Life Story / Obituary
So much could be said about Jack LaPonsie Sr, a man who lived his life as a positive example for others. A supportive husband, father, and grandfather, his greatest moments were the times he spent with his family. His infectious personality drew him naturally to many friendships over the years as well as many successes. Known for his wisdom, guidance, and unconditional love he will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered for generations to come.
His story begins in the 1930s, a time when there wasn’t much that was not affected by the Great Depression. There were few jobs and a soaring unemployment rate that left countless American families without homes. Despite these tough times, on December 16, 1935, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Joseph and Sadie (Visner) LaPonsie were excited to celebrate the arrival of their newborn son, Jack. Born the youngest of five children, his birth brought much hope and happiness during a difficult time in our nation’s history.
Growing up on Howland Street NE, Jack lived a typical childhood of the time. His family practiced a strong Catholic upbringing and attended St. Alphonsus Parish where Jack also attended school through the eighth grade. He later transferred to Grand Rapids Catholic Central High. During the fall of his junior year, his fate changed on the chance meeting of Gloria Filkins, who would steal his heart forever! He and a friend walked her younger sister home after a football game and when he set his eyes on Gloria the rest was history! With a strong desire to serve his country, Jack left school in his senior year to join the United States Air Force. He and Gloria continued their long-distance romance until they were able to join in marriage on April 14, 1956, at St. James Catholic Church while he was on leave. Jack returned to Germany and Gloria went to live with his parents until she was able to join him in New York until September. By January of 1957, Jack was then transferred to San Antonio, Texas until he was honorably discharged in July.
Excited to start their lives together they returned to their hometown of Grand Rapids and Jack began selling automobiles and Gloria went to work for Michigan Bell Company. During this time they welcomed home five wonderful children; Jack Jr., Catherine, Colleen, James, and Marie. They were members of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church and raised with strong moral values. As a family, they enjoyed many vacations to a wide variety of special places including Niagara Falls, New York; Mackinac Island, Michigan; and a horse farm in Kentucky. He also would often follow the Detroit Tigers around to many of the baseball stadiums around the Midwest! The family had German Shepherds for many years. All of the dogs had been professionally trained the same way they trained local police dogs. Jack was especially fond of his dogs; Mike, Fritz, and Hasson, and each one would go to work with him over the years. As a father, he was very active in his children’s lives and activities. He wanted nothing more than to share in their every success. Dedicated and driven, even after the children were grown, he continued coaching Northern Little League for a remarkable eighteen years!
A strong provider to the family he loved, Jack continued selling cars for more than twenty years yet also owned and operated many other area businesses. With an ability to make business deals with only a handshake he went on to own a dry cleaner/laundromat, several convenience stores, liquor stores, and several multi-unit rental properties. All were in the heart of the city and known as Jack’s Corner. His entrepreneurial spirit and ability to connect with people made him very successful over the years. Residents could count on his good-natured and trustworthy personality sharing a common love for the community. He also started a boxing gym, United Youth, which proudly supported the early career of Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Jr. who worked out there. Each of his kids were taught the value of hard day’s work by coming to work for him at one of his business establishments over the years.
As hard as he worked, he played equally as hard. Over the years, Jack loved to go boating, fishing, as well as skiing and cruising. Knowledgeable about the world around him, he enjoyed reading the daily local news as well as anything about history. A lover of most foods, some of his favorites were burritos and hot sauce as well as a good burger! When it came to his sweet tooth, he enjoyed a handful of his favorite Hershey chocolate kisses! In the last year of his life, Jack ate fresh salmon every day! By 2007, the family began selling off some of his businesses. In recent years, Jack’s health began to decline as a result of his diagnosis with Parkinson’s. He lived his life fully in relationship with his Lord and Savior and modeled a wonderful example of living his life with integrity. Sadly, during his final months, he was placed in the intensive care unit during COVID and unable to see his loved ones. The family was later able to bring him home and surround his bedside for his final moments. May his loved ones never doubt the immeasurable love he had for each and every one of them and may his rich collection of memories be eternal.
Jack LaPonsie Sr. age 84, of Grand Rapids, passed away on June 16, 2020. He was preceded in death by his son, Jack LaPonsie Jr; granddaughter, Maria Boggiano; great-granddaughter, Baby Angela; brothers, Joseph (Rose), William and James; and brother-in-law, Boyd Pearce. Jack is survived by his wife of 64 years, Gloria Colleen; children, Catherine (Jerry) Aungst, Colleen (Fred) Boggiano, James LaPonsie and Marie LaPonsie; 17 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; sister, Mary Lou Pearce; sister-in-law, Dolores (C.J.) Oudendyk; and several nieces and nephews. Jack served honorably in the US Air Force during the Korean Conflict. Interment will take place in Resurrection Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to Spectrum Health Hospice or Streetlight Ministries. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook online.