Mass of Christian Burial
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Life Story / Obituary
With a journey that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Joseph Sommerdyke lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He was a man of faith who was there to offer his love and support to all who were near. A more devoted family man would be hard to find, and Joe was so proud to witness his family tree blossom to include numerous branches of loved ones who made him so very proud. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Although the harsh realities of the Great Depression gripped our nation and much of the world throughout the 1930s, there were times of great celebration as well. Among the noteworthy events were the completion of the Empire State Building and the first ever Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There was also much to celebrate in the lives of Joseph Henry and Pauline (Shaw) Sommerdyke as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Joseph Paul on May 28, 1936, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The younger of two, he was joined in his family by his older sister, Carol.
Raised in the family home on Federal Avenue in Wyoming, Michigan, Joe was a typical your boy of his generation in many ways. He was raised in the Catholic faith, which was the cornerstone on which his entire life was built. As a family they attended Holy Name Catholic Church, and Joe also attended Holy Name Elementary and their middle school as well. His high school years found him at Catholic Central High School where he played on the offensive line for their football team. Joe was known for saying that, “he was a few steps away from genius.”
After graduating from high school in 1954, Joe was ready for all that life had in store. He spent some time working for a plumbing business that belonged to a family member. This was a manual labor job where Joe was often digging ditches. After about a decade, he took a job in sales for Bixby Office Supplies, and this is where he made his entire career until retiring.
It was while at work at Bixby that Joe met the woman with whom he would spend most of his life. Her name was Carole Rekucki, and although she was two years younger they had gone to school together. The couple began dating, and with a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Joe and Carole were married on February 13, 1960, in Grand Rapids. The newlyweds initially moved into a home in the Black Hills of Grand Rapids where they became members of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. This remained Joe’s church home for the rest of his life. Together Joe and Carole welcomed four children, Steve, Ken, Richard, and Susan, into their hearts and home. Their growing family later moved to a home on Houseman Avenue, NE, and this was the last home they would own.
Although work kept Joe busy, there was never anything that was more important to him than his family. He was active in his children’s lives including being there to support them in all their sports and other activities. As he was able, Joe also helped out in a variety of ways including as a coach and also at their school. In order to help offset the cost of their education, he also worked Bingo at West Catholic. As a family they enjoyed camping at local campgrounds for years, but they later gave that up to put in a pool. Joe often took his family to the beach at either Grand Haven or Holland, usually making breakfast to take along and spending the entire day there. Every summer the Sommerdykes took a big trip to the Wisconsin Dells or sometimes to Florida. As an avid Tigers fan, Joe made it to one in-person game a year. He was always very vocal at games, and after games Joe always took the kids out to eat or for a donut. Later on, they had a timeshare in Orlando, Florida.
Throughout his life Joe was someone who preferred to be busy. His most important hobby was always whatever his kids were doing. Later this grew to include his grandchildren as they were the light of his life. Joe liked getting together with Carole’s family, frequently playing cards or board games. He preferred to be inside more than outside, although he was known for grilling hamburgers on the grill. Joe liked watching westerns on Saturday mornings and various sports on television, and it has been said that he never met a nap he didn’t like. When it came to music he liked anything from Al Jolson, and he liked a cold Pepsi, and he loved bacon.
When Carole became ill with cancer, Joe focused on faithfully caring for her. He was there to take her to appointments or do whatever it was she needed, never complaining. After her death in 2002, he began attending some groups for widows. There, he met Doris Slager who had lost her husband. Joe and Doris became friends and were great companions. Interestingly, they had also known each other from school. Around 2004, Joe had a debilitating stroke that forced him to stop working. Although he was never able to drive again, he did learn to walk. Through all his challenges, Doris was there for him so they decided to get married. Joe moved into her home, which allowed him to remain more independent. His kids always picked him up for church at Blessed Sacrament on Sundays followed by Big Boy for breakfast after church. For the past seven years or so, Joe lived at St. Ann’s Home where he could get the care he needed. He remained in close contact with his family through daily phone calls - sometimes multiple phone calls every day! Joe still enjoyed getting out with some favorites being heading to Brann’s for a steak, burgers from Mr. Burger, or even tacos from Taco Bell. Joe savored every moment he had with his loved ones.
All who knew Joseph Sommerdyke would agree that he was one of the most supportive, patient, and loving people one could ever meet. He worked hard, but he made the time to enjoy life along the way. Joe’s favorite moments were those he spent with family and friends, and he experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer. Life will never be the same without Joe here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever treasure.
SOMMERDYKE – Joseph Paul Sommerdyke age 85, of Grand Rapids, passed away on March 18, 2022. He was preceded in death by his wife of 42 years, Carole Sommerdyke in 2002. Joe is survived by his wife, Doris (Slager) Sommerdyke; children, Stephen (Leslie) Sommerdyke, Kenneth (Rebecca) Sommerdyke, Richard Sommerdyke and Susan (Gary) Tenhopen; grandchildren, Joseph S. (Celine) Sommerdyke, Jonathan (Jill) Sommerdyke, Kelsey Tenhopen, Zachary Sommerdyke and Luke Sommerdyke; and great-grandchildren, Maren, Kenslee, Shelby, Jaden and Emery. Joe was a strong man of faith and a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on at 3 PM on Friday, March 25, 2022 at Blessed Sacrament Parish, 2275 Diamond Ave NE. The family will receive visitors for one hour prior to Mass. Interment in Holy Cross Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to the charity of one’s choice. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Joe’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook.