Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Garth Mann Jr

July 19, 1942 - November 3, 2023
Grand Rapids, MI



Saturday, November 18, 2023
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EST
Second Congregational Church


Saturday, November 18, 2023
11:00 AM EST
Second Congregational Church
525 Chesire Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


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.

Second Congregational Church
525 Cheshire Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505

to be used for the Memory Garden.

Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


A man who lived life to the fullest, Garth Conger Mann Jr. inspired all who were blessed to know him. Garth was gregarious, loving, and always an entertainer. He possessed a great sense of humor and never acted his age. His youthful spirit and love for people were evident in how he embraced each day as a gift and every person as a friend. A steadfast companion, Garth was always available to others. He never hesitated to give his gifts in service to others and generously shared his blessings. Garth led with his heart in all things and deliberately chose to focus on life's joys, happily devoting himself to being a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend.

The mobilization of war efforts in 1942 was quick and effective, with carmakers and other manufacturers changing to the production of weapons of war. Gas rationing, Scrap Days, and Victory Gardens became the norm. At the same time, The Declaration of the United Nations, the newly formed Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and The Voice of America ensured that every citizen had their eyes focused on a better future. Nowhere was there more hope for the future than in the hearts and home of Garth and Evelyn (VanDyke) Mann as they welcomed their son, Garth Jr., to their family on July 19 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Growing up on Dorroll St. NE, Garth enjoyed a good childhood spent in the good company of his younger sister, MerrySue. Garth was the first grandchild on both sides of his family. As both sets of grandparents lived nearby, they were able to spoil him with love and affection. He enjoyed accompanying his grandfather on dairy runs, and when his grandparents moved to Florida, Garth spent a full summer there with them. An inquisitive and adventurous child, Garth was a good kid who only got into a little innocent mischief. Mechanically inclined, Garth once took apart and reassembled a vacuum. Despite having parts left over when he was done, the machine ran just fine. Garth attended Aberdeen Elementary and, later, Creston High School.

From a young age, Garth loved boating and spending time at his grandparents' and parents' cottages on Camp Lake. The Mann family enjoyed traveling and spent many hours in the car exploring the country. Those early experiences inspired Garth's lifelong love for travel.

As a teen, Garth worked at Marlin's Grocery Store and made homemade wine with his high school buddies. Garth also worked with his dad and grandfather at Mann's café downtown in Grand Rapids. Garth and his family were active members at Second Congregational Church, and while attending youth group at church, Garth met Suzanne "Sue" Wirth. The pair began dating, and frugal Garth often took Sue on dates to his grandpa's restaurant.

A member of The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Garth joined the Army after high school. He worked in radio communication while stationed in Germany and kept in touch with Sue through letters. After safely returning home following his service, Garth and Sue married on August 20, 1965, at their church. Always frugal, Garth took Sue on a honeymoon to his aunt's in Florida.

The newlyweds returned home and first settled into their life together in an apartment before moving into a house in Comstock Park, where they welcomed their boys, Bill and Michael, and then into a house on Diamond, where the family was complete with Roxann and Karen. A fun-loving family man, Garth loved playing with his kids, often playing with their toys before giving them as gifts. He was also delighted to share his love of the outdoors and traveling with his family. Many summer travels were enjoyed in their trailer, often exploring back roads. In time, summer brought all-new adventures on weekends when the family would go to their trailer at Pickerel Lake in Newaygo. A gathering place for family for many years, Garth built a screen house with mismatched windows that worked just fine. As he passed along his love for boating to his boys, he gave them clear rules for the canoe and the speed boat. Garth never wanted to leave a kid at the dock. Always inclusive, he loved sharing boating fun with others.

Garth worked at various places, including the restaurant, on a farm, at a hardware store, and even for a funeral home and ambulance company. In time, he started working for Keyline Trucking Company, driving for Shopo out of White Cloud. Over the years, he drove for several companies and owned his own truck for a time. Garth enjoyed traveling the country and making friends along the way. When he was home, he was not much for disciplining his kids. Gone so much on the road, he didn't want to be the bad guy, but he could come down hard if needed. As he grew older, Garth got into dispatching for a time before driving for Holiday Coach. He had a lot of fun driving those trips. Though he tried retiring a couple of times, it always led to other jobs. He even became an instructor and tester for truck drivers with Fleet Compliance.

Garth taught himself to be optimistic. He never wanted to bring people down. He was always upbeat, complimentary, and positive. Charismatic, he was the life of the party, naturally drawing people to him and always leaving a positive impression. Garth couldn't go anywhere without knowing people, for he never only ever met a stranger once before they were a friend and knew that when he infamously said, "Step into my office," he really meant, "Follow me." Always the man behind the camera, Garth passionately rooted for the underdog, putting others before himself and eagerly lending a hand when needed.

Tragedy struck in 1986 when Garth and Sue's son Michael, a teen at the time, suffered a severe neck injury, leaving him a quadriplegic. With unwavering devotion, Garth and Sue worked to ensure Michael's fierce independence. Their commitment to him allowed Michael to have wonderful experiences throughout his life, including traveling and staying active boating.

Never one to be idle, Garth always had to be doing something, typically at full speed. He loved tinkering and projects; he would invent projects for himself if there wasn't something that was needed. After retiring, he enjoyed having more freedom to travel and made wonderful memories on lots of trips. Through the years, he made many trips to Colorado and traveled as far as Europe. From his childhood on, he loved to play cards. Euchre, setback, and Pennies were favorites, always preferring the game that involved the most players, for the more people, the better. Garth adored his grandchildren and was thrilled to attend all of their special events and cheer on their every dream. He loved babies and cherished every moment of the six years he spent with his great-grandson, Eythan.

A good cook, Garth preferred basic meat and potato dishes. Some of his recipes loved by others were his Goulosh, Scalapini, Spaghetti, Ribs, homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, and his famous garbage can dinners. Garth's incredible legacy includes his specific preferences for his favorite sweets. He liked his Rice Krispies soggy, his Peeps candies as hard as rocks, and the only way to eat Oreos was the original kind, dunked in "cow."

Sadly, Michael passed away this past July, and Garth was diagnosed with cancer in his throat a couple of months ago. Garth died very unexpectedly at home. As we face life in the absence of Garth's steadfast love and companionship, may we find much comfort in our many treasured memories of the wonderful man who left an indelible mark on our hearts and lives. In every moment, Garth showed us how to live wholeheartedly, unhesitatingly sharing love, choosing hope over fear, and having a lot of fun along the way.

Garth Conger Mann Jr., age 81, of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on November 3, 2023. Garth is survived by his beloved wife, Sue; children Bill & Tracey Mann, Roxann & Ken Bird; grandchildren Cindy Mann (fiance Jerry Heglar), Chris (fiance Nicole) Mann, Andrew (fiance Desiree) Mann, Ellie Mann; great-grandson Eythan Heglar.

Garth was preceded in death by his infant daughter, Karen; son, Michael; his parents, Evelyn and Garth Mann; and his sister, MerrySue Mann.

The service to remember and celebrate his life will be held at 11 AM on Saturday, November 18, at Second Congregational Church, where friends are invited to visit with his family beginning at 10 AM. Garth was an active member of Second Congregational Church for most of his life. To show that support, his support, his family requests memorial contributions to Second Congregational Church for the memory garden. To read more about Garth, to share a memory, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com