Monday, August 29, 2022
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
A further time to visit will be held following the service.
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Thomas Carlen was a kind, welcoming man who was always ready to help. Tom greeted people with a ready handshake and a warm smile. With a positive attitude, Tom faced life's challenges with confident grace and found the bright side quicker than most. Children naturally gravitated to Tom as it was in his nature to be warmhearted and gentle, and he truly cherished his grand nieces and nephews. A treasured son, brother, cousin, and uncle, Tom will long be remembered by those he loved.
1944 marked a time when the war effort in Europe directly impacted all American lives. While countless young people actively served in the trenches of WWII, those who remained stateside poured their energies into supporting the war effort in any way they could. As the nation looked toward peace, Robert and Jean (Sonneveldt) Carlen celebrated their own hopes for the future as they welcomed their son Thomas Robert into their hearts and home on May 11, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The second of the three Carlen children, Tom grew up in the good company of his two sisters, Patricia and Linda, in a neighborhood full of adventure near Eastern and Franklin. Tom attended Alexander Elementary School and spent a lot of time outdoors with the boys in the neighborhood sharing boyhood adventures pursuing athletics and busy riding their bicycles everywhere they could pedal. He was often late for dinner, and from his earliest years, Tom had a voracious appetite, growing to a height of 6' 7!
Tragically, Tom was struck by a truck while riding his bicycle when he was ten years old. The accident forever altered his life and the life of his family. His injuries resulted in a dire prognosis, but with his mother's unwavering love, encouragement and willingness to fight for him, Tom went on to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. He was able to return to school and even graduated alongside his younger sister, Linda in 1964 from Union High School.
The family moved to Westend Ave., on the NW side of Grand Rapids and as a young man, Tom came to love baseball and consumed time watching it. His first job included working as a dishwasher at the family bakery until he eventually moved on to work with Kent Quality Products. There he was able to master his task and, as a devoted employee, Tom proudly worked that same task for over 30 dedicated years.
Tom remained at home with his parents, and despite the long-term effects of his injuries, he learned to drive and had a significant degree of independence. He did some traveling and attended sporting events on his own. He even went to a dude ranch once. Though he never really cooked, he loved to eat. He lived for holiday meals with Swedish Meatballs and rice pudding, but his mother's pot roast was his absolute favorite. His family attended Immanuel Reformed Church and later a small offshoot fellowship from the church. He was well known in the fellowship for always being available to help, especially with his can-do and pleasant demeanor. Along with his mother, Tom was the go-to helper, always up for helping someone and setting up for services. Slender and tall, he was also a strong man.
Tom's love of sports was evident as he was an avid fan of the Michigan State Spartan football team. Go Spartans! He attempted various sports, eventually finding his place in bowling. He enjoyed the success he had bowling immensely, participating on teams and in several leagues through the years. He was particularly proud of having scored a perfect game!
When visiting with Tom, he often told stories of his early childhood or his working years and experiences. Some of these old memories held his love of old cars and going to car shows, often with family members. The annual Whitehall Cruise-In was a favorite tradition that he often reminisced about. Like his father, Tom had a wonderful baritone voice and enjoyed singing the traditional hymns he learned in childhood.
Following the death of his father early in life, Tom lived with his mother who always ensured his excellent care. In recent years, his mind clouded further from the effects of Alzheimer's disease. Earlier this year, Tom and his mother moved to Boulder Creek Assisted Living and Memory Care where they not only received the care they both needed, but could see each other daily.
A life well lived and loved, Thomas Carlen will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by those who came to know and love him.
Thomas Robert Carlen, age 78, of Grand Rapids, passed away April 23, 2022. Tom is survived by his mother, Jean Carlen; sister, Linda Carlen Van Geest; niece and nephews, Jonathan (Sarah) Van Geest; Katherine "Kitty" (Mark Thompson) Hale, Charles Junke, and Ryan Berends; as well as his dear grand nieces, nephews, and cousins. Tom was preceded in death by his father, Robert Carlen; sister, Patricia Carlen Rupley; and niece, Ellen Berends.
The service to remember and celebrate Tom's life will be held on Monday, August 29, 2022, 3:00 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel. Friends are invited to visit with Tom's family at the funeral home beginning at 2:00 PM. A time of gathering and refreshments will follow the service. For those who wish, memorial donations to the Alzheimer's Association are appreciated. To read more about Tom, to share a memory, or sign his guestbook, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com