John Leigh Jarvi

July 25, 1932 ~ February 13, 2022 (age 89)


John L. Jarvi, 89, died Sunday, February 13, 2022, at his home.  He is survived by daughters Kay, Judi, Dianne and Terri; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and brother Jerry.  He was preceded in death by his parents August and Marie; sister Ruthie and brother Bill; and grandson Alec.

Picture a small house on a lake surrounded by trees and wildlife.  Most people visit this kind of place for their vacation and feel the stress and worries fade away as they are immersed in nature’s bounty.  This is where Lee grew up with his parents and siblings. He was a kind, honest and loving son, brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Lee was born in Crystal Falls, Michigan.  His formative years were spent fishing, hunting, playing sports and making his older sister Ruthie smile.  Ruthie was born with physical challenges and was non-verbal. It made Lee’s day to make her laugh.  He would rush home from school to spend time with her and sing her songs.  Lee farmed before joining the army in 1952.  He served as a Corporal (T) in Co D 350th Infantry Regiment and was based in Austria.  He earned the Army of Occupation Medal (Germany) and National Defense Service Medal.  In 1954, he was released from active service and transferred to the Army Reserves. After his service, Lee worked in forestry before marrying his soulmate, Suzanne Bataille.  They built their life together in Illinois and had four daughters.  Though Lee and Sue divorced after decades of marriage, they truly were best friends and continued that relationship until Sue passed in 2020.

By trade Lee was an engineer.  More specifically, an energy conservationist.  His business travel was mostly in North America, but he did have a couple trips to France and Africa.  He enjoyed this line of work and especially liked writing the detailed reports. Most notably, Lee was an artist.  It came in handy when helping his children with school projects or when doing a quick sketch on paper school lunch bags for his daughters.  He loved to paint and wood burn.  It is no surprise the beautiful elements of Lee’s hometown inspired his tranquil nature scapes. Majestic deer, poised and gazing along a stream or lake, were the main feature.  And trees.  There were always trees in his pictures.  No matter the medium, Lee’s artwork reflected who he was inside.

While Lee’s daughters grew up, they would often hear the sound of a bandsaw echoing from the garage as Lee cut wood for a home remodel project, a new grandfather clock, or a frame for completed artwork.  He had many talents.  If he wasn’t painting, he was walking the trails at Crabtree Nature Center with his camera in one hand and his binoculars in the other.  He loved the beauty that God created and appreciated nature in all its seasons.  He shared his love of the great outdoors with his children.

Being artistic was not Lee’s only talent.  He also enjoyed country music and could play the guitar and sing.  It was a regular occurrence to hear him strumming the chords on any given day and when Sue’s siblings pulled out their guitars to entertain at family gatherings, Lee was right up there on stage playing and singing along.

A sense of humor was needed to interact with his wife’s siblings and Lee definitely had that trait.  He was quick-witted as laughing and smiling came easy.  To the giggles of his girls, Lee provided the comical narrative of animals in the backyard before America’s Funniest Home Videos made it popular.  Lee always had a one-liner left to eke out for the final ba-da bum.

Vacations were spent visiting family in Crystal Falls, fishing and taking part in all the “doings” for the Fourth of July.  People knew when Lee had been to Michigan because the UP northern accent would come out and stay awhile even after returning to Illinois.

At times throughout his life, Lee would learn of family or friends that needed a place to live.  Lee was a compassionate man and welcomed those in need into the safety and comfort of his home.  He was kindhearted and generous.  A gentle Finn.  His daughters meant the world to him and Lee never held back on showering his girls with praise.  He was proud of them and dearly loved his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.

After Lee retired and moved from Illinois back to his childhood home, Lee became more involved in his church.  When parishioners were needed to deliver the weekly sermon, Lee, who was not a fan of public speaking, volunteered. He felt blessed to serve his God and his church.  Lee would mow the lawn weekly for his aunt and helped take care of her as she aged.  Moving back home also allowed Lee more time to spend with his younger brother Jerry who was conveniently next door.  Lee cherished this time.

As Lee began to have health issues, he moved closer to his daughters.  He spent three years living independently in Ohio near his daughter Dianne, in a lovely senior community, where Sue and her sister also resided.  The last two years Lee lived in the comforting home of his daughter, Judi, in Georgia.

Lee passed peacefully with family present at his side.  He dearly missed being away from his little house on the lake, so Lee’s daughters will bring their father home to Michigan.  His ashes will be laid to rest near his parents and sister Ruthie at the Hematite Cemetery in Amasa.  A memorial for Lee will be held on July 24 at 2:00pm at Sion Lutheran Church, 413 W. Pine Street, in Amasa.  All who knew and loved Lee are welcome to attend his memorial and share stories in celebration of Lee’s life.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John Leigh Jarvi, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
July 24, 2022

2:00 PM
Sion Lutheran Church
413 W. Pine Street
Amasa, MI 49920

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