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Life Story / Obituary
John David Piela’s story begins in 1937. Born on December 27th to John and Helen (Sypien) Piela, John brought great joy into their lives. He was the oldest of 4 children and grew up living on the northeast side of Grand Rapids, MI.
John lived a typical childhood of the times. He attended Catholic elementary schools and graduated with the Class of 1955 from Catholic Central High School. During his senior year, he met Eleanor Salmen at a school dance. Ele pursued this tall handsome classmate. They were exceptionally drawn to one another and after dating only nine months, they were engaged. Nine months later, they were joined in marriage on October 5, 1957. The happy couple honeymooned with a road trip to the Grand Canyon.
Devoted to one another and longing for a family of their own, John and Ele prepared their lives for parenting. Over the course of thirteen years, they welcomed seven wonderful children. With their family rapidly expanding, they soon moved to their home on the East Beltline in 1962, which they owned until their death. The family loved to spend time camping throughout Michigan and enjoyed time at their family place on Holland Lake. Summer holidays when the whole family gathered were especially cherished.
John and Ele instilled in their children the value of a strong faith life. They attended Mass together at St. Jude Catholic Church since 1963. He was a lector and catechist. John had a deep desire to know God and so he was always learning, growing and sharing his faith. He would ask people probing questions and would use their answers to rethink his views and strengthen his beliefs.
John spent his working career at GM. He started as an apprentice tool and die maker at General Motors at 17. He worked his way to journeyman, tool and die maker, supervisor and ultimately Plant Manager. He was highly respected for his work.
John loved working with his hands. The family affectionately referred to his garage as “the hardware store” because he always had the right tool and any type of nail, screw, washer that you could ever need. Any time you mentioned a project that needed work, he would be over to help “supervise”, which sometimes meant that he did it for you. He found great solace in putzing with his tools and finding a solution to life's mechanical problems.
Throughout his life he was an adventurous person. John loved fixing and driving in old junk cars around his property with his children. The cars didn’t have doors or seatbelts and he would purposely hit bumps. His children still question to this day, how they all made it through childhood alive. He and his brother-in-law Tim used to come up with crazy ideas and put them into play. One story is that Ele wanted to go to Florida during the winter so John and Tim used sheets of plastic and multiple irons to make Ele a “greenhouse” so that she would have someplace warm to go during the winter (without having to leave the property). In retirement, he obtained his pilot's license and built kit planes.
When John and Ele retired, they enjoyed motorhome trips to warm locations in the winter, eventually settling in ZephyrHills, Florida and spent their summers back at their Holland Lake cottage surrounded by their family and friends.
John was an early adopter of new technology and always liked the latest Apple devices. His camera was always at the ready and used his technology to “improve” the color, saturation or background. He loved taking videos and making scripted movies. He was a smart man who loved learning and reading on topics of faith, psychology and Sci-Fi. He loved solving ultra-hard sudoku puzzles and wouldn’t write any numbers down until he knew it was the correct spot.
John was the one to make people laugh with a new joke or pun. He instituted the daily dad joke that was circulated daily via email. He was always on board for a practical joke.
John was personable and wanted to know all the names of the people he encountered. Life was personal to him. He made people feel heard and respected. He did not want people to be burdened by his needs, but hopefully blessed by his presence.
In the last year, John and Ele lived in and were supported by the caring Birch community and Rehab Center at Porter Hills. The family is grateful for their love and kindness.
John lost his beloved Hon earlier this year on April 2nd, and life was not the same without her. He had lived his life for Ele wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Without her, life has lost its purpose. He loved his children, grandchildren and extended family and friends. May his loved ones never doubt the love he had for each and every one of them and may his warm memories be a comfort to all in the years ahead.
John David Piela, age 82, of Grand Rapids, passed away on Saturday, November 7, 2020. He is preceded in death by his wife Eleanor Mae Piela and brother Gerald Piela. John is survived by his children, Christopher Piela, Catherine (Ron) Minnie, Deborah Herdegen, Denise Piela, Diane (John) Fox, David (Sarah) Piela and JC (Heidi) Piela as well as by 21 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are John’s sister-in-law Carol Piela and sisters Suzanne Engstrom and Arlene (Tim) Nadwodnik. Please join John’s family for a visitation on Thursday, November 12, 2020 from 6-8 PM (Rosary Prayers at 7:30PM) at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, VanStrien-Creston Chapel (1833 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505) A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at Saint Jude Catholic Church (1120 4 Mile Rd NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525) on Friday, November 13, 2020 at 11 AM with visitation prior beginning at 10 AM. John will be laid to rest next to Eleanor in Resurrection Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to St. Jude’s Catholic Church. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to leave a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook online.