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Life Story / Obituary
A good and kind man, Jay Eugene Rantz lived a life rich in family and adventure. Naturally social, Jay knew how to have a good time and rarely met a stranger. Within mere moments, Jay could inspire a smile on the face of even the most committed curmudgeon. He treasured his family, relished in his work, and lived each moment wholeheartedly. Jay's good nature and wonderful spirit proved a gift for all who were blessed to share time with him. While he will be deeply missed, Jay will long be remembered in the hearts and lives of those who knew him best.
1944 marked a time when all American lives were directly impacted by the war effort in Europe. While countless young people actively served in the trenches of WWII, those who remained stateside poured their energies into supporting the war effort in any way they could. As Americans welcomed the end of meat rationing and began planting Victory Gardens, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill and soon became the only U.S. president to be elected to a fourth term. As the nation looked toward peace, Clifford and Clarabelle (Holcomb) Rantz celebrated their own hopes for the future as they welcomed their son Jay into their hearts and home on June 11, 1944, in Grand Rapids, MI.
The oldest of the Rantz children, Jay took great pride in being his younger sister Patsy’s big brother. From his earliest years, Jay possessed a natural curiosity for how things worked. He was especially drawn to cars, speed, and anything mechanical. A hands-on guy, Jay never feared exploring the inner workings of things, and he loved the challenge of discovering a successful fix to a seemingly impossible problem.
After graduating from Plainwell High School, Jay attended trade school for a year in Chicago. After returning to West Michigan, he worked for many years as a machinist for a local tool & die company; Midwest Gage in Climax. Eventually, Jay formed his own company; J & J Machine. Not only did he use his skills at work, he also used them in his home shop where he spent many hours completing jobs and working on his cars. Jay loved problem-solving and the thrill of his hard work paying off in the end. When not working on cars, he loved to compete in drag races and watch NASCAR.
In his younger years, Jay explored several relationships that resulted in the gift of his three beautiful daughters: Christine, Kelly, and Sonya. His girls were his pride and joy and the privilege of being their father, his heart’s delight.
In 1997, Jay met the love of his life, Sandy Breed at a singles dance in Kalamazoo. Sandy and Jay were drawn together by a mutual interest in car shows. Soon the pair were sharing a first date; they hit the road for a car show in Muskegon in Jay’s beloved 1952 Chevy truck. It didn’t take long for the pair to recognize their good fortune and choose to live their lives together. For the next 21 years, Jay and Sandy embraced life in one another’s good company, as well as the company of each other’s children. Sandy’s son, Scott, and daughter, Beth grew to be very special to Jay.
With Sandy at his side, Jay continued to attend car shows, travel, seek adventure. Jay took to camping and was always looking for a thrill. Whether exploring his need for speed behind the wheel of a car or stepping beyond the railings at the Grand Canyon to better experience the precarious wonder more fully, Jay lived each moment fully. He loved cruising around in his ‘55 Chevy Bel Aire, celebrating Christmas with his family, listening to country music, and when he was allowed in the kitchen, making his famous spaghetti and meatballs.
As he welcomed grandchildren into his life, Jay’s joy grew abundantly. It was in Connor, Aaron, Adam, Christian, Michael, and Kaleb’s eyes that Jay could easily see the spark of his legacy and his greatest hopes for the future.
The world clearly feels less certain in the absence of Jay’s bright spirit. While it is difficult to imagine life without his steadfast presence, may we find comfort in our many sweet memories of the good man we were privileged to know. May we also find comfort in the privilege of carrying Jay’s legacy of embracing each person and each day as a gift forward. With every kindness we extend to another, NASCAR race we watch, adventure we seek, and successful project we complete, we keep his spirit alive in our hearts and lives where it will continue to inspire others.
Jay E. Rantz, of Vicksburg, formerly of Plainwell passed away on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, at the age of 73. He is survived by his sweetheart of 21 years, Sandy; daughter: Christine Rantz, of Kalamazoo; one sister: Patsy (Steve) Singleton, of FL.; two stepchildren: Scott (Kristy) Breed, of NJ; Beth Breed, of Kalamazoo; six grandchildren: Connor Jay, Aaron, Adam, Christian, Michael, and Kaleb. He is preceded by his children: Kelly Rantz-Johnson and Sonya Rantz.
The family will receive friends on Sunday from 2 to 4 pm at the McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes, Marshall-Gren Chapel, 120 S. Woodhams, Plainwell, MI (269-685-5881). The funeral service will be held on Monday at 11 am at the funeral home. Burial will be at the Hillside Cemetery. The processional will lead by his friends in the classic cars they all loved. Please bring a Hot Rod or classic car if you have one.
Please visit Jay’s webpage at www.mccowensecord.com where you can read his life story, sign the guestbook, and share a memory. Those who wish may make a contribution to the West Michigan Cancer Center.