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Life Story / Obituary
Funny, intelligent, and hardworking, Kevin John Pilbeam lived life with a perpetual sense of adventure and commitment to old fashion values. Fueled by a heart of gold, Kevin was always on the go and unconsciously making a positive difference in other people’s lives. Though rough on the outside, Kevin was a man who loved truly with his whole heart. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Kevin was revered by many and will long be held in the hearts those who were blessed to share in his life.
In June of 1956 Gloria and Jay Pilbeam welcomed their son Kevin into their lives. Along with his hardworking parents, Kevin grew up with his three brothers – Richard, Greg, and Mark. The family loved to camp together, and share many fond memories of those times. From his earliest years, Kevin learned a love of food from his father, who was a chef. When his dad took a job at Inman’s Restaurant in Portage, the family moved, and Kevin soon found himself working at his father’s side.
While working at the restaurant and attending high school at Portage Central, Kevin was blessed to meet the love of his life when his buddy Randy Bleeker introduced him to his twin sister, Kathy. From the moment they began dating during their tenth-grade year, Kevin’s and Kathy’s lives were not complete without each other. Even when Kevin’s family moved to Coldwater, Michigan where he finished high school and worked as a bartender at the Coldwater Country Club, he and Kathy continued to nurture their very special bond.
The happy couple wed on May 17, 1980, in the witness of their family and friends. While the couple made their home, Kevin continued to work at his parents’ restaurant, Little Pigs, where he had served as the manager since 1975. In 1985 Kevin and Kathy’s joy grew exponentially upon welcoming their daughter Ashley into their family. Four years later, they completed their family when Brian was born.
In 1987 Kevin began his career as an industrial insulator with Kasten Insulation Services. There he trained and supervised multiple co-workers and made an unimaginable number of friends. With an unwavering work ethic, Kevin consistently gave all he had to every endeavor he pursued. He loved to learn and grew an immeasurable wealth of knowledge over his lifetime. A passionate Tinkerer, with MacGyver like skill, Kevin had the ability to look at a problem, and quickly either figure out a fix or finagle something together to make it work. He was always on the move fixing and organizing things with a particularity and sense of pride that was the trademark for his life.
Though Kevin worked very hard, he always made time for his family. Whether camping, attending his children’s extracurricular activities, fixing up cars with Brian, sharing living room dance parties with Kathy and Ashley, supporting his wife’s daycare and work as a travel agent, or masterfully creating a heavenly barbecue, Kevin always showed love and pride for his family.
With a natural affinity for people, Kevin possessed the ability to make friends instantly wherever he went. He was funny, sarcastic, entertaining, and freely spoke his mind trusting that others had the capacity to be truthful as well. He was able to inspire other’s laughter at the drop of a dime with his signature one-liners, and he never met a stranger. Kevin embraced others as friends and treated them with respect, dignity, and affection. Whether in a phone call on his way to work, fixing a lawn mower for a friend, cooking dinner, or sharing the vast amount of random information his brain held, you always knew he was there for you. Rain or shine, night or day, if you needed something he would be there.
A man of infinite interests, Kevin was always actively learning. He loved the music of the Moody Blues, Jackson 5, the Rat Pack, and even Maroon 5. He relished in attending concerts and could really cut a rug, especially to the early tunes of Bits and Pieces. He was light on his feet for a big guy and the memories of watching his delight when dancing will long warm the hearts of his family and close friends who had the treat of sharing these special moments with him. Kevin collected small appliances to try new creations in the kitchen and had a garage filled with treasures to meet any need. For seven years he had a sailboat in Saugatuck. Kevin meticulously remodeled the 27’ “Panthera” from top to bottom and enjoyed many adventures sailing it across Lake Michigan’s beautiful waters with Kathy. He especially enjoyed camping throughout Michigan with his family and exploring many of the state’s historic lighthouses. Despite a deep stubbornness around the hassles of special occasions, Kevin would always commit to ensuring that the meals and entertainment that brought people together were of the highest quality and in ample supply.
Kevin and Kathy had the good fortune of sharing many adventures in many destinations with Puerto Vallarta, Mexico being their favorite. The warm climate, tropical beaches, and gorgeous scenery drew them to this beautiful place. In December of 2016, they were able to share this special place with their family as they all traveled together. The memories they made here will forever be in their hearts.
Without a doubt, becoming a grandfather to Cora and Natalie was Kevin’s heart’s delight. In the twinkle of their eyes, he could see the spark of his legacy and all of his hopes for their futures. He loved teaching them his passion for music and generally just sharing time in their presence. He was immensely proud of his family and particularly proud to be his granddaughters’ beloved Papa.
To say that Kevin possessed a zest for life feels like an understatement. It’s nearly impossible to adequately articulate just how fully Kevin loved life and all the people he came to know. In July of 2017, Kevin was diagnosed with lung cancer. After bravely enduring two surgeries to remove the tumor from his lung, he was declared a cancer survivor. Much to everyone’s surprise, Kevin suffered unexpected complications from the last surgery which ultimately cost him his life.
Clearly, Kevin’s sudden departure has many of us reeling in sadness and disappointment. To imagine life without his steadfast presence seems impossible. May it afford deep comfort to know that the most authentic way to celebrate the gift of Kevin’s life is to choose to live the way he did--wholeheartedly! Embrace each day, embrace others, and embrace the warmth in your heart that is sourced by the many wonderful memories you carry of this good man. In this way, we carry Kevin’s legacy forward into the world where his good love can continue to touch, move, and inspire others.
Age 61, died unexpectedly September 9, 2017, in Kalamazoo. He was born June 23, 1956, in Lansing, the son of Jay and Gloria (Gutwald) Pilbeam. He was preceded in death by his parents and by a brother, Richard Pilbeam. Surviving are his wife of 37 years, Kathy Pilbeam; 2 children: Ashley (Jesse) Hilton and Brian (Megan) Pilbeam; 2 grand-daughters: Cora and Natalie Hilton; older brother: Greg (Mary) Pilbeam and their children: Chad, Jamie and Kristy; and younger brother, Mark Pilbeam and numerous other family and friends. He will be forever loved and missed. Cremation will take place. Services will be held Thursday 1 pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Please visit Kevin’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his name to Bronson Children’s Hospital.