Monday, June 13, 2022
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Rosary at 7:30
Mass of Christian Burial
Visitation from 10 AM until the start of Mass
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.
303 Division Avenue S.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Mel Trotter Ministries
225 Commerce Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Life Story / Obituary
There was only one Kurt Wolfgang, and to know Kurt was to love him. A man of great character and integrity, he used his time and talents for the greater good. He encouraged, advocated, inspired and supported not only the family he held most dear, but the many with whom he came in contact with. Through times of plenty and times of want, Kurt was a hard working man who held fast to his faith. His moral compass and the values he lived by live on in the children he raised and those he touched with ways all his own. A gentleman in every respect, Kurt lived fully and completely at every opportunity, appreciating the many blessings that came his way. Gone yet never to be forgotten are the wonderful memories he leaves behind.
Kurt’s story began in the Lake Michigan shoreline city of Muskegon, Michigan. Born Richard Paul Antekeier, or “Kurt Wolfgang” as we affectionately know him, on October 16, 1931, he was the son of Arnold and Alberta (Dion) Antekeier. Kurt was the second oldest and in his words, the “toughest of 13 children”. It was indeed a time of struggle in the U.S. as the difficult days of the Great Depression created a jobless rate of nearly four million, yet hope was on the horizon as New York City opened the Empire State Building, and the Star-Spangled Banner was adopted as the U.S. national anthem.
The Antekeier’s made their home near Pere Marquette Park and beach where Kurt spent a good portion of his childhood. Raised in a happy and faith-filled home, they were a close family who knew how to play and pray together. However, with many mouths to feed and clothe, times were especially difficult and Kurt’s parents worked hard to provide for their family. His mother knew how to keep her children in line and was actually the one who taught them how to draw an inside flush in poker, but only after they said the Rosary! His father worked tirelessly to feed their large brood and eventually built a grocery store which enabled him to buy food wholesale. Even so, clothes were always hand-me-downs, but in his youth, Kurt especially loved a slick pair of high tops he had except for the holes in the soles, but, like many, he lined them with heavy-duty cardboard. One afternoon, his brother, Jerry was being picked on by a neighborhood bully so his mother sent Kurt to intercede. Kurt proceeded to line his high-tops with fresh cardboard, laced them up good and marched down the street. As the bully towered over him and wouldn’t let up, Kurt managed to jump right off the ground and with one punch, he knocked him to the ground and that bully never bothered them again!
Although Kurt enjoyed a childhood typical of the times, he learned the value of hard work from an early age. At the age of ten he was serving as an altar boy when he first heard the news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The following year in 1942, he got his first job picking up trash on the nearby Lake Michigan beach. While his payment was popcorn and ice cream from the concession stand, it was then when he vowed to own his own business one day. With WWII well underway, Kurt even donated his most prized possession, a bow-handled hunting knife he won selling magazine subscriptions to the National War effort, praying a Marine could use it. At the age of 12 in 1945, Kurt was driving a car. He received his license at 14, and by the time he was 16 he was driving a tanker truck for Harm Freye Bait Company. He eventually worked part-time for Texaco Oil Company, and also sold ice cream from a Cushman motor scooter with an insulated chest. One week he brought home more money than his father. In 1948-1949, each day after school and on Saturdays, Kurt cranked up the cement mixer and hand-made hundreds of regulation size cement blocks used by his father to build his grocery store.
By Kurt’s estimation, he considered himself of only average intelligence and with always holding down a job or two after school, his homework wasn’t always up to par. He attended St. Jeans Catholic School in Muskegon from kindergarten through the 12th grade and before graduating from St. Jeans High School with the Class of 1949, he was voted King of his senior class. It was during his school years when Kurt first felt discomfort with his last, given name, Antekeier. The teachers, (good sisters, God bless them!) always called everyone in alphabetical order. His name was always first, in every class, every time, every day, every year, year in and year out, and it made him uncomfortable, especially the way he felt about his grades.
When he graduated in 1949, it was quite a relief for Kurt, although with the high unemployment rate in Muskegon, he struck out on his own and headed to Flint, Michigan where he heard the Buick and Chevrolet Motor Division was hiring. And this way, his other three brothers could have the bed they shared to themselves! He hitchhiked as far as Lansing to stay with his grandparents, Herm and Rose Antekeier for a week and it was during this stay that Kurt learned that Antekeier was not their real name. Due to discord during the German Reich, their family name was changed for protection. He continued to have trouble with the name, and this newfound information remained on Kurt’s mind, so he vowed to one day change it. With spark and vitality, he headed to Flint where he worked as a route salesman from 1949-1950 for the Bahles Civic Park, and as usual, he always was asked to spell his name.
In 1950, Kurt received his draft notice from the U.S. Army, but having no design for the Army he packed up and went to Miami, Florida on vacation. When his money ran out, he proudly joined the U.S. Marines Corps. Kurt was at Paris Island, South Carolina for boot camp where he was referred to as “Anetaker” before being sent to California for advanced training where he was known as PFC Dick “Anvtire”. He went on to Japan before being sent to Korea with the 1st Marine Division Recon. After serving 13 months on the front lines, he returned to the states to Camp LeJuine in North Carolina where he received his honorable discharge in1953.
Kurt returned home to Muskegon and held several jobs in construction and sales before deciding to enroll in the National School of Meat Cutting, where he was often called Dick “Anteeker”. His schooling led him into supermarket management. In 1955, while working for his father, in walked a beautiful young woman named Patricia Bennitt, with her boyfriend. Needless to say, she and Kurt instantly had eyes for one another and they soon began dating. They spent their first date on Lake Michigan on a boat ride until a storm swiftly came in, but Kurt always remembered that special day, especially his beloved Pat in her orange bathing suit.
Deeply in love, Kurt and Pat were joined in marriage in 1955, at St. Jeans Catholic Church. They made their home in Muskegon and soon started a family of their own. They eventually welcomed eight healthy children into their hearts. To support his growing family, in 1958, Kurt went into sales with the E&J Gallo Wine Company and was rated as their number one, outstate salesman. In 1965, they moved their family to the Grand Rapids area where Kurt and Pat partnered in opening the first West Michigan Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream franchise which they ran in addition to his sales with Gallo. During his 12 years on the road for the company, he stated that out of hundreds of customers, only several remembered his name. After working hard for others, Kurt’s entrepreneurial ways came forth and he made the decision to begin his own business. In fact, he eventually went on to own and operate over ten successful businesses throughout the years.
In 1970, Kurt opened the “Road Haus” in Grand Haven which came to be a very successful nightclub. In 1974, he began the first Brandywine Restaurant in Grand Rapids, but by 1977, Kurt was ready to change his name. Not an easy task, he was determined and pummeled through the paperwork and requirements. On May 18, 1977, Kurt Wolfgang was officially named and from the moment it was ordered, he had the most wonderful feeling that he knew he had done the right thing for himself, his family, grandchildren, and beyond. That very year, he opened Breakfast Just Breakfast (BJB) in Eastown, later changing its name to simply, Wolfgang’s. From 1980-1983, he opened his second Brandywine Restaurant and Maximillian’s in the Comet Bowling Lanes and started another business, Spirit Filled Catering. In 1995, Kurt retired from working at Wolfgang’s with his son, Matt and a year later was back working, this time driving a Brinks Armored truck on a part-time basis. He absolutely loved it, especially wearing a uniform, a badge and carrying a gun!
During this time, he and Pat enjoyed their free time traveling in their motor home along with playing a few hands of Texas Holdem. They shared wonderful times together traveling all over the U.S. and liked going to the casinos. He was partial to the Detroit Lions and Tigers, and especially U of M football. When it came to food, Kurt was anything but a typical connoisseur, but his favorites by far always included Pat’s pork steak and hamburger gravy. He put butter on everything, even hot dogs, and always wanted to know what was for dessert. He also liked watching action and western movies. In later years he loved feeding the deer that visited his yard.
Kurt and Pat enjoyed watching EWTN together which brought their faith to a deeper level. His collection of Virgin Mary statues brought Kurt peace and joy. Faith was an integral part of Kurt’s life. He was a service oriented man and paid close attention to detail in his life and work. He was a staunch supporter of his community, and was generous to God’s Kitchen, St. Ann’s Home, the Christian Children’s Fund, World Vision, and Toys for Tots.
Kurt spent many years working hard and made a good life for his family. The older he got, the more he appreciated being with family and those he so dearly loved. He valued these times and the precious memories made together. When Pat became ill and passed away in 2004, it was no less a very difficult time for Kurt, but he busied himself with work, spent more time with those he loved and valued his wonderful friendships.
In the very heart of Kurt Wolfgang there was a man deeply committed to faith, family, and those he had the privilege of knowing. Kurt never knew a stranger and took a genuine interest in the lives of others. A faithful, caring family man, Kurt will be deeply missed for all that he was and more.
Mr. Kurt Wolfgang, age 90, beloved husband and father, passed away on June 9, 2022. He was preceded in death by his wife and partner, Patricia; brothers, Ronald and Andrew Antekeier; and sister, Lucy Chippewa. Kurt is survived by his sons, Mark Antekeier, Michael Antekeier, Matthew (Stacy) Wolfgang, Maximilian Wolfgang and Maurice Wolfgang; daughters, Martha (Reece) Hart, Monica Innskeep and Mari Wolfgang; 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are his brothers, Jerry Antekeier, Rev. Charles Antekeier, and Gerard (Mary Kathryn) Antekeier; sisters, Ann Paula Bostrom, Dolores (Ted) Kusmierz, and Virginia (Jim) Wier; and dear friend, Mary Preston. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 AM Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at Holy Spirit Parish, 2230 Lake Michigan Drive NW with Fr. Mark Peacock as celebrant. The family will receive friends on Monday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM, with a Rosary at 7:30 PM, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW and at church on Tuesday from 10:00 AM until the start of Mass. Interment in Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to God’s Kitchen or Mel Trotter Ministries. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to share a favorite memory of Kurt and to sign his online guest book.