Thursday, August 22, 2019
2:00 PM EDT
Gethsemane Lutheran Church
3152 Clyde Park
Wyoming, MI 49509
Friends may visit with Sal's family at church from 1-1:45 PM
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Gethsemane Lutheran Church
3152 Clyde Park
Wyoming, MI 49509
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Generous, wise, and hardworking, Salvador "Sal" Marez lived a faith-centered life rich in family and friends. A man who never knew a stranger, Sal's heart was a safe place for all. With a warm smile and a pleasant sense of humor, Salvador greeted each day as a gift. An unwavering patriot, Salvador was quick to give of his time and talents in service to his community and country. Devoted husband, brother, father, grandfather, and friend, Salvador inspired all who were blessed to share time with him.
The 1920s were marked by tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts. The economy boomed, wages rose for most Americans and prices fell, resulting in a higher standard of living for most. With the inventions of the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, self-winding watch, , and drive-in restaurants, the post-war era marked significant advancement and morale flourished throughout the land. This vibrant time grew even more brilliant in Corunna, Michigan as Longino and Conception (Castaneda) Marez welcomed their son Salvador into their hearts and home on December 9, 1925.
Sal spent most of his early years in the Austin, Texas area. There he and his four siblings grew up in a home firmly rooted in faith and the value of hard work. The second oldest of the Marez's five children, Sal began working the fields at a young age to help support his large family. Any money earned was put in a jar on the table and used to meet the family's needs. Sal's mother was stern, much the result of raising five children, but she would lovingly make meals and bring them out to the field where the kids worked.
When he was in his teens, the family moved to Ohio. At age 17, Sal enlisted in the Navy during World War II. He proudly served aboard a navy LCT boat; the “Landing Craft, Tank” was an amphibious assault craft for landing tanks on beachheads. A strong and avid swimmer, Sal was a Navy frogman, swimming and diving, often looking for mines and removing natural or man-made obstacles on beaches prior to amphibious landings.
Once his service was complete, Sal safely returned to his family. Over the next few years, he systematically improved his job position through different companies. He was always fair to his employers by giving them proper notice before moving to a new company. During this time, he also played baseball and was quite good at it. Eventually, Sal and some of his friends found work in foundries in Grand Rapids, where his sister lived. Upon moving to West Michigan, he began working at Wolverine Brass Works, where he would continue to work for 30 years.
Many days, on his way to work, he would stop for breakfast at the White Star Lunch and ask the cook, Phyllis VanderWal to pack a lunch for him as well. Eventually, he began walking her home, across the Michigan Street Bridge. In time, he and Phyllis fell in love and started making plans to spend their lives together. After a four year courtship, the couple married on August 23, 1963.
A few years later Sal and Phyllis moved into their longtime home on Hanchett NW. Sal was proud to be a homeowner: learning to be handy with plumbing and electrical, adding a front and back porch, and meticulously caring for his lawn. He even traded vacation for the pay so that he could pay off his mortgage quicker.
Sal and Phyllis were blessed to welcome their daughter Theresa into their family, and she became the center of their world. Sal was a loving and involved father. Truth be known, Theresa was a daddy's girl. Sal enthusiastically embraced any chance to share time with his daughter. He taught her to swim, delighting in sharing his passion with her. The Richmond Park Pool where they swam required all children to be accompanied by a parent. So, Sal quickly became a neighborhood dad regularly taking Theresa and all of her friends to swim. Sal coached Theresa's softball team, and many hours were spent at the local bowling alley together.
Never one to be idle, Sal was always on the move. He continued to bowl for many years and was an avid golfer most of his life. He golfed with the league from work and had the thrill of hitting three holes in one over the years playing at his favorite course. A devoted Chevy man, he took meticulous care of his cars—doing much of the maintenance himself and giving each one humorous nicknames like “El Cheapo,” “Silver Bullet,” and “Black Beauty.”
Infinitely generous, Sal was quick to give of his time and talents. He helped start the Latino Golf Classic, a tournament in Grand Rapids which he helped run for nearly 20 years. The tournament raised funds that were then donated to the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and other charities. At work, he was an active union member who served as a steward for many years. His faith was the cornerstone of his life and often the source of his service. He and Phyllis found their common faith in the Lutheran Church and were longtime members at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. He was an active member there, serving many years in various capacities. He would record services to deliver them to shut-ins, was always early to church, and served on the Church Council. He also talked openly about his faith, lovingly telling people, “God loves you, and so do I." If approached for money by those in need, he often treated them to a meal, and used the opportunity to share this faith. Sal was also very proud of his military service and often expressed his gratitude for others who served as well. He loved to talk to veterans and volunteered for many years at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
In early retirement, Sal was a radio DJ for a local jazz station, WBYW, where he was known by his radio name, Sal “Music Man” Marez. He collected a large variety of vinyl music which he copied to cassette and later CDs. Ever on the move, he walked 4 miles every day; a habit he continued into his late 80’s, and enjoyed going to garage sales with Phyllis. At home, he enjoyed sitting on the porch, reading the paper, drinking coffee, or enjoying his nightly snack of butter pecan ice cream--always letting his dog lick the bowl when he was done.
Upon becoming a grandpa, Sal's robust personality took on a whole new shine. Since he had just retired, he had ample time to spend with his jokingly named “little monsters.” Through the years he would affectionately refer to Phyllis and himself as "Lovable Grandma" and "Grumpy Grandpa” (but he wasn’t grumpy). His grandkids fondly remember sharing their childhoods with him and treasure the fact that he nurtured individual relationships with each of them. He taught them all to swim, and he could easily swim laps around them even in his 70’s! They remember bicycling with him and how he smoothly rode on one side of the bike on a single pedal as he entered the garage to put the bike away. He was a constant source for hard candy or a five-dollar bill, often hiding them in his palm or sneaking them with a sly look that said, “Don’t tell Grandma!” He took them on many trips including color tours up north, to Shipshewana, visiting relatives, and even to volunteer time at Credit Union One where he grilled for their picnic annually. He enjoyed what he called “galavanting” with his grandchildren, often singing loudly with his favorite Mariachi or Big Band music and tapping the steering wheel. In his late 70’s, Sal was finally able to travel to Mexico on a mission trip with his oldest grandson. The group rode in vans from Michigan to Ensenada, Mexico, where Sal easily outworked the teenagers – he always seemed much younger than his actual age.
About 5 years ago, Sal began showing signs of Alzheimer's, so he and Phyllis transitioned to Addington Place where he could receive the care he required. Over the last few years his sister-in-law, Margie Dykstra, visited every day to sing "My Jesus, I Love Thee" with him. Despite the progress of the disease, Sal always knew the words and his heart delighted in singing it with Margie.
Without a doubt, Sal was a gift to all who knew him, and it is hard to imagine life in the absence of his steadfast presence. May it afford comfort to know that with each lap we swim, stranger we greet with a smile, talent we freely give, veteran we acknowledge, and moment we sing our faith, we celebrate the best of Sal’s life legacy in our own lives. And in so doing, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he has so inspired us.
Salvador “Sal” Marez, age 93 of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully on August 17, 2019, and is now with his Lord and Savior. He was preceded in death by his sisters Josephine Gutierrez and Connie Trevino; and sister-in-law Barbara Gentz. Sal is survived by his wife of nearly 56 years, Phyllis; daughter, Theresa (Bill) Pope; grandchildren Spencer (fiancée Crystal) Pope, Justin Pope, Jacob (Kendra) Pope, Deandra Pope and Devon Pope; great-granddaughter Arya; sister, Mary Torres; brother Genaro Marez; brother-in-law David (Lori) VanderWal; and his sister-in-law Margie Dykstra who committed daily to singing and praying with Sal; as well as several nieces and nephews. His funeral service will be held on Thursday, August 22, 2019, at 2 PM at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 3152 Clyde Park SW with Pastor Lee Welker officiating. Friends are invited to visit with Sal’s family on Wednesday from 6-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW and at the church on Thursday from 1 PM until the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either Gethsemane Lutheran Church or Spectrum Health Hospice are appreciated. To read more about Sal’s life, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com.