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Life Story / Obituary
Charismatic, hardworking, and fun-loving, Santino “Tino” Luis Ysasi lived a wholehearted life. A man who felt deeply, Tino was a fierce protector who naturally helped people feel safe and welcome. He went out of his way to help others and was well-known for his courage. He loved his family more than life and, regardless of circumstances, did his best to meet each day with gratitude, determination, and humor. A treasured husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Tino will long be remembered and so very missed.
The 1970s proved to be one of the nation’s most tumultuous times, rocking with both thrilling highs and unnerving lows. News of the day included the end of the Vietnam War, the celebration of the free market, the establishment of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the growing oil crisis, and the infamous Watergate Scandal. America’s swift cultural changes moved fashion from wide-bell bottoms to wide lapels and wide ties; while young people’s hair grew longer, skirts grew shorter. In the midst of these tense times, Ricardo and Pamela (Morales) Ysasi welcomed their son, Tino, to their family on December 4, 1975.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Tino was the oldest of the eight siblings. Also the oldest grandchild, he was a naturally funny child who enjoyed close family ties. Born with a cleft palate, speaking proved difficult. However, the love of music he acquired from Grandpa Willie had him singing “Mr. Sandman” all the time. Holidays were celebrated with extended family, and Tino shared close relationships with his cousins.
Tino attended Ken-O-Sha Elementary and Sibley Elementary schools. After attending Westwood Middle School, he completed his freshman year at Catholic Central. Following his tenth-grade year at Union High, Tino left school to work at Grandpa Morales’ restaurant. The Little Mexico Café was famous on the West Side, and Tino quickly learned how to do everything, including taking out the trash, doing dishes, busing tables, serving tables, and cooking. He also worked at Adobe, Beltline Bar, and Casa Martina. He had a very mechanical mind and liked to work on cars, too.
Recognizing a good match, a mutual friend told Celena Norman about Tino. The pair ran into one another while Tino was walking home from work at Little Mexico. Though they didn’t talk, both of them felt a mutual attraction. Later, when Tino learned that Celena was at a friend’s house, he invited himself over, and the sparks took flame. The couple shared their first date at Little Mexico in the back room Tino’s grandfather opened just for them. They enjoyed tons of food, laughs, and an unmistakable sense of having found true love.
The happy couple were married in 2005 at the Rockford Court House. Together they welcomed their first child, Santos, in 1996. Anthony followed in 1998, Simone in 2003, Amarie in 2004, and Cecil in 2010. A proud and dedicated father, Tino worked hard to provide for his family. Though hard-headed, he also had a great sense of humor and was a bit of a jokester. He wanted his children to learn from new experiences and taught them how to use their hands to build and renovate, as well as defend themselves. He was very strong and enjoyed bringing them along everywhere he went. Nurturing strong family connections remained a constant value, and his kids learned to expect his prankster-inspiring hilarity anytime he ordered at a drive-thru.
For a time, Tino started and ran a new business, removing personal items after an eviction. The work kept him very busy, but in time, he grew tired of it. He found work at Fence Consultants. A natural leader, he eventually ran a crew for the company.
Tino enjoyed the simple things in life, especially time spent with his loved ones, music, and a refreshing Mountain Dew. A Cadillac Man, he owned several different ones over the years. His favorite was his white Seville. He always had music on, using his radio, phone, CDs, and TV to play the songs he so enjoyed. He like being around water and swimming in lakes and pools while donning his socks. Camping trips and gathering around bonfires were always a good time.
For those who knew him best, there was never a doubt in Tino’s love for his family. He was a proud husband and father, and when his grandkids were born, his love grew beyond measure. The babies and kids knew from the start that he was theirs and loved him unconditionally. His family knew that despite not feeling comfortable talking about it, Tino had his own walk with God. He never hesitated to give himself in service of others and was a hero to many. On more than one occasion, when he noticed a fire, he rushed to get the occupants to safety and put out the fire. In one of these fires, he saved his little sister.
In many ways, Tino felt things more deeply than most people. His kindheartedness led to genuine compassion for others, but it also led to struggles, and in the last few years, he lost his purpose and his way. Though his love for his family never wavered, the darkness grew more consuming, and he couldn’t find his way back to them.
Without a doubt, our days with Tino were far too few. In Tino’s heart, we always knew we were enough, safe, and loved beyond measure. Even as he faced his own struggles, he tried his best to be a safe space for others to simply be. Tino gifted us in countless ways, and his warm smile, sincere kindness, and unhesitating generosity are the beautiful legacy his loved ones will proudly carry forward.
Santino “Tino” Luis Ysasi age 46, of Grand Rapids, passed away unexpectedly on October 19, 2022. He was preceded in death by his step-father, Mark Miller; and grandparents, Martin Morales, Billie Stoots, and Guillermo H. Ysasi. Tino is survived by his wife, Celena Ysasi; children, Santos (Sarah Day) Ysasi, Anthony Ysasi, Simone Ysasi, Amarie Ysasi, and Cecil Ysasi; grandchildren, Siyon and Alaya; mother, Pamela Miller; father, Ricardo (Cyndi) Ysasi; in-laws, Darlene (John) Dyer; and grandmother, Maria Ysasi. Also surviving are his siblings, Patricia Ysasi, Richard Ysasi, Anthony Ysasi, Alysia Ysasi, Jessica (Noah) Ogren, Michael Miller, and Christina Miller; sisters-in-law, Jeannette (Charles) Sanchez and Sonya (Brandon) Morley; and many nieces and nephews. The Memorial Service will be held at 3:30 PM on Saturday, October 29, 2022, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. Family will receive visitors from 1:30 until the start of the service. Contributions in his memory may be made to Matthew’s House Ministry. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Tino’s life story, submit a favorite memory or photo, or sign the guestbook.