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‘Classroom Grandpa’ Volunteer At Elementary School Dies

Every month, WXMI chooses a Pay It Forward Person of the Month to honor members of the West Michigan community who are doing great work. Jim Dietz, who was last May’s Person of the Month, has died due to complications from cancer at the age of 90.

Jim had spent the last 20 years of his retirement volunteering at a local elementary school. He and his wife, 89-year-old Lillian Dietz, “worked” at Orchard View Elementary three days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“My grandson started me. He started over here and he said, ‘Grandpa, why don’t you come over to the school?’ So I came and stayed,” Jim told WXMI in May. “I enjoy it. There’s not a day that I’ve been over here that I wish I was someplace else.”

Jim had formerly worked at a piston ring factory for 40 years. The children at the school called Lillian and Jim “Grandma and Grandpa Dietz.”

“It’s just been amazing because I don’t know any 90-year-olds that would come and work with kids,” teacher Kathy VanMunster shared. “And we’ve been able to give them so many projects to do, that they just do flawlessly, and they’re faithful.”

Indeed, Jim told WXMI that he would continue to volunteer for as long as he could get up and move around.

“Because I’m not going to sit home and do nothing,” he said. “I’m going to be here with these wonderful people.”

He continued working at Orchard View until a week before he died.

Footage provided by WXMI Grand Rapids

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