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Obituaries » James R. Forrest

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August 27, 1942 - November 22, 2020

The service for The Burial of the Dead will be held at a later date when it is safe for us to all be together again, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 247 W. Lovell St, Kalamazoo MI.  The Rev. Dr. Randall Warren will officiate and preach the Gospel so he won’t have to lie about Jim.  Interment will be at Ft Custer National Cemetery without ceremony. Memorial Contributions may be directed to Hospital Hospitality House of Southwest Michigan.    Jim wrote this, so if you don’t like any of it, just blame him.  He’ll be proud.

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Died November  22, 2020 in Kalamazoo, MI and he wasn’t too happy about it.  Jim was born August 27, 1942 in Aurora, Illinois, to Robert Watson Forrest and Barbara Lorraine Swanson and named for his two grandfathers. On her death bed, Barbara admitted that Jimmy was a perfect child.  Jimmy and his mother spent the war years (WW II) living with her parents, Lorraine and Roy Swanson, in Elmhurst, Illinois, while his father served in the Army Air Corps.  He always said if one were to design the best possible grandparents, they would be just like them. He spent most of his youth in East Grand Rapids, along with many wonderful summers at Port Sheldon.

Jim was proud to have graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1960 with at least one classmate who became a billionaire; Jim was not one.  He spent four years at Western Michigan University vacillating between accounting and psychology.  He became one of the first students at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, earning an associate’s degree with honors, and then took courses at Grand Valley State College.  He never did get around to getting a bachelor’s degree.

He is survived by his daughter and longest unbroken love, Margaret Rose “Meg” (Eriks Kleinbergs) Forrest, and all her animals, his son, Matthew (Angela) Halloran, and 4 grandchildren.  He is also survived by Meg’s mother, the former Marguerite Erna Pfluger, whom he married in 1965 and divorced in 1984, his sister, Candy (Jack) Drolema of Grand Rapids and brother Bobby Forrest of Mountain Beach, along with a bunch of nieces and nephews.

Jim’s first full time job was working as a broadcaster and journalist for the Army, which was interesting, challenging and broadening.  He never found a regulation he couldn’t finesse; he was surprised to discover they’d given him a Good Conduct Medal.  So much for standards.

He then stumbled around learning he was too honest to sell real estate and discovered those then new computers through Marge, who was a programmer for IBM in Armonk, NY when they met.  He worked as a programmer/analyst for Brown Company, Kalamazoo Container, Durametallic, Allen Testproducts, and retired from Checker Motors just as they folded in bankruptcy.  He was very proud of a complex production and inventory control system that he designed from scratch for Durametallic. Amazingly, the damned thing worked.  He seemed to fall into the payroll application in each place, becoming somewhat expert in that area.  He managed to program some very creative sales commission schemes that were continually changing at the whim of marketing folks.

Jim has been a member of St Luke’s Episcopal Church since 1975.  He has ushered, was active in Episcopal Cursillo, served on the vestry and as parish representative to the St Joseph Deanery and Diocese of Western Michigan, and long served as Eucharistic minister.  He completed four years of theological education by extension, Education for Ministry, from The University of the South at Sewanee. Episcopal clergy and one rabbi provided Jim with some of his dearest friends, particularly his longtime spiritual companion, Rev. Charles Homeyer.  He disputed sermons with them, shared crude jokes and generally had a wonderful time.  Strangely, this all drew him closer to God, who does have a sense of humor.  A point of particular pride was being targeted in one sermon in an unflattering light, after he had declared to the preacher that rock music was the devil’s work.

Music was always an important part of Jim’s life, beginning with dreaded piano lessons, then six years at East High in Warren Faulkner’s band playing trumpet and French horn.  He was press-ganged into St Luke’s choir where he sang basso profundo for about 30 years, with15 years worshiping and singing in a choir for the High Holy Days at Temple B’nai Israel. He painted the entire pipe chamber for the Dobson organ from wobbly scaffolding.

He had a love-hate relationship with “home improvement” and renovated four houses he lived in.  It was here that his pronounced gift of procrastination shined forth. He was especially proud that in his last house, he gutted and rebuilt the kitchen but was only without water for a single day.  In the course of this work, he acquired a lot of really neat tools.

After his father died, he became addicted to genealogy, tracing his family back several hundred years. In 2008, he traveled to Scotland for two weeks to connect with his roots and visit family.  He spent a lot of time crawling through graveyards looking for relatives.  The most profound result was learning about the life of those who preceded him, particularly the grinding poverty that many of his ancestors experienced.  His happiest outcome was discovering living relatives in the U.S., Canada and Scotland and getting to know them.