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Life Story / Obituary
Loving and kind, Clyde LaBrenz will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by his family and friends.
On August 31, 1923, Walter [Walt] G. and Martina (Sporte) LaBrenz welcomed home their firstborn son, Clyde Walter, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Clyde was later joined by his younger siblings, Jim and Robert. Walt was a machinist at the Wolverine Brass Company and Martina was a waitress at the Pantlind Hotel as well as a homemaker. The three boys grew up in a happy home on Second Street NW with a large extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins nearby. The house was often the center of family gatherings, and humor was always present.
Clyde attended Sibley Elementary School and took a strong interest in the Boy Scouts. As a young adolescent, he thrived in his involvement at St. John's Evangelical and Reformed Church on Mount Vernon Street. A good student, Clyde graduated with the Class of 1942 from Union High School. For a short time after high school, Clyde worked at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit making wartime supplies.
At the age of nineteen, Clyde was drafted into the United States Army and honorably served his country during World War II. When sent overseas in September 1944, Clyde’s unit landed at Omaha Beach in France, where they were sent to join the Ninth Infantry Division in the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest, on the Belgium-Germany border. Clyde continued his service throughout the war and helped to rebuild bridges in Germany after the official end of World War II. In later years, Clyde and Anna joined the Michigan Chapter of the Ninth Infantry Division and attended many gatherings and events, making close friendships with many of the other veterans. One of the many gifts that Clyde gave to his children and grandchildren was his openness and generosity in sharing his experiences in World War II as a young man.
After the war Clyde returned home and started the process of reentering civilian life. While he and his brother were visiting Ramona Park, an amusement park on Reed’s Lake in East Grand Rapids, he met Anna Hailfinger. They recognized one another from having seen each other at their church, and after striking up a conversation, they dated for about a year. On September 18, 1948, they joined in marriage at St. John's Evangelical and Reformed Church. After a short honeymoon, Clyde and Anna settled back in Grand Rapids to start their life together.
With housing scarce after the end of the war, Clyde and Anna were fortunate to find housing on the second floor of Clyde’s parents’ home. In November of 1950, they welcomed their firstborn son, Thomas. Anna’s father built them their own home on Bowne Street NE in Grand Rapids, where they would welcome their two other children, Karen and Marcia. This became their family home for more than sixty-four years and Clyde worked hard to maintain it to perfection over the years. Throughout the decades, the home became the meeting place for family get-togethers of all kinds. Christmases were very special, as the home on Bowne Street became the gathering place for every Christmas dinner, generation after generation. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, children, grandchildren, cousins, family friends---anyone who didn’t have a place to go---all were welcome.
A steadfast provider, Clyde worked for Interstate Motor Freight Trucking Company. Well-liked and respected at his work, he remained there until his retirement in 1985. A perfectionist when it came to bookkeeping, he once met with a bank manager when his statement was off by 10 cents. After many attempts to reconcile the account, the bank simply gave him the dime, even though Clyde’s objective was to discover the bookkeeping error!
Clyde had many different interests. He enjoyed watching sports, especially football and baseball. He was an avid reader of any book on World War II, especially those pertaining to the Hürtgen Forest. He was a master at the grill, cooking delicious, mouth-watering steaks for his family and friends. Clyde volunteered with the United Church Outreach Ministry, working at a pantry in the basement of a local church to support the needs of low-income families in the community by distributing clothing to people in need.
But his biggest joy came from the time spent with his family, especially his grandchildren and their families. Clyde was a devoted Grandpa who enjoyed being part of both the big milestones and the everyday moments. Among the many special memories shared by Clyde’s children and grandchildren are the annual family gatherings spent with each other and with close friends Martha and Ruth Herrman at their cottage on Lake Michigan. Clyde was an active Grandpa, loving, supportive, fun, and generous, and he could be counted on for a smile and a joke and a calm presence. He adored his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and enjoyed their visits over the years. As his family grew, so did his pride as there simply wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his family.
Clyde W. LaBrenz, aged 96 of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully on Saturday, December 21, 2019, while in the company of family. Clyde was a kind, loving, and dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, and friend, known for his sense of humor and easygoing personality, and he will be greatly missed. Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Jim and Robert LaBrenz. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Anna [Hailfinger]; their three children: Tom (Shari) LaBrenz, Karen (Gary) Frost, and Marcia LaBrenz; six grandchildren: Jennifer [Paul] Anderson, Stephen Sepaniak, Catherine LaBrenz [Pablo Ravest], Christopher [Jenny] Frost, Thomas [Taylor] Frost, and Nicholas Frost; three great-grandchildren: Madeline and Ryan Anderson, and Magdalena Ravest LaBrenz; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.
Funeral Services officiated by Rev. Wes Jamison will be held at St. John's United Church of Christ, 1934 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49504, on January 4, 2020, at 11 a.m. Visitation with family will take place one hour prior to the service beginning at 10 a.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to St. John's United Church of Christ or to United Church Outreach, 1311 Chicago Dr. SW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49509. To read more about Clyde's life, or to leave your own memory of him and to sign his guest book, visit his web page at www.heritagelifestory.com.