JOSEPH VINCENT BRITVEC, 86, Beloved Husband of Judith and Father of the 5 K’s. Joe passed away on March 11th after a car collision at the corner of West Michigan Avenue and North Bedford Road in January. He was the all-American son of two Croatian immigrants and a lifetime resident of Battle Creek. Professionally, he is probably best known for being the Rural Letter Carrier of the year for the State of Michigan in 1991. As a family man and Urbandale advocate, he’ll never be forgotten by various nicknames, some of which cannot be published here. “Papa Joe” was a Hall of Fame Father and Husband. He hit it out of the park for Kevin, Karen, Kel, Kamela and Kraig.
He was born on April 6th, 1933, in Battle Creek, MI. His childhood will best be remembered for the picture taken by the Battle Creek Enquirer as he delivered their papers in a rowboat during “The Big Flood” of 1947. Papa Joe was the product of Thomas Britvec of Dvoranci, Croatia in Pisarovina (just south of Zagreb) and Barbara Horvat of nearby Ivanic Grad. They both got on boats in the early 1900’s to escape the clenches of the Balkan wars to get here. “Jose” was also awarded the prestigious annual Britvec Five Ks Patriarch of the Year Award sixty-two times and was the rumored front runner for the 2020 June event. One of the last things he said to his family was that he was good for one more Detroit Tigers baseball season. He’ll miss Miggy’s “Comeback Kid of the Year Award” in October. He watched every game.
Joe and Judy graduated from Battle Creek Central in 1952 and married in 1956. After High School, he went off to Germany as a member of the U.S. Occupation Forces and she went to MSU. Their marriage survived Judy’s death from advanced dementia in 2011 and his Parkinson’s.
He is survived by the biased Board Members of the Five Ks: Kevin of Battle Creek, Karen Seely of Marysville, Kel of Lakeland, FL, Kam (Tim) Peterson of Sturgis and Kraig (Shelia) of Crystal. Joe also had seven grandchildren:
Zachary Plechaty earned a law degree from the University of Toledo and works in NYC.
Trevor Britvec attended William and Mary and fought in Afghanistan.
Madeline Britvec graduated from Smith College and is at John’s Hopkins in Baltimore.
Lydia Peterson graduated from Grand Valley State, is fluent in French and works in Sturgis.
Tony Britvec fought in Afghanistan and now studies at Columbia University.
Avery Peterson is an honors graduate of the University of Michigan and current Ph.D. student at Wayne State University.
Elaina Britvec is a junior at Ithaca High School, excelling in academics, athletics and theatre.
Of his ten siblings, two sisters survive: Rosella McCreary of Battle Creek and Elizabeth (Yole) Velo of East Leroy.
Joe was old-school. He worked hard and lived a full life of serving others. He treated everyone with respect and dignity. His handyman talents far exceeded those of Tim the Tool Man. He was an active athlete throughout his entire life, playing his favorite sports - basketball and baseball. He remained an active baseball player in the Battle Creek Old Timers league into his 60s. To support education in Michigan, he played the daily lottery and loved to share his good luck stories. He had a large network of friends from high school that remained connected throughout their lives. They traveled together, played cards and contributed to the local casino. They shared in each other’s family milestones by following their children’s sporting events, graduations, weddings and births of grandchildren. He especially enjoyed his time golfing with his dear friends Donald Tungate and the late Bob Bivens, to name just two.
He was offered a try-out by the famous Baltimore Orioles Scout Jim Russo to participate in the Marietta, GA Spring Training tryouts. This was a rare and privileged opportunity. Russo and the “Oriole Way” invited 650 prospects to camp and made them pay their own way to get there and provide for their own meals. Ever the gentleman, Joseph respectfully declined. When asked throughout his life, how he could possibly walk away from such an opportunity, he insisted that his competition, a guy by the name of Brooks Robinson, was a better player and would likely secure the spot at 3rd base. His wife Judy told the story a bit differently. She said she presented Joe with an ultimatum – pro-baseball or her, not both. Joe was a smart man.
Joe was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Calhoun County Jury Board. He held a seat on the Urbandale Neighborhood Planning Council, The Mayor’s Committee on Water and Sewer and the Build a Better Battle Creek Committee. If you lived in Urbandale, you probably met Joe on your doorstep with a petition in his hand, advocating for some form of community improvement.
Joe developed Parkinson’s later in life and took great pride in watching Kirk Gibson deal with the same problem. As a disciplined athlete, he knew that remaining active would be the best way to control this disease. His daily regimen included riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes, free weight reps, finishing with 100 push-ups off the stairs. He coined the phrase “I Work Out Today, So I Can Work Out Tomorrow” and was hoping to see it on a Nike T-shirt one day.
Visitation will be held Friday, March 20th, from 6:00-8:00pm and Saturday, March 21st, from 10:00am-11:00am at the Bachman Hebble Funeral Service at 223 N. Bedford Road, Battle Creek, MI. A Memorial Service will begin at 11:00am Saturday, March 21st, 2020, also at Bachman Hebble Funeral Service. We hope to see you there. Bring your funny stories. Memorial donations can be made to the Kirk Gibson Foundation for Parkinson’s (www.kirkgibsonfoundation.org).