Jerry Willis Oetman, 88

Jerry Willis Oetman of Otsego passed away peacefully at home of natural causes on May 26, 2020.

Jerry was born April 23, 1932, the oldest son of Viva and Clarence Oetman. Jerry was a lifelong resident of the Otsego area, where he worked as a draftsman and at local paper mills as well as at Rockwell Int. in Allegan.

He married Illene Ballay in 1952 and together they raised five children on the family farm in Watson Township: Debi (Chris) Kraft of Chesterfield; Mike (Donna) Oetman of Rockford; Major David (Erika) Oetman (deceased 2018); Kathy (Jon) Rockwood of Muskegon, and Joni (John) VanNieuwenhuyzen of Shelbyville.

Jerry is preceded in death by his parents, his brother LaVern Oetman and son David Lee Oetman.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, four of his children, and sisters Janet Lamb and Marlene Wearne of Plainwell. Grandpa Jerry was also adored by 15 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Jerry loved the outdoors and had a strong connection with nature and animals. His sheep and geese were a common sight on the hillside of Schnable Creek and he could identify every tree in the woods on his farm. He enjoyed attending grandchildren’s events, playing dominoes, and his “Breakfast Club” at McDonalds. His analytical mind led him to be quite skilled at Sudoku and jigsaw puzzles, often working over the winter months on puzzles up to 9,000 pieces!

Tinkering with old farm equipment was one of his talents, which he shared readily with farm neighbors. He was involved in Allegan County 4-H for over 40 years, specifically the Watson Corners Livestock Club.

Jerry will be remembered for his quiet, steady nature—a man of few words who always had a twinkle in his eye.

Jerry will be interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Hopkins. Due to national circumstances, a memorial celebration of Jerry’s life will be at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made in his name to Allegan County 4-H or Wings of Hope Hospice. Messages of condolence may be posted at


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