John Carl Folz was born on September 29, 1925, to the late Joseph and Helen (Schott) Folz. A third generation Kalamazoo native, whose grandfather was an early mayor of Kalamazoo, John attended the campus school at WMU from elementary through high school (State High).
Upon graduation, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps where he trained to serve as a bombardier navigator and graduated as a Flight Officer. He was destined for the Pacific Theater before the atomic bomb ended World War II. After his discharge, John returned to attend and graduate from college at WMU.
The Air Force must have triggered his love of flying, for John got his private pilot’s license after his discharge. Irv Woodhams, who ran the Austin Lake Airport from which John flew, had received his pilot’s license from Orville Wright. Flying out of that small airport and making water landings were among John’s favorite memories. He also enjoyed sailing, skiing (both downhill and cross country) and swimming. For several years he swam the mile across Goguac Lake in Battle Creek’s annual Goguac Lake Swim.
John worked in the paper industry, first at Sutherland in Kalamazoo and later at Michigan Carton in Battle Creek, where he was Customer Service Manager.
At a meeting of the Kalamazoo Ski Club, he met a newcomer from Oklahoma, Beverly Baker. They were married in 1963. John and Bev lived in Portage and were the parents of Carla Sue and Alan Baker. As a devoted dad, John kept the family active with skiing, canoeing, tennis, bicycle riding, and countless hours of playing catch.
After retirement, he and Beverly enjoyed travel, visiting 17 countries and 48 states (somehow missing Mississippi and North Dakota) and for many years enjoyed annual winter vacations at Mexican beach resorts.
An active volunteer with The American Red Cross for many years, John also ran the Care-a-Van (rides for the disabled) program as it transitioned to the County and became Metro Transit. He was a docent at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo for more than 30 years. He also volunteered with transportation during the Boys Junior National Tennis Tournament for many summers. John was a charter member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Portage. As a long-term volunteer there, one of his tasks was depositing the weekly collection. In doing so, he became so well known among the bank employees that they phoned to let him know when doughnuts were set out for customers. John was quick to help anyone, whether friend or stranger, when he saw a need.
John loved a big dog, a strong “authoritative” cup of coffee, and a good martini. His Folzini formula repeatedly won cocktail competitions at a Detroit-area bar.
John stayed fit and active in order to live his life with gusto. He climbed tall Lake Michigan sand dunes on his ninetieth birthday. Well into his nineties, John played a strong game of ping pong and walked regularly with his trekking poles, both for recreation and to run errands.
In recent years, John and Bev enjoyed their community at The Fountains at Bronson Place, and John was treated with care and compassion in their memory care unit. John died on February 4 after three years of good-natured, calm acceptance of multiple physical and mental indignities that can afflict those who reach the age of 97.
John was preceded in death by his brother, Sam Folz. He is survived by his wife Beverly; daughter Carla Brigham and her husband Hans of Boston; son Alan Folz and his wife Maureen Waller of Denver; grandchildren Samuel Brigham of Denver, Lucas Brigham of Worcester, MA, and Maisie Brigham of Gambier, OH; nephew Joseph Folz of Bonita Springs, FL, and niece Jennifer Perry of Appleton, WI.
A Celebration of Life for John C. Folz will be held at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2023, at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church, 10441 Shaver Road in Portage. For your safety, masks are welcome but not required. In lieu of flowers, to honor John, carry dog biscuits in your pocket, scratch a puppy behind its ears, and show similar kindness to strangers. In lieu of flowers, to honor John, carry dog biscuits in your pocket, scratch a puppy behind its ears, and show similar kindness to strangers.