Thursday, May 19, 2022
11:00 AM EDT
LaGrave Avenue Christian Refomed Church
107 LaGrave Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Friends may visit with Tom's family at church beginning at 10 AM.
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
Friends and family can attest that Thomas Penning was a man full of character. Through the highs and lows of life, he relied on the relationships he was blessed with. He loved people and fostered deep and personal relationships with those around him. He had an uncanny ability to light up a room and he was well known for being rooted in his faith. Tom had a heart for serving others, and he was always willing to go above and beyond to help those in need. He was never afraid to speak his mind. Deeply loved, Tom will be forever missed.
With the end of WWII in 1945, America was making the shift to being a nation at peace once again. Rationing had become a thing of the past, and the baby boom was underway. It was on November 6, 1949, that Kenneth and Mildred “Millie” Penning announced the birth of the baby boy they named Thomas Jay.
Growing up, Tom was a typical young man of his generation in many ways. He was raised in the family home on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids as the oldest of three children. Tom and his siblings, Mary and Dan, grew to form very close bonds. Throughout Tom’s childhood he formed a close relationship with his grandparents, impacting him in such positive ways. Tom loved playing baseball, and he and his grandfather would attend Tiger’s games at every opportunity. He also loved swimming and taking trips to the beach. For one week each summer, the Penning family would rent a cottage on Big Star Lake, the source of countless priceless memories. Tom liked to go sledding and ice skating with his cousins in the winter, and he would often enjoy going to the west YMCA. At an early age, he learned the importance of hard work by mowing lawns and shoveling driveways, forming the foundation of the strong work ethic that would serve him well for his entire life.
While pursuing his education, Tom attended Creston Christian School and Grand Rapids Christian, where he made several lifelong friends that he called his “band of brothers.” He and these close friends would get together every Friday evening through the years, never losing their bonds. Tom was known for his streak of mischief throughout his childhood and into his teenage years, but he never got into serious trouble and had a lot of fun. He went on to attend Calvin College. Tom absolutely loved learning about history and considered becoming a teacher. However, he decided not to pursue teaching and ended up regretting that decision. Instead, Tom enlisted in the Army Reserves after college.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Tom as he met the woman who would quickly become the love of his life. Her name was Virginia, though she often went by Ginger. The two went on a single date, but when neither had a good time they went their separate ways. However, Tom and Ginger reconnected some time later at Bill Knapp’s on 28th Street, and Tom asked her out again. This time, the couple shared a very special connection, and their relationship continued to blossom into something truly wonderful. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Tom and Ginger were married at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church on September 22, 1973. They enjoyed a honeymoon in Washington, D.C. before settling into their first home on Evelyn NE, ready to step into their future together.
All who knew Tom can surely agree that he treasured his family above all else. He and Ginger were overjoyed to welcome four beloved children into their hearts and home including Scott, Brent, Carla, and Todd. After the birth of Brent, the Penning family moved to Herrick Street and later went on to spend many years in a home on Oakwood Avenue, NE. Tom thrived in his role as a father and did his very best to raise his children into kind and hardworking individuals. He loved to watch them participate in sports and would often play with them in the yard as he was very involved in their various activities. Later in life, Tom was thrilled to become a grandfather. His grandchildren were his greatest source of pride and joy, and he desired for them to get to know the Lord. In all his years Tom never missed an event or special occasion. He was very supportive of his grandchildren and always made sure they knew just how much they were each uniquely loved.
Tom was never one to shy away from hard work when it came to providing for himself and his family. Throughout high school and college, he worked at the West YMCA, teaching lessons and eventually becoming the aquatic director. Tom often recalled how much he enjoyed teaching children how to swim and said these were the best years of his life. He also helped his father care for the building and grounds of the Riverside Christian Reformed Church. Tom worked at the American Red Cross for a time, but this job was not a good fit for him. He eventually discovered that he was a good salesman and began working for Stanley Bostich, where he would sell fastening equipment for 25 years. Tom did a lot of traveling through the company, but he was able to be home with his family most nights. After suffering a severe heart attack at the age of 45, he decided that he was ready for a career change. Tom began working for a local company, VanManen Petroleum Products, where he sold industrial lubricant. He was able to interact with many of his old customers. Due to his declining health, Tom retired from the workforce at the age of 62.
Never one to sit still for long, Tom pursued many hobbies to stay busy in his free time. He enjoyed golf for several years, and he also loved to read history and legal fiction. Since faith was such an important part of his life, Tom was a member of various churches including Broadway CRC, Riverside CRC, Sunshine, Westend CRC and most recently, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church. He was always very generous with his time and served faithfully whenever he could. Tom led family devotions at the dinner table each evening, and he enjoyed teaching Catechism classes for ten years. When facing difficulties or illnesses, he did so with a great hunger for Scripture. Even though he wasn’t known for being handy, Tom worked on several small projects around the house, such as painting and papering. The Penning family loved to take day trips to the cottages of both Tom’s and Ginger’s parents. Tom could always be found in the center of a lively conversation, and he loved to be around people and talk to anyone and everyone.
When reflecting on the life of Thomas Penning, it is clear to see his unwavering strength and unconditional love for his family. He valued his loved ones above all else, and nothing brought him greater joy than spending time with his friends and family members. Tom poured his heart and soul into everything he did, and he was always willing to help those around him. He was a brave veteran who was proud to serve his country. Though he will be deeply missed, Tom leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will be proud to carry on in his footsteps.
Thomas J. Penning, age72 is now at home with his Lord and Savior. Tom is survived by his wife Virginia “Ginger”; their children (and grandchildren) Scott & Elizabeth (Kalala, Jay’Tytus), Brent & Meredith (Mariska, Maverick), Carla & Stevan Chase (Emma, Hannah and Jacob), Todd & Laurie (Jonah, Madilynn, and Luke); his sister Mary (Steve) Oosterheert; brother, Dan; sisters-in-law Joyce Root and Kimberly Root; as well as several nieces and nephews.
The service to remember and celebrate Tom’s life will be held on Thursday, May 19 at 11 AM at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church. Friends are invited to visit with his family at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel on Wednesday, May 18 from 6-8 PM and at church on Thursday beginning at 10 AM. Interment in Rosedale Memorial Park. For those who wish, Tom's family suggests memorial donations to Faith Hospice. To read more about Tom’s life, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com