Joel Jacob Epstein

Joel Jacob Epstein of Olivet, Michigan and Hallandale, Florida died on December 30, 2023 after a long illness.  He was 86.

Joel was born in the Bronx, New York on April 13, 1937, the son of Samuel Epstein (1905-1995) and Beatrice Epstein (1906-1990).  On August 26, 1962 Joel married Julia Ann Gertler, the daughter of David Gertler (1903-1982) and Ruth Gertler (1911-1997).  Joel and Julia had two children, Roy Michael Epstein of Olivet, Michigan and Victoria A Epstein of Portland, Oregon.

Joel received his BA from Queens College and his MA from the University of Michigan.  He earned his doctorate from Rutgers University specializing in European history. He then taught history at Newark College of Engineering until the family relocated to Olivet where he was a Professor of History at Olivet College from 1968 until his retirement in 1999. He loved his years of teaching especially his Holocaust and Vietnam classes. He was also a published author having written several articles on the teaching of the Holocaust and a book about the political career of Francis Bacon. One of the many highlights of his teaching career was an exhibit on Anne Frank that he worked for years to bring to Battle Creek, MI.

He was a caring and loyal husband and father to Julia, Roy, and Victoria. He loved his family and his students. Some of his many other enjoyments included The Traverse City Film Festival, traveling the world, cooking, gardening, classical music, theatre, golfing, solving crossword puzzles and swimming in the pool at his Florida residence. He was a longtime member of the Olivet Lions Club.

Joel is survived by his wife, Julia; his two children, Roy and Victoria, and his son-in-law, Matthew Wilcox.

Please join the family for a Celebration of Life to remember and honor Joel on Sunday, May 19 at 2:00 p.m. at The University of Olivet Cutler Student Center, Community Room, 200 East Cottage Street, Olivet, MI 49076.

Arrangements were entrusted to Kempf Family Funeral and Cremation Services, 723 US Hwy 27 N Marshall, Michigan 49068. Please visit to view the online obituary, to sign the online guest book or to leave the family condolences.