Life Story / Obituary
So much could be said about Jim Kersjes, a man who lived his life as a positive example for others. A supportive husband, father, and grandfather, his greatest moments were the times he spent with his family. His infectious personality drew him naturally to many friendships over the years as well as many successes. Known for his wisdom, guidance, and unconditional love he will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered for generations to come.
His story begins in the 1930s, a time when there wasn’t much that was not 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, on May 14, 1935, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Joe and Frances (Kirchhoff) Kersjes were excited to celebrate the arrival of their newborn son, James Edward. Born the fifth of six children, his birth brought much hope and happiness during a difficult time in our nation’s history.
Growing up on the southeast side on Prospect Street, Jim lived a typical childhood of the times. He attended St. Francis Xavier School and pedaled the newspaper on a local route. Jim went on to Catholic Central High where he was well-liked by his classmates. Although his high school sweetheart, Carolyn “Kay” Lamoreaux attended Mt. Mercy, she never turned down a date to attend many of Catholic Central High’s football games and dances together. Graduating with the Class of 1953, he enlisted in the United States Army. He was stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he proudly served for two years.
Jim and Kay kept up their long-distance romance by correspondence through the United States Postal Service and short phone conversations. While on leave, they were married on September 15, 1956, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Jim would return to the Army for another year. Upon his return, they moved in with her mother to offer support as her father had died just prior to the wedding. Ambitious as well as driven, Jim began work in insurance sales and the two of them started their family. Spanning the years between 1957 and 1973, together they raised five wonderful children; Laura, Jayne, James, Patricia, and Terri.
By their ten year wedding anniversary in 1966, they had saved enough to purchase their family home on Paris/Burton SE with enough room for their expanding family. On special Sunday mornings, the day began with big greasy breakfasts including Bloody Mary’s and by afternoon Jim enjoyed entertaining extended family at local parks with drinks and burgers. As a family, they also enjoyed many years of camping, especially Brower Park and trips to Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula in their travel trailer. These traditions continued until in the later years the trips were a shorter distance to the nearby Hardy Dam. Jim loved his role as a father and enjoyed pulling the kids behind the boat as well as going snowmobiling in the winter months. Sadly, Kay developed breast cancer and lost her life at the young age of forty-eight in 1985 leaving Jim with the children to raise alone.
These years seemed to fly by as Jim soon welcomed grandchildren and great-grandchildren into the family. He was an active member of the Knights of Columbus where he made many lasting friendships. He liked to help out with the annual Tootsie Roll Drive often engaging his kids for support. Jim was a man of many traditions and rituals including his daily dose of WOOD Radio 1300 and the local newspaper. Most nights his diet consisted of broiled steak and a baked potato. Jim loved to spend time in the kitchen and each year he’d make his famous Peanut Brittle and on special occasions, he would fry up onion rings or make his homemade Sauerbraten for a treat!
After retiring from his years working at Continental Coffee Company and later Spartan Foods, where he was known for his exceptional salesmanship, Jim moved to White Cloud where he could spend more time outdoors. Social by nature, Jim never went without filling up someone’s cup with a happy thought or memory. He savored connecting with people and engaging in conversation. He took a paper route up there to remain active as well as to supplement his income and spent nearly every day either fishing or hunting! He enjoyed these years and loved the peacefulness of the nature around him. However, by 2013, his health, as well as his finances, were slowly draining and he sold his place for an apartment at Grandview Apartments. Later an injury to his leg landed him at Vista Springs for rehabilitation. He was well-liked by the special staff and many residents during his time there. There was no doubt that being around people gave him the greatest joy! Jim will be deeply missed by his many friends and family for his contagious outgoing personality and positive outlook on life. May they honor his legacy by taking the time to connect with others and give selflessly just the way he modeled so graciously for them over the years.
Mr. James Edward Kersjes, age 84, of Grand Rapids, Michigan passed away on November 26, 2019, at Vista Springs in Wyoming. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Carolyn “Kay”; grandsons, Jason and Bradley Kuhn; and three sisters and one brother. Jim is survived by his children; Laura (Howard) Beardsley, Jayne (Michael) Seino, James (Kelly) Kersjes, Patricia (James) Heinisch and Terri (Mark) Campbell; grandchildren; Katie (Shawn) Martin, Lauren Seino, Michelle (Andy) Skowronek, Tierney (Seth) Nykamp, Michael (Jamie) Kersjes, Matthew (Lisa) Heinisch, Lisa, Ryan, and Emily Heinisch; and Mackenzie, Keaton and Logan Campbell; great-grandchildren; Ella, Tyler and Rylee Martin; Cecilia and Rosalie Nykamp; and Emilia and Judah Kersjes; brother, Charles (Margie) Kersjes; sister-in-law, Mary Lynn (Tom) Kinney; and many nieces and nephews. Jim was a long time member of the Knights of Columbus. A special thank you to the staff at Vista Springs Wyoming for the wonderful care shown to Jim. The funeral service will be held at 11 AM on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Friends and relatives will gather from 6-8 PM on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, and for one hour prior to the service at the funeral home. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo, or sign the guestbook online.