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.
Bureau of Services for Blind Persons
PO Box 30652
Lansing, MI 48909
Formerly, Michigan Commission for the Blind. Donations marked 'in memory of Joe Greenlee" will be used by the bureau as designated b Joe's family.
Life Story / Obituary
Although he was taken from his loved ones too soon, Ronald “Joe” Greenlee touched the lives of those around him in such a special way. He was so much fun to be around and had a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near. Joe experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer, but nothing was better than sharing these experiences with the ones he loved most. Life will never be the same without Joe here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The 1950s brought us exciting days in America. With televisions becoming part of our homes in record numbers, shows like I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best shaped our view of the American family. This was also the decade that brought us names like Elvis Presley and James Dean, and by the end of the decade we had become a nation of 50 states with the additions of Alaska and Hawaii as our 49th and 50th states. Also during this time was a time of great anticipation in the lives of Harold and Mildred Ann (Brunst) Greenlee as they were awaiting the birth of their new baby as spring appeared on the horizon in March of 1955. Their wait was over on March 26th when the baby boy they named Ronald Joseph made his arrival in Tawas City, Michigan. He was the youngest of five as she was joined in his family by his siblings, Katherine, Micki, James “Rick,” and Michael.
Always known as Joe, he was a typical young boy of his generation. As the youngest, he was quiet, but always wanted to be involved despite often being left out and picked on. Joe shared a bedroom with Michael, and he really grew up in an amazing place for a kid as their home was near Lake Huron Beach and across the street from the Huron National Forest. Joe often played with the green Army men and was known to build cities on the beach that often got bombed with sand balls. Since he had friends with boats, Joe learned to surf on a board behind a boat, then became an accomplished water skier. As a student he attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Tawas where he was known as an intelligent kid. In sixth grade Joe learned to play the trombone as his mom loved music and encouraged the kids to play an instrument. Joe continued to play throughout high school at Tawas Area High School, in all the various bands. Although he played football during his freshman year, he wasn’t able to continue with both football and playing in the band. Joe was also quite social in high school.
After graduating from high school, Joe went to Michigan State University. Although he initially studied accounting, he later realized that that this wasn’t really a great fit but remained a loyal fan to MSU, particularly for MSU sports for the rest of his life as he loved all sports. In fact, Joe even worked for the stadium for a time and went to any of their games that he could. He continued his education at Lansing Community College, where he graduated suma cum laude. As someone who loved technology and music, Joe made a career in information technology. He also enjoyed working as a sound engineer on the side. For a short time, Joe was interested in being a professional golfer and moved out West, but he later moved to the Grand Rapid area to live with his oldest sister for a short time before eventually returning to the Lansing area. His time spent living with his sister and her family brought some amazing family memories as his nieces and nephews always loved how Joe teased them. In Lansing he worked in information technology at the Capitol Building. Joe was also able to satiate his lifelong love of golf as he worked at Jackson Country Club and also at Lincoln Golf Course in Grand Rapids. He lived in Dewitt for a while before buying a home in Portland. Once he was settled into his own home, Joe found a special companionship with his dog, Shadow.
As his family and friends can attest, Joe was a man of many interests. After learning to bowl while in high school, he often bowled throughout his life and was even on some leagues at times. As a music lover, Joe enjoyed all kinds of music genres but was particularly a fan of sixties and seventies rock as well as jazz. He went to several concerts, many with his brother, Mike. Joe enjoyed plays and musicals as well, which was something his mother had always loved, too. He also liked going to movies and taught himself to play the keyboard. Joe always loved being with family and could often be found out playing football and catch with his nieces and nephews. Although he always had a lot to say, Joe was not a fan of having his picture taken and would often just turn away if he saw a camera come out. He and Mike were regulars at smaller gatherings with their sister’s family in Grand Rapids as well as at the holiday gatherings. Joe also met his family outside of the area including the time they traveled to Boston as well as on a trip to Florida. Family reunions in both 2007 and 2018 were a highlight for Joe, and he could always be counted of for his dry sense of humor, quick wit, and ability to be hilarious. It has also been said that he was quite opinionated and set in his ways, but this seemed to be a trend in his family. When it came to his favorite foods Joe loved chips and dip, Diet Mountain Dew and all kinds of desserts. He was known for making pies.
In 2007, Joe announced to his family that his eyesight was deteriorating, although doctors didn’t know why. He eventually became blind, but Joe didn’t let it get the best of him. His house became too much for him to manage in time, so he moved closer to family in Grand Rapids. Joe learned to adapt and continued to bowl on a league and also volunteered with the Michigan Commission For the Blind. He mastered public transportation in Grand Rapids to get around. When that became more difficult in the more recent months, Joe had help from family, particularly a grand-nephew.
Although he was taken too soon, Ronald “Joe” Greenlee touched those around him in a special way. He was kind and approachable with a love for life that was easy to see. Joe made friends easily, and although he was separated by distance he remained close to his whole family. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Ronald Joseph “Joe” Greenlee, age 65 of Grand Rapids and formerly of Portland, Dewitt and Tawas City, passed away on October 6, 2020. He was preceded in death by his parents Harold and Mildred Greenlee; and his sister, Katherine Tudor. Joe is survived by his siblings Micki (Don) Haagsma, James “Rick” Greenlee and Michael Greenlee; as well as many nieces and nephews. His family will gather in the spring to celebrate his life.