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Obituaries » John B. Roller

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November 23, 1922 - April 19, 2021

Interment will be at Fort Custer National Cemetery, Augusta, Michigan with immediate family only, due to Covid restrictions. Donations may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or a charity of your choice, c/o the funeral home.

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John passed away peacefully at his home Monday, April 19, 2021 surrounded by his loving family. John was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Walter Roller and Helen Biewer Roller, November 23, 1922 and was baptized at St. Augustine church. He lived most of his childhood in Kalamazoo and graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1941. After high school, John served as first-aid provider in the Civilian Conservation Corp. When he was drafted into the Navy during World War II, John joined the medical corps because of his experience in the CCC. He served honorably in the war as a pharmacist mate attached to the Marines. He spent time in the service on the Pacific islands of New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima as well as mainland China. John served in the war for three years, from 1943 to 1946. Upon returning from the war, John married Ruth Carter on November 2, 1946 and they began their family shortly thereafter.  John, or “Papa” as he was affectionately known by his family members, loved his family – his three kids, six grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren – more than anything in the world. They were everything to him. His house was always full of family, especially kids, and his biggest hobby in retirement was spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Along with his loving wife, known as “Mimi” to her loved ones, John provided daily childcare for four of their great-grandchildren, along with their great-niece, until well into his 80s and he loved it. He would hold daily lessons for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well, in math and reading, teaching his great-grandkids how to read before they even entered Kindergarten! John was always doing something to make his family happy. He spent hours fishing, playing ball, and teaching them everything he knew about doing household repairs. He logged countless hours at sporting events or school functions over the years for the children in his life and he loved to share his knowledge and stories as well. At each visit with his grandchildren, he would find a new article on history, science, geography or some other topic to share and discuss with them. He told them stories about his time in the war and growing up during the Great Depression. John once built an ice rink in the back yard for his kids and during one particularly snowy winter, he even created a giant sledding hill for his grandchildren that reached up beyond the roof of his porch. He was always delighting his grandchildren with his sense of humor and funny turns of phrase, like “Just for the halibut” and “Abyssinia” (I’ll be seeing you). When his grandchildren would spend the night, he would wake them up in the morning playing Luciano Pavarotti opera songs or old gospel albums as loud as the record player would go. None of the grandkids or great-grandkids could leave Papa’s house without a handshake (firm, always looking Papa in the eye) or hug and kiss, and “I love you.” John retired from the International Paper Company in 1985 after 30 years of employment, the last 15 years in the art department. After retirement, John found more time to do the things he loved most besides being with his family. He loved the outdoors and was an avid fisherman. One of his favorite pursuits was ice fishing with his friend, Ben Cretsinger and he also enjoyed chopping down trees and clearing land with his brother-in-law, Jim Dover, who lived in Scotts. John loved working around the house with his hands as well. He once built his own kayak from scratch and knew almost everything there was to know about home repair. At age 89, he was still climbing the ladder to do maintenance on the roof of his house. He mowed his own lawn until the age of 96. When he ran out of projects to do around his own house, he volunteered to help his widowed sisters-in-law with projects around their houses – all six of them! John always said the key to his longevity was to never stop moving. His other motto was “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” That being said, John loved his Zebra Cakes, rhubarb pie, Whoppers, windmill cookies, and Earl Grey tea. He was the least materialistic person in the world and always ensured that everyone was taken care of without ever asking for anything for himself or anything in return. John was a gentle soul who had a quiet dignity about him. He was unfailingly polite and never had a bad word to say about anyone. He passed away peacefully at his home at the age of 98, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren. Words cannot express how much he will be missed. John is survived by his wife, Ruth, son, John C. (Sandra) Roller, daughters, Sharon (Phillip) Green, Patricia (Thomas) Short, grandchildren, John (Tonya) Roller, Jodi (Denny) Roehm, Teri (Scott) Jablonski, Kelly (Sean) Toomer, Michelle (Matthew) Simmons, Matthew Short, great-grandchildren, Elizabeth and Trenton Short, Austin and Carter Simmons, Cecelia and Gabriella Roehm, Matthew, Lauren and Lindsay Jablonski, Ella, John and Ava Toomer, sister-in-law, Grace Thomas and many much loved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers, William and George, and a sister, Elaine Davis.