Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

John R. Kalanta

July 29, 1935 - December 31, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI



Wednesday, January 4, 2023
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM EST
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263

Military Honors at 6:30PM

Driving Directions


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.

Meals on Wheels of Western Michigan
2900 Wilson Ave SW # 500
Grandville, MI 49418
1 (616) 459-3111
Web Site

Kids Food Basket
1300 Plymouth Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
1 (616) 235-4532
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


As his family and friends can surely attest, John Kalanta truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times, and he was always willing to work hard in order to support those who depended on him. Nothing brought John greater joy than spending time with his loved ones, no matter how simple the moments. His primary focus in life was fostering deep and personal relationships with others in ways both great and small. Dearly loved, John will be forever missed by those who knew him best.

Life during the 1930s was anything but easy as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. With a soaring unemployment rate, things only became more dire when a drought that covered our nation’s heartland for nearly two years during this time settled in. Despite the challenges around them, there was much to celebrate in the lives of Joseph and Irene (Charette) Kalanta as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named John drew his first breath on July 29, 1935, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Growing up, John was a typical young man of his generation in many ways. He was raised in Grand Rapids as the oldest of four children. John’s father worked in the tool and die field while John’s mother dedicated herself to raising her family and making her house a home. Throughout his childhood, John grew to form close friendships with his siblings, Joe, Christine, and Renee. He attended St. Alphonsus School through the eighth grade, at which time he left education to enter the workforce.

In order to support himself, John washed cars and worked in a cookie factory. At the age of 17, he felt the call to serve his country. His father signed a release to allow John to join the Navy, and he served from 1953 to 1956 as a radar man on the USS Caperton. After the Korean Conflict ended, John was able to sail to locations all over the world. A few of his favorite places, Lisbon, Ireland, Japan, and Italy. John has many fun stories of his world tour. The favorite being the kimono story in Japan.

New and exciting changes were on the horizon for John when he met the woman who would soon become the love of his life. Her name was Diane Smith, and the two first met after being set up by his best friend, Sully, and his girlfriend Shirley. John and Diane felt an instant connection, and the rest is history as they say. Over time, their relationship continued to blossom into something truly special. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, John and Diane were married in the presence of family and friends on April 18, 1959.

All who knew John can surely agree that, of all the things he loved in life, he treasured his family above all else. It wasn’t long before he and Diane were blessed to welcome their two beloved daughters into their hearts and home. Kelly joined the family in 1959, followed by Kim in 1966. John thrived in his role as a father and strove to raise his daughters into kind and hardworking individuals. He was never afraid to work hard when it came to providing for his family. After serving in the Navy, John worked for the United States Post Office for 33 years, and Diane worked as a computer programmer and a secretary. Later in life, he was thrilled to become a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and even a great-great-grandfather. John was overjoyed to watch his family tree grow to include so many branches of loved ones he adored.

Over the years, John enjoyed traveling whenever he could. He and his family took many vacations to Florida, where they would check on the property that they owned before visiting Disney World. Later on, John was able to spend summer weekends at the family cottage on Pettit Lake in Newaygo. His favorite vacation was flying first-class to Hawaii. For their 25th anniversary, John and Diane drove out West to many places. During their retirement years, they would spend there winter months in Panama City beach, Florida where they made many new friends. John spent his days golfing, and frequenting Dusty’s Oyster bar.

Never one to sit still for long, John pursued many hobbies to stay busy in his free time. He loved hunting with his buddies each year and was on a bowling league as well. He had a passion for golf and would work from 3 in the morning until noon, which left him enough time to get out on the links. John also played cribbage with his father after work each day. He and his family spent weekends as seasonal campers at Tyler Creek, where he enjoyed playing 18 holes on the front and back 9. John was an avid fan of Budweiser and the music of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Patsy Cline, and Frank Sinatra. He loved to spend time with his grandchildren at the cottage whenever he could. He and Diane would teach the grandkids how to fish with hotdogs as bait. John was lovingly referred to as “Papa John” by those close to him. John spent most of his final years frequenting the VFW, laughing and story telling with his best buddies.

When reflecting on the life of John Kalanta, it is easy to see both his unwavering strength and his unconditional love for his family. He was well known for his sense of humor and his solid work ethic, inspiring all who were near. A proud husband and father, John was blessed to be surrounded by so many family members who filled his heart with joy. He was always willing to go above and beyond to serve others and thought nothing about the personal sacrifices he made. Though he will be deeply missed, John leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will be proud to carry on in his footsteps.

KALANTA – Mr. John R. Kalanta age 87, of Grand Rapids, passed away on December 31, 2022. He was preceded in death by his wife, Diane; and brother, Joe Kalanta. John is survived by his daughters, Kelly Spruit and Ted Spruit, and Kim (Brian) Gibson; grandchildren, Tara Sherman, Jason Sherman, Aaron Spruit, Nicole (Jon) Stafford and Joe (Cruz) Gibson; great-grandchildren, Lexi, Kolin, Liam and Lilah; and great-great-granddaughter, Sailor. Also surviving are his sisters, Christine (Paul) Kramer and Renee (Rod) Smith; and several nieces and nephews. John worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 33 years, served in the US Navy during Korea, loved to golf and was a member of VFW Post 830 and American Legion Post 47. He will be missed by many and was loved by all. Visitation will take place on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 from 4-6:30 PM, followed by military honors, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home-Alt and Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Interment in Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions in he memory may be made to Meals on Wheels of Western Michigan or Kids Food Basket. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read his life story, submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook.