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Obituaries » Janet M. Gates

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March 1, 1934 - January 9, 2022

The family is planning a graveside service in the spring when Janet will be laid to rest at Mt. Ever Rest Memorial Park. Date and time to be announced later. Contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice. We are all so grateful that her faith in the Lord Jesus made her unafraid, made her calm, made her cry with happiness and joy that she was close to going home to meet Him.

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Janet Mae Gates went home to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Sunday, January 9, 2022.

Janet’s favorite names were Mom, Momma, Ma, and Grandma. Being a wife, mother and grandmother were her greatest accomplishments. Family was the most important thing to her besides her Savior, the Lord Jesus. It was His teachings that guided her on her journey from girl to woman, from wife to mother, and to her great joy, being a grandmother and great grandmother.

Janet Mae Shiley’s life in Kalamazoo, Michigan began on March 1, 1934. She was the only daughter of Charles and Edna Edith (Stewart) Shiley joining her three brothers, Richard, James, and Allen. Although her brothers were all much older, she always remembered them and their high jinks. She often would remark on how they all played a part in protecting her the ways older brothers do. She spoke fondly of growing up on the west side of Kalamazoo, often asking anyone who would to take her on a drive through the “old neighborhood” to see the changes that had taken place over the years, pointing out the old house, and the paths she would travel to meet friends and walk to school.

Janet graduated from State High School in Kalamazoo, MI in 1952. Her favorite subject was choir. She loved to sing and was in many high school musical productions. She was awarded a music scholarship to WMU but turned down the offer. In her senior year she was fortunate enough to join friends and go west to camp and ride horses. She even got chased by a bear in Wyoming on that trip!! She also broke and trained-horses throughout high school.

In March 1952, Mom met a just-returned Korean War Army veteran, Kenneth S. Gates, Sr. Ken was cruising Burdick Street in his old Cadillac and saw Janet in front of the state theater with a couple girlfriends. Their courtship only lasted six months and they were wed October 11, 1952. They enjoyed spending time with friends, getting together to play cards, listening to music, and she loved watching Ken playing guitar at the hotspots of Kalamazoo at that time. Some of her favorite memories were spending time at the cottage on Lake Michigan which her father built for her mother and her. Prior to her marriage, Janet spent her teenage summers there with her friends. She was overjoyed to share the cottage with her new husband and with her children over the years. Many of the fondest memories the kids have is spending time there with the family, as well as one-on-one time with their grandfather at the cottage in South Haven.

Janet and Ken welcomed their first son, Kenneth S. Gates, Jr. in June, 1953. Janet loved being a mother. Eager to complete her family, she welcomed her first daughter, Cheri in August, 1955, surprise twins Thomas and Timothy in March 1957, and their youngest daughter Julie in December, 1958.

Janet recalled that life as a young mother to five children close in age was no easy task. The economic pressures of the 1950s required Dad to work full time, many times holding down two jobs. Mom was often on her own, but having such a strong faith, she made sure the kids were all raised with religion, discipline, morals, and work ethic. She rediscovered her love of music from her high school days and often sang to the children, most times upon request. She would draw them pictures, many of which she still has. Her creative intuition was something every family member relied on and loved. The kids also have great memories of her playing games in the house such as Blind Man’s Bluff, where she would get the blindfold out and play the game as sort of a hide and seek.

Mom loved to travel. Oftentimes it was stuffing five kids in the station wagon to go on short mini adventures such as going to the Kalamazoo airport to watch the planes land. The family would travel to close destinations to camp, spend time in South Haven with her father, or just go for long rides to see the state. Sometimes the rides would be two hours to Indiana to their favorite burger joint. The kids remember the long trip driving straight home from Niagra Falls and signing about everything and anything in the car. Dad didn’t make them stop – he probably needed the distraction to stay alert! “Bear went over the mountain, bear went over the road, bear ate the cars…” was a very recent memory shared which had mom laughing! Mom’s love of travel didn’t stop once the kids were grown. She greatly enjoyed traveling to Ohio and Pennsylvania to research her family history which included meeting a newfound aunt, and touring Oil City, Pennsylvania to learn about the roots of her relative John Blood. On their 50th wedding anniversary, Janet and Ken traveled the national scenic byway stretching from lower Michigan along the Mississippi, north through Wisconsin, back east through Michigan, then south along Lake Superior with son Ken and daughter in law Rebecca. This trip was one of her favorites, staying in a bed and breakfast for the first time ever in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Janet and Ken had many later-life adventures traveling, especially with their son and daughters and their spouses including camping, sightseeing, day trips and week-long vacations.

Janet had a fondness for animals, especially her kitties. She spent time working for a vet, adopting cats, (probably more than Dad wanted), and working as a volunteer at The Dream Center in Kalamazoo accepting clothing donations, bringing them home to wash and fold so she could make sure people of need were treated with dignity. She was a collector of many things: teacups, buttons, coins, and proudly displayed her treasures throughout the house. She loved pretty, sparkly things, snow globes, trinkets, and crystals. She got into scrap booking and a few years later created an indoor fairy garden She loved turning her backyard into an oasis; she had a waterfall pond created and planted many, many flowers and greenery around it, adding small animal statues as she could. It was a peaceful and serene spot which all of us got the chance to enjoy.

Janet was as active as possible in the church. Early on she was a very devout Baptist, eventually moving to the Mennonite church, and then returning to the Baptist faith. She may have lost the ability to attend in person later in her life, but she never lost faith. She continued to read the Bible until her eyes failed recently, at which point her daughter Julie would spend hours reading it to her.

A kind and simple woman, Janet was always lighthearted, ready to give, serve, and help others. Not to say she didn’t have a strong voice and hand when necessary, especially raising five kids, she was most often gentle, warm and nurturing. She enjoyed talks over lunch during the week when family could visit, working on puzzles together, and sorting out the doll room. She really got into scrapbooking with Julie, and created wonderful memories which are pieces of art.

Her favorite holiday was Christmas. She rejoiced in the birth of her Lord Savior. She absolutely loved decorating the house and the tree in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus with the family. The family Christmas dinners grew as the kids did, welcoming spouses and grandkids every year until recently. The house was busting with family at the last huge Christmas when ALL her kids were home in 2014 and the grandkids weren’t as small as they once were. She was always trying to get the kids to open gifts slowly and one at a time, which as you can imagine didn’t work, much to her dislike. Yet she smiled and was happy to have been able to give EVERYONE a generous holiday. The celebrations continued after that although on a smaller scale.

Janet is survived by the love of her life of nearly 70 years, Kenneth S. Gates, Sr., and her children, Kenneth Jr. (Rebecca), Cheri (Steve) Shepard, Timothy, Thomas, and Julie (Jim McFadden) Gates; 14 grandchildren; 33 great-grandchildren; her sister-in-law Helen Shiley; brother-in-law Chuck (Gail) Gates, several nieces, nephews, and cousins.