Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Charles H. Smoes would agree that he was one of the most hardworking, kindhearted, and generous people around. He was someone who gave whatever he did his all, and he freely gave of himself to those around him in ways both great and small. A more devoted family man would be hard to find, and it was easy to see that Charles’ family was his greatest source of pride and joy. Guided by an unwavering faith, his life exemplified what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord he loved. Deeply cherished, Charles will be forever missed.
Life was anything but easy in America throughout the 1930s as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Although jobs were scarce and the unemployment rate soared, cities, communities, and families came together to do whatever they could to weather the storm. It was amidst this trying time that Henry and Cora (Nellis) Smoes were able to shift their focus to an exciting time in their lives as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Charles on May 15, 1933. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he was the oldest of three as he was raised in the family home on Alpine, just South of Richmond Street, on the city’s West Side alongside his brothers, Fred and Dave.
In many ways Charles was typical of his generation. Their family went to Seventh Reformed Church, and Charles was a lifelong member. As a student he attended local schools and was also very athletic. Charles played football, basketball, and baseball, and he also continued to play throughout adulthood as he played in various recreation leagues and also golfed. He coached his sons in basketball when they were young and even as they grew older. After graduating from Union High School, Charles followed in his father’s footsteps and took a job with Consumer’s Energy. He started out as a meter reader and eventually became a lineman during his 44 years with the company.
Not to be forgotten during his younger years was Charles’ introduction to the woman who would forever hold the key to his heart. Her name was Betty Heetderks, and they met at church. Charles and Betty had several mutual friends, so they naturally spent time together. After a while, they began dating and soon fell deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Charles and Betty were married on May 25, 1956, at Seventh Reformed Church. After a honeymoon in Walloon, the newlyweds settled into an apartment on Quimby Street, NE. Later, they built a home at 900 Meynard, and this became the couple’s home for the 41 years that followed.
Together Charles and Betty welcomed two sons, Jack and Steve, into their hearts and home. As a father his boys knew to respect him, and throughout his life Charles didn’t shy away from sharing his opinion with his sons. Dinner was always a family affair that happened promptly at 5, and the table was often where Catechism lessons took place and memory verses were memorized. After dinner, Charles would often work in the yard as he kept it meticulously maintained and also enjoyed working in his flower beds. He was very orderly by nature and in everything he did he liked things organized. Charles took great pride in his cars and would wash them twice a week on both Wednesday and Saturday. This was something he did even in the winter. From an early age he learned to work hard for the things he wanted and also that things were to be taken care of.
Throughout his life the moments Charles loved most were the ones shared with his loved ones. They took many memorable family vacations around the country to visit Betty’s sister, whose husband was in the military. These visits took them to South Carolina, Hawaii, and Virginia, and they also took other travel adventures with different family members. For years they enjoyed summer weeks with Betty’s good friend, Sue, at their cottage at Interlochen. They also rented cottages on various lakes throughout Michigan. Together Charles and Betty also enjoyed socializing, and over the years they had several good friends who they gathered with. At times they traveled with some of these friends, but they also had plenty of fun just staying close to home. Betty enjoyed shopping, but in all honesty Charles did, too, as looking for hidden treasures among antique stores was something he loved to do. Antique golf clubs, toy trucks, and cast iron pans were among the things he was always on the lookout for. During their retirement years, Charles and Betty traveled even more including his favorite trip, which was a river trip from Vienna to Amsterdam. He always loved learning about the history of wherever they went. They also spent several months a year visiting with Betty’s sister in South Carolina.
Becoming a grandfather was something Charles treasured, and they were fortunate that all of their children lived so close. He and Betty were active in the lives of their grandchildren, and Charles particularly loved to attend their sporting events. It has been said that he wasn’t shy about cheering his grandchildren on, either. Charles even won the hearts of their friends too, becoming Grandpa to all of their friends as well. In later years, particularly with grandkids, he was quick to share a big hug. He loved sports so much that he attended school athletic games long after his own grandchildren were gone. Charles loved taking pictures and always had a camera with him to chronicle all the moments he loved. Later in life he got into scrapbooking with all those pictures and even made special books for each of his grandchildren when they graduated from high school as well as various books for other things that interested him around town. Charles also continued to get together with friends, some who went as far back as high school. Every Monday he was sure to reach out to church members who were unable to leave their homes.
When reflecting on the life of Charles Smoes, it is easy to see that he had a selfless and compassionate heart that knew no bounds. He was an amazing role model to all who were near, his life an inspiration in many ways. A stranger to none and a friend to all, Charles was the sort of person everyone seemed to know. He took his roles as a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather to heart, and he loved nothing more than being surrounded by his family and friends. Charles will never be forgotten.
Charles H. Smoes, age 87 of Grand Rapids, passed away December 17, 2020. He was preceded in death in 2018 by his beloved wife, Betty; and brother Fred. Charles is survived by his children Jack & Pat Smoes and Steve & Julie Smoes; grandchildren David (Karlee) Smoes, Paul (Ashley) Smoes, Tyler (Dani) Haynes, Austin (Brooke) Smoes and Dalton Smoes; great grandchildren Cora and Luca Smoes and Hannah Haynes; brother and sisters-in-law, Dave (Mary) Smoes and Donna Simpson as well as several close friends, especially Karen Haisma and her family. A private service was held with interment in Rosedale Memorial Park. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either Lamont Christian School or Wounded Warrior Project are appreciated. To read more about Charles, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com