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.
Take The Lead
215 Washington Street Suite 110
Watertown, NY 13601
Life Story / Obituary
Joe was a loyal friend, a gentle soul, and a dedicated worker. His friendly manner and ability to tell a great story will forever live in our memories. We will miss his presence in our lives, but we will never forget him.
Joe began his life during an exciting time in history. The 1930's decade was a time in which Americans marveled at many new things in the world. Some amazing feats happened in the sky, as the pilot, Howard Hughes, broke the transcontinental flight speed when he traveled from Los Angeles to Newark in under seven and a half hours. Though he was breaking records, another respectable pilot by the name of Amelia Earhart completely disappeared while in flight - a trace never to be found of her or her plane. Other more grounded marvels included San Francisco and its celebration of the completion of the Golden Gate suspension bridge. In Chicago, the very first blood bank opened - revolutionizing medicine. As if all of this was not enough, 1937 brought even more excitement for Joseph and Jennie (Liwocz) Gogulski. They were preparing to meet their precious baby in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Just days before Valentine's Day, sweet Joseph Alphonse was born on February 10.
Joseph's family influenced his future from the very start. His grandparents were immigrants from Poland, and Joe proudly learned and shared these rich cultural values throughout his life. Additionally, Joe and his sister spent their childhood living above the family bakery; Valley City Bakery, located on Stocking Street, was a well known Polish bakery on the west side of Grand Rapids. Eventually, the family also added a second bakery on Eastern Avenue.
Joe developed an admirable work ethic as soon as he was old enough to hold some responsibility. In time, his usual routine included waking up at 4 AM each morning to get the coal burning in the bakery's stove. He would continue to work until it was time for school. When the last school bell rang for the day, he would head back to the bakery and continue to help another four hours. When his duties downstairs were finished for the day, he would head upstairs to complete his homework before going to bed - only to repeat the same routine the next day. This hard work prepared him for his future.
Joe attended St. Adalbert's grade school to begin, followed by Grand Rapids Union High School. He celebrated earning his diploma with the class of 1954. During his school years, he took up the sport of hockey. He played for 22 years and loved every moment on the ice. During his hockey career, he played goalie for the Grand Rapids Rockets in the IHL. He also participated in a men's travel team sponsored by the Grotto Bar. His team won the national championship one year.
After high school graduation, he took some courses at Grand Rapids Junior College. Aside from school and hockey, he spent some of his earlier years working as a lifeguard in Saugatuck. When he was a bit older, he spent one summer working for the University of Michigan as a lake surveyor while living on a boat.
It was typical for Joe to work two jobs at one time. For a long time, while working at the family bakery, he also bartended and bounced at the Shamrock Bar on Bridge Street. As fate would have it, his bartending job changed his life forever.
The love story began when Joe secretly began lobbing bottle caps at a beautiful woman sitting at the bar. Her name was Delberta, and she had just left her shift working at the Backroom Saloon. Still wearing her uniform, she finally demanded to know who was throwing the caps. Joe promptly introduced himself, and so it was. Their courtship was brief, and the couple married on the 4th of July in 1970 at Wayside Chapel on East Beltline. Friends and family celebrated this union with a reception at the Westra's Restaurant Banquet room located on E. Michigan, as a gift from Del's aunt Kate who was the owner. The newlyweds enjoyed a motorcycle honeymoon to Montana.
Upon their return home, the happy couple created a home together in an upstairs apartment on Heritage Hill for two years. In time, they purchased their first house located on North Hampton. Finally, in the mid-'80s, they had a house built in Lowell and remained there until 2015.
Eventually, Joe took over the family bakery, where he worked until selling it in 1973. El Matador Tortilla bought it and coveted the coal-burning stove, which was just perfect for their tortilla production. Selling the bakery transitioned Joe into a new career, as he then began working for Steelcase. After working there for 25 years, he retired in 1999.
Joe had many activities he liked outside of work. He always had a deep appreciation of the water and beach. Joe owned a catamaran sailboat and loved to give his family rides on Lake Michigan in the summer months. He also had a passion for scuba diving.
Joe was a member of the Polish Heritage Society. He was the original cook for the Polish segment of the Grand Rapids Festival of Arts every year. In fact, Joe created the sausage sandwich with kielbasa and sauerkraut that became a standard.
Joe spent much of his extra time with Del and their dogs, they raised, bred and showed Afghan Hounds and then the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen breed for more then 40 years under the Kennel name of “Jodell”. They always had dogs in their house whom they loved passionately. The dogs were their "kids" and their life. They were very well known and respected in the dog show Community where they made many good friends throughout the years and throughout the country as a result of their passion for their pure bred dogs. . In PBGV's they have bred many Top winning dogs including a multiple National Specialty winner, Westminster Kennel Club Group winner, and AKC National Champion Group winner. Jodell dogs have laid the foundation of many breeders success with there dog breeding programs, including in 2020 a Top 20 Winning Afghan hound, and the #1 PBGV in the USA.
They traveled together on most weekends, and during vacation time from work showing and coursing and field training the dogs. Joe was a lifetime member of the Grand Rapids Kennel Club, and a member of the Afghan Hound Club Of america and the PBGV Club of America (where Delberta served on the Board of Directors) and several other organizations.
The dogs took them around the Country they traveled to just about every state in the US often leaving Friday when Joe got out of work driving sometimes 12 to 14 hours to be at Dog shows on Saturday morning- These shows took them all over the United States, including Montana, Nevada, Florida, and New York, among other places. They grew quite a reputation throughout the Country for their knowledge and involvement. In fact Joe felt honored when the PBGV Club of America dedicated one of there National Specialty's to Delberta. They attended many Akc dog events including Lure coursing (an activity to test the sighthounds ability to hunt game) a sport Joe truly loved. In Fact he co owned an Afghan hound that held the American Sighthound Association Record for Best in Fields, for many years. This dog “roo” was his pride and joy as Joe also showed him to his AKC Championship wining specialty shows. Joe Loved to see the hounds “run and hunt' as this is what he felt the dogs were bred to do! When he was sent to France by his Employers Steelcase, because of his passion for the dogs he sought out and visited many “dog breeders” there and met some wonderful people.
After 44 years of marriage, Joe was forced to say goodbye to Del when she passed away in 2014. With the support of loved ones, he found some goodness in life again. After 82 years of life, Joe passed away to join his lovely wife on January 8, 2020. As we reflect on the moments we shared with Joe, we can find comfort knowing he is now at peace.
Age 82, passed away January 8, 2020. Joe was born February 10, 1937 to the late Joseph and Jennie (Liwocz) Gogulski in Grand Rapids. He was also preceded in death by his wife of 44 years, Delberta in 2014. Joe was a second generation owner of Valley City Bakery and retired after 25 years from Steelcase. He was a proud member of the Polish Heritage Society and of several dog organizations including the Grand Rapids Kennel Club. Joe is survived by his brothers and sisters-in-law, Dan (LeAnn) Szymanski of Jenison, Pat Shay of Byron Center, Charles Szymanski of Grand Rapids, Juli Szymanski of Grand Rapids; nephews, Charlie, Rob, Joe, Mike, Sean, Jake, Daniel; 7 great nieces and nephews; and special friends, Rick (Rico) and Nancy Brennan of Billings, MT . A funeral service will be held Friday, January 10, 2020 at 10:30 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends may visit with family beginning at 9:30 AM. Interment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Spectrum Health Hospice or Take The Lead. Please visit Joe's personalized web page to read more of his life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.heritagelifestory.com.