James “Jim” Paul Cleaver, 54, of Onaway, passed away peacefully at home Sunday, May 7, 2023. He was born June 14, 1968 in Phillipsburg, New Jersey to the late Harry Edward Cleaver Sr. and Joan Rebecca Colucci. The baby of six children, all boys, Jim spent part of his childhood in New Jersey until the family moved to Yuma, Arizona.
An exceptional athlete, sports were a big part of Jim’s life. Anxiously waiting to be old enough to play ball with his older siblings, in 1984, when he turned 16, Jim was finally able to play on the same men’s softball team with his brothers. In high school Jim played football and was a star athlete of the Yuma High Criminals.
It was while living in Yuma, Jim met the love of his life, Jodie Wood. Jim and Jodie had a love story others only dream about. They married on December 31, 1988, had 37 happy years together, and were blessed with four children; James Paul Jr., Danielle, Molly and Christian. They enjoyed every bit of their life together. Through life’s ups and downs and an occasional curveball there wasn’t anything Jim and Jodie couldn’t get through together. Whether they were working, raising their family, going on trips, or relaxing they set an example for their kids and showed them the definition of love and hard work.
Jim was a hardworking man. Injured in 1992, he didn’t allow his injury to hold him back from doing what he loved…coaching. After moving to Onaway, Jim became a well-loved coach to the youth of the community and was known throughout northern Michigan. He was proud to be a coach, but was even prouder of the kids that played for him. He was privileged to coach both of his daughters and his son. Through his career he coached basketball, football, baseball, and softball with many memorable games, outstanding plays, and upsets that resulted in a miraculous win or a heartbreaking loss. The highlight of his coaching career was in 2010 when he helped coach the Onaway Cardinals’ softball team to the state finals. (“36 and 1, bitches!” – James Cleaver)
Loyal, Jim’s friends were like family. He was a devoted husband and soulmate to Jodie. He was a supportive father who loved his children beyond measure. A loving grandfather, Jim was so proud of his grandchildren. He showed anyone, and everyone, their photos and bragged about each of them every chance he had. He was an awesome “Pop” to his “Snookie Bear,” Gia, age 9; Hunter, age 13; Jimmie, age 11 months; and Enzo, age 10 months.
Jim will be missed every day by his wife, Jodie of Onaway; children, Danielle (Tyler) Zempel of Greenville, Molly Cleaver-Young (Eric) of Onaway and Christian (Brea) Cleaver of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania; his grandchildren; and brothers, Harry “Hunce” (Gail) Cleaver Jr. of Pennsylvania, John (Rosa) Cleaver of Gainesville, Florida and Kelly (Linda) Cleaver of Levering. He also leaves his mother-in-law, Terri Wood of Onaway; sisters-in-law, Jennifer Wood of Onaway and Heather (Scott) Caballero of Yuma, Arizona; as well as numerous nieces, nephews and friends.
James was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Mike and Steve; and his little boy, James Paul Cleaver Jr. “Jimmy,” whom Jim has waited a long time to be with again.
Jim’s family celebrated his life Wednesday May 10, at the Onaway High School Gymnasium. Arrangements were in care of Chagnon Funeral Home.
Those planning an expression of sympathy, please consider a donation in memory of Jim Cleaver to his family, to help with final expenses. You can submit donations via Venmo to @cleaverd.