Saturday, September 18, 2021
10:00 AM EDT
St Mary Catholic Church
423 First Street NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Life Story / Obituary
A hardworking man with great resolve, Donald Grunwell made the most of each and every day he was given. He loved creating or fixing things, and nothing brought him more joy than using his gifts and talents to bless others. A loving husband and father, Don was so proud to witness his family tree blossom to include the grandchildren and great-grandchildren he treasured. Although he will be deeply missed, he will never be forgotten.
While the 1930s were blanketed by the Great Depression, the American spirit could still be seen as cities, communities, and families came together to weather the storm however they could. It was as this decade was nearing the end that Earl “Tony” and Lillian (Zimmer) Grunwell announced the birth of the baby boy they named Donald Edwin on December 12, 1939, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the second of five children as he was joined in his family by his older brother, Ronald, and his younger siblings, Robert, Katherine, and James, with almost 20 years between the oldest and youngest.
Raised in the family home near Grandville Avenue, Don was a fairly typical young boy of his generation. His father owned a gas station while his mother was a homemaker. Don was an attentive brother who was often the one to look after his sister. When he was earning his first aid badge as a Boy Scout, he practiced dressing wounds on his sister until she looked like a mummy! Don attended Holy Name Elementary and graduated from Lee High in 1957. Gifted in mechanics, paint, and body work from a young age, he was always interested in working on cars and driving them, too. Don worked on race cars at Berlin Raceway, and he even drove a bit. The driving came to an end when he rolled a car while his parents were in the stands.
Throughout his life Don was known for his strong work ethic. After high school he worked at his father’s gas station, and he later took job at Southwest Body Shop. His home on Deboer had a lift and pit in the garage so he could work on cars right there. A few years later, Don took a job as a truck driver with Roadway, where he remained for 25 years. He ended his career driving a truck for Hover. He was primarily a city driver who made deliveries downtown. Don regularly had a full semi trailer, which wasn’t easy to maneuver in tight spots but his boss had full confidence in him.
Don was blessed to find love more than once in his life. He married his high school sweetheart, Donna Fox, when they were in their 20s. Together they were blessed with three children, Cathryn, Michael and Karen. In time, they realized they weren’t for each other and divorced with the kids living with Donna. Later, Don met and married Genevieve Carpenter, but it put a strain on their marriage when Don’s kids came to live with them after Donna died of cancer. They did their best, even expanding their home on Coady Lake to make room for the kids, but their marriage eventually dissolved.
When Don met Mari, he found a companion who enjoyed many of the same things he did. She made a profound impact in the lives of his daughters as they were teenagers at the time. After Don bought a boat he named “Proud Mari” and got his captain’s license, he began running fishing charters out of Ludington. Mari also got her license, and they spent countless hours together on the water. His nephew, Brad, was first mate while his daughter, Karen, was the pole tender. In many ways, Don and his kids made up for lost time. Later, he and Mari parted ways.
Don met Joanne a bit later as she was an artist who was giving Cathryn art classes. They hit it off right away when he brought her salmon as he always had plenty. She loved cabin life, and Don enjoyed helping her prep for her art and set up for various craft shows. They married, and she was a great fit for Don and encouraged him back to his faith. Joanne was battling multiple sclerosis from the time they met, and eventually he became her caregiver. During this time Don got to know her good friend, Norma, and since she never made the list when Joanne named people he was prohibited from dating they enjoyed spending time together to process the loss of Joanne after her death. In time, they developed feelings for one another and later eloped to Reno and were married on August 15, 2007, on Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe. Don and Norma enjoyed trips to both Florida and the U.P. and made their home on Collindale, NW. They also had a place in Florida, but in time they realized they only needed one home so they moved to Florida year round. At first Don and his wife lived at Oak Gardens, but they later bought a home in 2018. He was so proud to host family and friends in their home when they came for a visit. Things became more difficult for Don when he began having some health problems.
As his family and friends can attest, Don was never still and enjoyed so many things. In addition to fishing, he enjoyed woodworking and creating something out of nothing. Don once took an old garden tractor and turned it into a jeep. Another time he turned an old boat lift into a car lift so he could work on cars. Don also enjoyed fixing things like bikes. While in Florida this kept him quite busy. He would eat pretty much anything but especially loved his biscuits and gravy, anything fried but really loved fried fish, and cookies. Windmill cookies were one of his absolute favorites. Don was a music lover who was known to turn on his music at 7 am to wake people up. He liked classical music, military songs, and the music of Floyd Cramer. When it came to movies, Don liked old westerns or action films, and he liked watching the History Channel and anything about WWII. Once a year he liked going up to the Mackinac Bridge to get smoked fish. As his health declined over the past couple of years, Don was forced to slow down some. Heart problems were an ongoing challenge, and a gall stone that became problematic as a result of chest compressions also required several IV antibiotics. Thankfully, Norma was able to administer these to Don at home.
With unending love for his family, Donald Grunwell lived life on his terms. He could be silly and has even been called flirtatious with a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near. Don loved the outdoors and being on the water, and he was always trying to recreate his mom’s old German recipes. He will be forever remembered by all who knew and loved him.
Donald Edwin Grunwell 81 of Sebring FL, born December 12, 1939, went home to the arms of his Lord and Savior September 9, 2021 at Advent Hospital Sebring FL. He was preceded in death by his parents, Earl (Tony) and Lillian (Zimmer) Grunwell: His brothers Ronald R Grunwell Sr., Robert Grunwell, and James (Cloudy) Grunwell. He is survived by his wife, Norma J. Crum-Grunwell; and his children: Cathryn L Grunwell, Michael (Sheila) Grunwell, and Karen (Calvin) Tuinstra. Fifteen grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren; His sister Katherine Grunwell and sister-in-law Eileen Grunwell.
Don worked for Tony’s Friendly Service, Southwest Body Shop, Hover Trucking and Roadway Express, and captained his own Charter boat, retiring from trucking to a variety of activities. He enjoyed being the grunt man and Mr. Fix-it. He loved the water, the out of doors, and trying to reproduce his mom’s old German recipes. He will be greatly missed by all his friends and family, both in Florida and Michigan.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 423 First Street NW at 10 AM on Saturday, September 18, 2021. Interment will follow at Rosedale Memorial Park. Friends are invited to visit with Don’s family at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW on Friday from 6-8 PM and at the church on Saturday beginning at 9 AM. To read more about Don’s life, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com