Jim Smith

October 12, 1936 - January 30, 2018
Kalamazoo, MI



Saturday, February 3, 2018
2:00 PM EST
The Octagon House, home of Frank and Toni Gross
925 South Westnedge Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49008


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.

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
314 South Park Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 349-7775
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


Throughout his rich and rewarding life, James “Jim” Smith made the most of the days he was given. He worked hard and accomplished so much of which to be proud, but he was a humble man whose family was his greatest source of pride and joy. Jim was blessed to share the majority of his life with his true love, and together they witnessed their family tree blossom to include the grandchildren they both adored. A longtime resident of the community he loved, he was social and outgoing with many friends over the years. Deeply loved, Jim will be forever missed.

The 1930s were some of the most trying days we have faced as a nation as the entire decade was covered by the wet blanket of the Great Depression. Jobs were hard to come by, the unemployment rate soared, and there were few Americans who didn’t feel the strain. Despite the trials around them, Darwin and Helen (Mol) Smith were able to focus their attention on an exciting time in their own lives as they were anticipating the birth of their new baby as October dawned in Louisville Kentucky, in 1936. Their wait was over on October 12th when the baby boy they named James Avery drew his first breath. As the youngest of the Smith children, he was raised in Grand Haven, Michigan, alongside his siblings, Darwin and Lois. Jim’s father was the head of the Grand Rapids Pumping Station located at the mouth of the Grand River, and the family lived above the pumping station. Social and outgoing from the time he was young, Jim made several lifelong friends while growing up in Grand Haven. He attended local schools including Grand Haven High School where he played football. From there he went on to the University of Michigan where he studied political science and was a member of the ROTC. Jim later graduated from Michigan State as well with his Master’s degree. As a young man, he entered the United States Air Force. While serving, he was a member of the OSI Division. Throughout his four years of service, Jim rose to the rank of captain.

After his discharge, Jim was eager for all that life had in store. He became involved in trading securities with Merrill Lynch. This is what brought Jim to Kalamazoo in 1979 as he opened a Merrill Lynch office. He later become involved with Prudential and Wachovia, serving as managers of their local offices. He retired in 2008 and he was known for his hard work, fairness, and ethics.

Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Jim’s introduction to the woman of his dreams while in Detroit. He was a member of the First Society, and it was through this affiliation that he met Mary Jo Walsh. Jim was with the First Society doing a project at Detroit Receiving Hospital where he met Mary Jo who was a social worker there. They eventually started to date, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Jim and Mary Jo were married on April 22, 1967, at Holy Trinity Church in Detroit. Together they welcomed two boys, Javery and Brian, into their hearts and home. He was an amazing father who was an active part of his sons’ lives. Jim made sure that they got to all their hockey practices and games, and he would often be in charge of the penalty box at the games. He had a huge heart and made sure the boys were cared for and received all the necessities in life. Jim also taught his boys invaluable lessons such as having a strong set of moral values and ethics, the importance of treating others with kindness, and that hard work pays off.

Over the years, Jim was one to keep busy, and he was passionate about the things he believed in. He firmly believed that all people were to be treated equally, and this is what made him a perfect fit for the National Organization for Women (NOW). Mary Jo was the President of the local chapter of the organization, but since he enjoyed the people and the causes they fought for it was something he could believe in as well. Although he worked hard, Jim loved to get away to their beach house on the shores of Lake Huron in Port Huron. It was a place to unwind and enjoy his boat out on the big lake. He enjoyed classical music and was also involved in the Detroit Institute of Art and Kalamazoo Institute of Art. Jim appreciated a good steak from the Beacon Club and a simple cheeseburger from Burger King.

All who knew Jim Smith would agree that he was truly extraordinary. He was a loyal and devoted friend who was accepting of everyone. Jim believed in equality for everyone, and he was generous beyond compare. He deeply loved his wife and family, and he was very affection as giving hugs was something he often did. Jim was known for his high moral character and his unwavering moral ethics, and he had a great sense of humor, too. Life will never be the same without Jim here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever cherish.

James Avery “Jim” Smith died on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Jim’s family includes his wife, Mary Jo Walsh, 2 sons: James Smith Jr. and his wife, Rebecca Jill Smith and Brian Smith and his wife, Tammy Louise Smith; sister, Lois Jean Dickinson; and 5 grandchildren: Harley, Addison, Briana, Brian and Kali. Jim was preceded in death by his granddaughter, Kelsey and his brother, Darwin Smith. A Memorial Service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the home of Frank and Toni Gross, 925 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo 49008.. 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 donations may be made to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.