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Geneva Camp and Conference Center
3995 Lakeshore Drive N
Holland, MI 49424
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Gordon Wolters would agree that he was a strong and steady presence in the lives of his friends and loved ones. He worked hard and liked things done right, but he was also someone who would do whatever he could to help someone else. Gord’s devotion to his family and friends was unmatched, and he was happiest when surrounded by their love. Life will never be the same without Gordon here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The 1930s brought us unprecedented days in the United States. Times were a struggle as the unemployment rate soared, and things only became more dire with a drought that crippled our nation’s heartland for nearly two years during this time. Despite the challenges around them, Ernest and Margaret (Vandyke) Wolters were filled with great joy as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Gordon James on August 26, 1931, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the third of four children as he was joined in his family by his older siblings, Ernest “Bud” and June, and his younger brother, Loren. Sadly, Gordon also had a younger sister, Donna Mae, who died as an infant.
Usually known as Gordon or Gord, he was a typical young boy of his generation. His father worked for the Kent Country Road Commission, where their family home was a top floor apartment above the huge maintenance garage. Gord experienced childhood that he fondly recalled in later years. He enjoyed things like hunting and fishing with his brothers and their dad, going to work with his dad, and getting into a little mischief at times as well. Gordon and his younger brother both got into Golden Gloves Boxing, and it’s been said that Gord was quite good. He attended Harrison Park Elementary and then went to Union High School, where he was a member of the state championship Union football team. Gord excelled in his studies and also worked at many jobs, including a local meat market.
It was while in high school that Gordon met the young woman who would change the course of his life forever. Her name was Elaine Benham, and she was a cheerleader at Creston High School. They began dating, and after falling deeply in love they were married. As a young husband Gord enlisted in the Air Force, and his wife moved with him to the base in Austin, Texas. There, their family grew to include their first two children, Sharon and Pamela. Gordon enjoyed his time in the service, and this left a deep sense of patriotism within him that would remain for the rest of his life. He became a staff sergeant in the military and was in aircraft maintenance, specifically working on Sikorsky helicopters. Gord faithfully flew the flag at his home throughout his life, and he wore his Air Force Veteran cap with pride, and loved engaging in conversation with anyone who commented on it.
With his military duties fulfilled, Gord and his family returned to the area where they settled into a home on Houseman Street, NE. In 1958 they moved into their longtime family home they built on Woodpath Drive, NW. Their family grew to include three additional children, Steven, Jodi, and David. As a father, Gord could be rather stern, but his family always knew they were deeply loved. He was organized and meticulous, and everything had its place. As someone who was handy he could fix just about anything. Much of their social time as a family was spent with his siblings and their families, making priceless family memories. They also did some traveling including camping in a tent and later in a trailer all throughout parks in Michigan. One memorable Christmas trip was to Florida pulling a trailer. Dogs were usually a part of the family as well, including Mitzi, Taffy, Dillon and Ruffles.
Over the years Gord worked hard to support his family. After earning his college degree once he was out of the military, he spent a few years working was an accountant at Wolverine Brass. Gord then got into accounting and sales with various trucking companies, which is how he spent the rest of his career. Gord was a natural salesman, and he really enjoyed this work as he was a real people person with an outgoing and friendly personality. He even continued to work part-time even into his mid-eighties as ALS kept an office for him. Once ALS sold, Gord really had a hard time finding something to do because he had enjoyed his work so much. When his family was all at home, dinner was a special time as soon as he returned home from work. Gord especially liked pea soup and scrapple, an old fashioned Dutch meal. Known for his strong work ethic, he also taught at Davenport for a few years, and when the kids were young he did income taxes as a side job to help make ends meet.
Gordon was always one to keep busy. When their kids were younger both he and Elaine were involved in the PTA, and they were also a very social couple. They each had their core group of friends. They enjoyed socializing with friends at the Elks for many years where also enjoyed golf. For a few years they had a boat, and he enjoyed fishing on Lake Michigan. Gord always loved his cars, particularly the convertibles. When the kids were older he started assembling grandfather clocks and a couple of roll-top desks. For years Gord was active in the community, serving on the board for Geneva Camp and Resort, and also for GRATA (Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority). He enjoyed going to the fundraisers and being involved in a variety of ways. Through the years, he was always involved with a church including Standale Reformed, Remembrance Reformed, Richmond Reformed, Fairview and for the last many years, Central Reformed Church.
Sadly, Elaine was diagnosed with cancer and Gord took on more responsibilities at home as she remained there for a couple of years. She passed away in 1992, and Gordon kept busy including continuing to work. He found companionship again with someone he had met while at Wolverine Brass, Ann Steenwyk, and after dating for a time they were married at her family cottage on Long Lake near Traverse City. This was forever a special spot for the two of them, and Gordon enjoyed his time there throughout the years. He and Ann also enjoyed traveling, particularly taking cruises as they took 15 cruises in the Caribbean over the years. They also took additional trips including what was likely Gord’s favorite trip, an Alaskan cruise. He also kept up with his social life including many early mornings spent at Mr. Burger, where he met his friends and solved all the world’s problems by expressing their political beliefs. As his family and friends can attest, Gord was firm in his opinions! One of the things Gord really loved was being a grandfather, and he looked forward to hearing from his grandchildren. He deeply loved them and was known to brag about how many grandchildren and geat-grandchildren he had. Ann passed away in 2012, leaving Gord to adjust to being on his own again. He kept his calendar filled with a routine of restaurant visits including Mondays at Applebees, Tuesdays were burrito days, Sunday was Logan’s and often Wendy’s for lunch. He loved his morning coffee, and he put his smartphone to good use as he texted his kids every morning. Gordon also decided that he was ready for another dog, and Spence soon became part of his life.
All who knew Gordon Wolters would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was passionate about the people he loved, and with faith to guide his steps he lived a life that was an inspiration to all who were near. Deeply loved, Gord will be forever missed.
Gordon J. Wolters, age 88 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on April 9, 2020. Gordon was preceded in death by his first wife, Elaine; his second wife, Ann; sisters Donna Mae Wolters and June Koorndyk; and brothers, Ernest “Bud” Wolters and Loren Wolters. Gordon is survived by his children Sharon & Dale Hoekwater, Pamela Oleniczak, Steven & Elizabeth Wolters, Jodi & Dale Moelker, David & Sandra Wolters; many grandchildren and great grandchildren; several nieces and nephews; and his best friend Spence. A private service for his family will be held and a public service will be held at a later date. Friends are encouraged to visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read more about Gordon’s life, and where you can share a memory or photo with his family or sign his guestbook. You may also call the funeral home to dictate a memory. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Geneva Camp and Conference Center are appreciated.