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James Robert VanAtta joined his heavenly family on May 20th at 6:34 pm. He was surrounded by his family and loved ones when he left this earth at Butterworth Hospital, the same hospital he was born in.
Jim grew up with his parents Avis and Robert VanAtta and three sisters, Diane, Betty and Nancy, whom he loved dearly and really enjoyed playing pranks on.
The fun didn't stop at home and he enjoyed playing baseball and his many friendships. James graduated from Central High School and Western Michigan University (Bachelor of Educational Arts) and became a woodworking teacher for adult education in Wyoming, Michigan. He loved this job and was very popular because everyone who came to class was eager to learn something handy and knew they were in for some fun. Later, Jim worked while earning a Master's degree from Michigan State University. He was very proud to be a Spartan. He was rewarded by teaching junior high.
Although he enjoyed the huge adult workshop more, he made a huge positive impact on the kids’ lives who came through his class through empathy, patience and a sense of humor. He also formed a strong bond with his fellow teachers.
One of the special, selfless things he did with his class was to make wonderful handcrafted gifts for Toys for Tots. They made rocking chairs, doll cradles, rocking horses and a kid’s table that were donated over the years he was a teacher in the adult ed program.
It was in his nature to help others and ask for nothing in return. He also went to Bolivia on a mission trip to help build. He found he didn't need to go to other countries to help and did so much for many friends and family, asking nothing in return.
Jim loved his family, friends, fishing, golfing, gardening, traveling and margaritas. He was extremely polite and kind. He loved caramel apples, carving pumpkins and telling funny stories.
James, also known as Jimmy, Jimbo, Jim, Baba, daddio, and mug, was a wonderful brother, son, uncle grandfather and DAD and will be forever missed by a list longer than Santa's good list.
Among some of those who love him fiercly and are saying goodbye for now are his mother, Avis VanAtta, four children, daughter, Lesley (Theo) Stephens and sons, Brett, Collin and Shawn VanAtta.
Grandchilden: Jada, Kingston (and his mother Lasheika), Catalia and Lincoln; who often called him Baba and will miss him dearly. Diane (John) Zbikowski, Betty (Gary) Wells, Nancy (Mike) Ozinga. Too many nieces, nephews and many dear friends of the family in Houston, Naples and Michigan.
He was preceeded in passing by his father and grandfather, Robert and Ed VanAtta, respectively.
The family would like to thank everyone who sent prayers, well-wishes, and visited Jim before his passing.
Visitation will be from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM on Friday, May 26th, 2023, at Ofield Funeral Home, located at 4500 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Kentwood, Michigan 49508.
An additional visitation service on Saturday will take place at 2:00 PM, while the funeral service for Jim will be celebrated at 3:00 pm on Saturday, May 27th, also at Ofield. Pastor Chuck will be presiding. If you are unable to make it to the service, you will be able to watch it live on YouTube by searching for Ofield Funeral Home.
Flowers may be sent to Ofield Funeral home. Our dad loved helping others. We welcome you to join the family in making a donation on behalf of James VanAtta, in lieu of flowers, to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You may click the link near the bottom under 'donations' to donate directly or you can copy this link: https://gofund.me/5683152a.