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. Michael Lutheran Church
7211 Oakland Drive
Portage, MI 49024
Christ for Kids Childcare
7211 Oakland Drive
Portage, MI 49024
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
James Newkirk was a good man through and through. A man of integrity and grit, he valued relationships with others and treated everyone he met with compassion. A true lover of cars and attending car shows, he also loved working on his 1961 and 1965 Corvettes. Generous beyond measure, he was known for his funny Christmas gifts and willingness to lend a helping hand. Although he will be deeply missed, his warm personality, charming smile, and easy-going personality will be lovingly remembered.
The 1950’s were known as the decade of the baby boomer. Exciting times indeed with the many talents of professional baseball players Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron, as well as the rock music icon, Elvis Presley and movie heartthrob, James Dean. Families still huddled around the television to catch the latest westerns such as Gunsmoke or anything featuring Lucille Ball. On May 2, 1953, Edward and Ruth Newkirk welcomed home their son, James, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Born the only brother to his older sister, Carole, his birth brought great joy into their hearts.
Growing up in the Texas Township area, he lived an active childhood. When he wasn’t tending to the family horses, he was participating in both 4-H and Boy Scouts. Jim enjoyed playing basketball on his high school team as a point guard and even made it into the High School Basketball Hall of Fame before graduating from Mattawan High School with the Class of 1971. With a strong interest in fixing things by tearing them apart and putting them back together, he landed at Western Michigan University to study as a mechanical engineer. After successfully earning his degree, Jim began work at Eaton Corporation. With a strong work ethic, he later moved on to Dana where he excelled at working on various car parts such as the axle and gears as well as in the transmission division. Jim was well liked by his co workers and loved his job. A natural when it came to working with cars, he landed a position as a quality control engineer with Denso, where he loved sharing his knowledge with others.
Jim was blessed with three wonderful children by two marriages. As a father, he loved to take his kids camping and savored many years in a favorite spot in Vicksburg. They also took a few tours of the Upper Peninsula where Jim enjoyed sharing with them his love of the outdoors by fishing, snowmobiling, or cooking around a campfire. He and the kids also took countless day trips to the beautiful beach town of South Haven enjoying the fresh water of Lake Michigan. Paw Paw was where he made his loving home where each of their friends were made to feel welcome and where Jim felt his most content. Living in a rural location allowed him to tinker with his many hobbies. He enjoyed working on cars, refinishing old furniture, as well as collecting a wide variety of special antiques. A perfectionist to some degree, whatever project he started, he made sure he completed it with the best attention to detail. No work or material hand crafted by Jim ever went without a thorough inspection before he was satisfied. Jim loved to help his kids with their own home repair projects. A jack-of-all-trades, he was certain to have the extra tool needed to complete any job, if not, he gladly purchased it knowing it would come in handy from time to time. He sincerely wanted nothing but the best for each of his children and took great pride in providing them with the very best he could offer.
Never one to remain idle, Jim kept himself busy over the years. An avid golfer, he played on leagues and enjoyed deep frying a turkey for their annual golf outing. He was lucky enough to travel to the famous Pebble Beach in California to play a round on the same course of some of the greatest names in golf history! He also had a real love for hockey and enjoyed following the K Wings where it was common tradition to grab a pizza or enjoy a seasoned Walleye fillet at Fricano’s after the game! When it came to football season, he loved his WMU Broncos and would often tailgate before their home games. Jim also favored the underdogs during the intense March Madness basketball seasons! He loved to share some of his famous grilled ribs and spend time with his friends from time to time on the back deck listening to music. Always fun to be around, he never lacked for entertainment or for others to join in on the fun!
When the sporting seasons were at a lull or he needed some down time, he’d head for the Strand Theater to catch a movie or pick up where he left off in one of the biographies he was reading. Hard to believe, Jim ever relaxed, as he was always helping out a friend in need, finishing a project, or enjoying a ride on his Harley! Each and every person was touched by his life. To know him was to know a special father, brother, grandpa, and friend. Jim lived his life to his fullest and his wonderful collection of memories will live on in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.
James Edward Newkirk, age 64, of Paw Paw died unexpectedly at his home on August 15, 2017. Jim was preceded in death by his parents. Surviving are his three children: Tanya Newkirk (Glenn Newell), Emily (Joe) Ritchie and Andrew Newkirk; two grandchildren: Kimberly and Caleb and his sister, Carole Newkirk. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Tuesday from 5-8pm at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Services will be held Wednesday 11 am at St. Michael Lutheran Church. Burial will take place at Hope Cemetery, Texas Township. A lunch will follow the burial in the church hall. Please visit Jim’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Michael Lutheran Church or Christ for Kids.