Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Jim McElheny

June 23, 1927 - January 17, 2023
Grand Rapids, MI



Sunday, January 22, 2023
3:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Van Strien Creston Chapel
1833 Plainfield Ave., N.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
(616) 361-2613
Driving Directions


Monday, January 23, 2023
10:00 AM EST
Magnify Church - Rockford Campus
6727 Kutshill Drive NE
Rockford, MI 49341
Web Site


Monday, January 23, 2023
11:00 AM EST
Magnify Church - Rockford Campus
6727 Kuttshill Drive NE
Rockford, MI 49341
Web Site


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.

Gilda's Club
1806 Bridge St NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With a warm smile and a generous heart, James "Jim" Alexander McElheny Jr. lived a life rich in family and friends. A natural scholar, Jim was a lifelong learner who valued hard work and welcomed opportunities to grow. He was humble, thoughtful, and kind, and devoted himself to his family. Jim led by example, humbly embracing each moment as a gift, welcoming every person as a friend, and giving all he could in service to others. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend, Jim was an inspiration to all who were blessed to know him.

The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. Post-war peace, a booming economy, rising wages for most Americans, and falling consumer prices resulted in a higher standard of living for most. Tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts marked this roaring decade when a person's success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and working to make them a reality. For James and Fern (Miller) McElheny, Sr., this vibrant decade grew even brighter on June 23, 1927, as they welcomed their son Jim into their family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Jim's early years were rooted in family life. His first and lifelong friend was his older sister Dorothy. As the second-born and oldest son, Jim was expected to be a role model for his younger siblings. With a sense of honor, Jim proudly stepped into his role as the patriarch of the eight boys. Jim enjoyed his role and being the one everyone came to when there was a puzzle to solve or an accomplishment to celebrate. Sadly, his youngest brother, Phillip, died at the age of two.

Though Jim loved school, he left after graduating 10th grade to join the workforce in order to provide for his family. He worked for Berkey and Gay Furniture Company. At age 17, Jim enlisted in the Navy and trained as an aviation storekeeper. He was never deployed from the states at the war's end and safely returned home following his service to his country.

On December 1, 1951, Jim married Barbara, and in 1952, he began his long career with General Motors. Though the couple divorced in 1959, the marriage blessed Jim with three children, James, Lorna, and Timothy. In time, Jim was also blessed to find love with his coworker, Virginia. After a civil ceremony at the Justice of the Peace, Jim, Virginia, and Virginia's daughter Cathy made a home together. When their daughter, Jennifer, was born, the family was complete.

Just as in his role as the oldest brother, Jim stepped into his role as patriarch with unwavering love and support. He encouraged all of his children's endeavors and lent a hand wherever he could. Of course, his help with homework didn't always comply with the teachers' ways, but nonetheless, he never failed to be available. The family enjoyed local adventures at Silver lake, trips to Florida, and traveling to California to visit Jim's sister Dorothy every other year. She would come to Michigan the opposite year. Many wonderful gatherings with extended family only came to a close after Jim and his brothers sang Irish songs with rich harmonies.

Jim was both curious and resourceful. He loved to learn, pursuing philosophy, history, science, and finance. He listened to college-level courses to expand his understanding and enjoyed good science fiction. He could fix anything! His gift for problem-solving came in especially handy as he repaired and remodeled the homes he owned and rented. He helped countless family members with their projects and repairs too. Jim also loved music and poetry. He listened to a wide array of music and was always humming. When it came to poetry, he had a photographic memory that led to quick memorization and accurate quoting of the poems that moved him. He was especially drawn to the works of Robert Burns and James Russell Lowell. A skillful card player, Jim loved playing cards. For years he and Virginia spent Friday nights with several other couples playing Bridge, and Euchre was a favorite at family gatherings. Jim preferred watching Fox News, Westerns, football, and keeping up to date with the stock market, but his happiest moments came when gathering with those he loved. Whether celebrating a holiday or gathering for Sunday dinners, Jim loved hosting everyone in his home.

After retiring from GM in 1990, Jim welcomed having more time to explore the things he enjoyed and being with family. Fondly known as "Boppa" to his many grandchildren, Jim relished being a grandfather. Special phone calls, attending their school activities, and sharing their hopes and accomplishments were his greatest joy. He often reminded them of his favorite Scripture verse, 1 Corinthians 13:13 "Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love," which served as the cornerstone of his beautiful legacy.

A trusted companion and man of faith, Jim lived a long, wonderful life filled with many treasured memories. As we face the future in the absence of his steadfast love and encouragement, may find comfort in the honor of carrying his legacy of love and generosity forward. In each moment that we humbly choose faith over fear, offer our gifts in service to others, cheer on the Detroit Lions, play a game of cards, cheer on our loved ones' endeavors, or gather for a meal, we celebrate all the ways Jim made the world a better place. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired each of us.

James A. McElheny, Jr. age 95, passed away January 17, 2023, with his loving daughters at his side. Jim was born June 23, 1927, in Grand Rapids to the late James and Fern (Miller) McElheny, Sr. He was also preceded in death by his wife, Virginia McElheny; children, James McElheny, Lorna Rutcoskey, Timothy McElheny; son-in-law, Craig Rutcoskey; siblings, Phillip McElheny, Robert McElheny, Dorothy Martin, John and Pauline McElheny, William McElheny, Joseph McElheny, Daniel McElheny; in-laws, Sophia McElheny, Raymond and Patricia Fish, and Gladys and Harry Ellison; and grandson, Benjamin McElhaney. Jim is survived by his daughters, Catherine (Phillip) Venema and Jennifer (Jamison) Boyd; daughters-in-law, Vicki (John) Venema and Sue McElheny; grandchildren, James (Stephanie) Halstead, Joseph (Nicole) Halstead, Nathan Venema, Matthew (Liza) Venema, Thomas (Brittany) McElheny, Anne Marie McElheny, Daniel (Alyssa) McElheny, Hannah (Mark) Langejans, Elizabeth McElheny, Michael (Tania) Flikkema, Sara Rutcoskey, Rose (Michael) Hogan, Samantha Rutcoskey, Ava Boyd, Elijah Boyd, Adelyn Boyd; 22 great-grandchildren; and 2 great-great-grandsons. Also surviving are his brother, Raymond McElheny; in-laws, Arlene McElheny, and Don Martin; and many nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held Monday, January 23, 2023, at 11 AM at Magnify Church, 6727 Kuttshill Drive NE. Friends may visit with family Sunday from 3-5 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, Van Strien-Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE, and at church beginning at 10 AM on Monday. Interment will be in Resurrection Cemetery.

To read more of Jim's life story, to leave a memory or condolence, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com.