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Life Story / Obituary
Described as both quiet and reserved, with a dry sense of humor, James Spitzner Sr. also had a heart of gold. Through his generosity in helping others, sharing of his faith life, and opening his home to support so many, Jim’s legacy of giving more than receiving and seeing the best in each and every person will be fondly remembered by his many special friends and family for generations to come.
His story begins in the 1930s, a difficult time to recall much of anything that wasn’t affected by the Great Depression. There were few jobs and a soaring unemployment rate that left countless American families without homes. Despite these tough times, Walter Elmer and Lela Pearl (Love) Spitzner celebrated with great joy the arrival of their baby boy, James Walter, on August 19, 1935, at home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Born the youngest brother to three older siblings, his birth brought much joy and happiness in completing their family.
Jim’s father, Walter, was a millwright and his mother, Lela, was a homemaker who helped support their growing family as a housekeeper on the side. Jim lived a typical childhood of the times and shared the usual boyhood dreams. He attended Kalamazoo schools and enjoyed playing basketball on the high school team. Without hesitation, he joined the United States Air Force in 1953. Stationed in Florida prior to his departure to Okinawa where he proudly served four years at the end of the Korean War. Little did he know that an eleven-month correspondence with a dreamy girl wearing a bathing suit in a photo named Bobbie Dianne Uhrik would change the course of his life forever! A mutual friend gave Bobbie his name and address and they faithfully stayed in touch writing back and forth until Jim proposed almost immediately after they finally met in person! Soon after his discharge from the service he and Bobbie joined in marriage on May 25, 1957.
Their beginning started out in a meager two-bedroom apartment above his parents so they could help care for Jim’s aging father. Eventually, they had saved up enough to move into a home of their very own on Sprinkle Road. Eager to raise a family of their own, the Lord blessed them with five wonderful children. Bobbie and Jim felt that four were from birth; James Jr., John, Joel, Jeffrey, and one was by grace, Tracy. Their farm and property afforded them the space to take in many animals over the years, so much so, that the neighbors often referred to him as, “Old MacDonald!” Jim was a good provider for his growing family. Starting out in the paper mills before moving into a career with a commercial janitor service that spanned thirty years, Jim devoted his time to supervising and supporting so many including his own children. He enjoyed sharing his faith life with those in his work environment a gift he found after accepting Christ at the age of thirty-two years. When he wasn’t busy at work, he enjoyed putting time into remodeling the family home, tooling around on one of his tractors, fostering children, and teaching Sunday school! As a family, they treasured trips to Kentucky where they stayed in a houseboat with friends. An even-keeled father, his children valued his wisdom and guidance and appreciated his support over the years.
A hard worker his whole life, Jim dreamed of traveling during his retirement years and that he did! Remarkably, he and Bobbie lived in a motorhome for nearly five years and toured forty-nine states as well as Canada! Later in life, they savored several cruises including a 50-year wedding anniversary cruise with their five children and their spouses! A trip of Jim’s lifetime was a European Tour of eleven countries in thirty-one days! When they weren’t traveling extensively, they enjoyed visiting Texas where Jim enjoyed playing pool as well as remaining active in their home church at Calvary Christian Reformed and later, Doster Reformed. He served as an Elder for several terms at Calvary and again as both an Elder and a Deacon at Doster Reformed Church. His spiritual life was the most important roadmap he left his family.
Jim was a man of simple means and pleasures. Nothing brought him more joy than sharing in his family’s successes. He cherished his grandchildren and enjoyed telling them stories of days gone by. Without a doubt, he’d choose popcorn for his snack of choice and even offer them a bowl! His gift of time and love of the Lord were shared immensely over the years. Humble as well as noble, Jim will remain in the hearts of many and admired by all who knew and loved him forever.
James Walter Spitzner Sr. was born into eternity with his Lord on March 4th, 2018. He is survived by his loving wife of sixty years, Bobbie, as well as four of their five children; James Walter Jr. (Debbie); John Edward (deceased) (Holly who lives in St. Augustine, FL); Joel Andrew (Kristina); Jeffrey Robert (Kimberly); and Tracy Dianne (Stuart) Fessenden, as well as his 11 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren. Jim had three older siblings: Wilburn, Floris Sampley, and Wanda Chase, who preceded him in death. Visit with family and friends on Sunday, March 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church; 120 W. Morrell St. in Otsego. A funeral service will be held on Monday, March 12 at 11:00 a.m. at the same location. Visit www.mccowensecord.com where you can sign his guest book and achieve a memory and photo. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Wings Home in Allegan and the West Michigan Cancer Center in Kalamazoo.