Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Fred "Fritz" Burghgraef

September 12, 1933 - April 1, 2021
Grand Rapids, MI



Friday, April 16, 2021
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Westview Christian Reformed Church
2929 Leonard St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Saturday, April 17, 2021
2:00 PM EDT
Westview Christian Reformed Church
2929 Leonard St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


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.

Cary Christian Center
154 Cottonwood St
Cary, MS 39054
Web Site

Bible League International
3801 Eagle Nest Dr, Crete, IL 60417
Crete, IL 60417
Web Site

Charity of Donors Choice

Life Story / Obituary


When reflecting on the life of Fredric “Fritz” Burghraef, it is easy to see his unwavering strength and unconditional love for his family. His faith was the cornerstone on which his life was built, and he strove to be a shining example of hard work and kindness. There was no greater gift on this side of heaven than the moments spent with his family and friends. Dearly loved, Fritz will be deeply missed.

Life in America was anything but easy during the 1930s as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Although the stresses were many, the American spirit was alive and well as cities, communities, and families came together to weather the storm as best they could. Despite the trials around them, Douwe and Cora (Mulder) Burghraef couldn’t contain their joy as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Fredric on September 12, 1933, in Racine, Wisconsin.

In many ways, Fritz grew up as a typical young man of his generation. He was raised in the family home alongside his brother, Robert, who was seven years younger. Fritz’s father worked at Hartman Luggage and later as an inspector for the City of Racine while Fritz’s mother dedicated herself to homemaking and raising her children. The seeds of Fritz’s faith were planted at a young age as the family attended Racine Christian Reformed Church. Throughout his childhood, he enjoyed being active and playing sports, especially baseball. Fritz attended Racine Christian School and later graduated from Lutheran High School, ready to move on to bigger and better things.

After graduating high school, Fritz started an apprenticeship as a pattern maker. However, midway through, he enlisted in the Army instead. Fritz completed basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood and then was stationed in Verona, Italy, for two years as a staff sergeant in the map depot. Never one to give up easily, he returned to Racine after being discharged to finish his pattern maker apprenticeship.

New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Fritz as he met the love of his life. Her name was Janet Smits, and she lived in Lansing, Illinois. A mutual friend set Fritz and Janet while on a trip to the Chicago area. The two attended an evening church service and went out for coffee afterwards. Fritz and Janet hit it off immediately, and he began making weekends trips to visit her. Throughout the year that followed, their relationship blossomed into something much deeper. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Fritz and Janet were married at Munster Christian Reformed Church on September 5, 1958. After a reception in the church basement, they escaped to Key West, Florida, for a two-week honeymoon.

Eager to begin their future together, Fritz and Janet settled into an upstairs apartment on Kinsey Avenue in Racine. He worked as a pattern maker at J.I. Case in order to support himself and his wife. Over the years, Fritz’s family grew to include his beloved children Kent, Dale, Gary, Kaye, and Curtis. Following the birth of their youngest, the Burghraef family settled into a new home on Shady Grove in Toledo, Ohio, when Fritz’s job for Cast Masters was transferred to the nearby Bowling Green, Ohio. Fritz and his family attended church at Community Christian Reformed Church in Lambertville, Michigan. He strove to raise his children in faith and lead them by example.

Fritz was never known to shy away from hard work, especially where caring for his family was involved. He worked for Cast Master for 41 years before retiring in 2001. Unable to sit still for long, Fritz had many hobbies to fill his free time. He and his family enjoyed vacations to Panama City Beach, St. Petersburg, Silver Lake, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. They also took several trips out west and to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Later in life, Fritz was thrilled to become a grandfather and even a great-grandfather, and he took great pride in these younger generations. The extended family would meet together to celebrate Fritz and Janet’s anniversary, taking trips to Cedar Point and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. He especially enjoyed renting a house right on Lake Michigan in Michigan City. Church remained an essential part of Fritz’s life. He served on council as a deacon and elder and also taught catechism, but his greatest love was participating in ministries where he could simply serve others. Fritz was involved with the food pantry, Cary Christian Center, and SCOOP, a men’s group offering free labor for home projects. He was never one to miss a grandchild’s activity, and he was known to be the supplier of cookies and candy. Fritz loved several sports teams, including the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Wisconsin Badgers and Ohio Buckeyes. He also enjoyed being active himself and could often be found walking, bicycling, or working in the yard.

All who knew Fredric “Fritz” Burghraef would agree that he truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He was a role model for Christian living and hard work, and he could always appreciate the little blessings in life. Fritz was a kind and strong leader who was an inspiration to many. Known for his sense of humor, he could always crack a joke to make someone smile. Though he will be dearly missed, Fritz leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.

Fredric E. "Fritz: Burghgraef, age 87 of Grand Rapids, MI entered his heavenly home April 1, 2021. Fritz was born September 12, 1933 in Racine, WI to the late Douwe and Cora (Mulder) Burghgraef. He was also preceded in death by his brother, Robert Burghgraef and sister-in-law, Lois Smits. Fritz was a veteran of the U.S. Army and a longtime active member of Westview Christian Reformed Church. On September 5, 1958, Fritz married Janet Smits. His wife of 62 years survives as do their children, Kent (Debra) Burghgraef of South Holland, IL, Dale (Sheryl) Burghgraef of Grand Rapids, Gary (Melanie) Burghgraef of Rockford, Kaye Burghgraef of Grand Rapids, Curtis (Wendy) Burghgraef of Grand Rapids; grandchildren, Scott (Britainie), Brent (Danae), Keith (Elizabeth), Chad (Carley), Kyle, Aaron, Emma, Chase, Morgan, Mason; and 10 great grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother and sisters-in-law, Glenn (Sharlotte) Smits of Crete, IL, Wesley (Donna) Smits of Denver, CO, David (Jan DeBoer) Smits of Holland, Janice Holwerda; and several nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 2 PM at Westview CRC, 2929 Leonard Street NW. Friends may visit with Fritz's family on Friday, April 16 from 5-8 PM at the church, as well as following the service for refreshments. Interment will be in Rosedale Memorial Park. Memorials may be made to Cary Christian Center, Bible League International, or the charity of choice. To read more of Fritz's life story, leave a memory or condolence visit www.heritagelifestory.com