church remained an integral part of Jim’s life. He loved his faith and parish, and almost never missed Mass. His grandchildren became his greatest joy, and his enjoyment of Christmas and Easter always made these special times brighter. No greater man is one who places his faith and family above all else, and Jim was such a man. He lived by way of example, and leaves a lasting legacy always to be remembered.

Mr. James Robert Clarke, age 87 of Kalamazoo, died Saturday, December 24, 2016 at his home. Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Donna Mae Clarke in 2002 and by a son, Michael James Clarke in 1952. Surviving are his six children: Julie (Skip) Newhouse, Timothy Clarke, Joseph Clarke, Michael (Patricia) Clarke, Jaime Clarke and Daniel Clarke; eight grandchildren: Jessica, Regina, Rebecca, Callie, Corey, Teresa, Michael and Lacy; many great-grandchildren. Cremation will take place. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Wednesday, December 28, 2016, 10:00 a.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral. Private burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Please visit Jim’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Augustine or to the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.