Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Louis D. Kramer, it is easy to see that his faith permeated everything he did throughout his life’s journey. He was a lifelong educator who lived to inspire all who were near in ways both great and small. A devoted family man, Lou considered his roles as a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather to be his highest calling and his greatest blessing. In everything he did he gave it his all, and his zest for life was contagious to all who were near. Deeply loved, Lou will be forever missed.
It was great to be an American during the decade that we commonly recall as the Roaring Twenties. Cars became more affordable during this time thanks to the wide implementation of the assembly line, and both Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh took the world of flight to new heights. Also during this exciting time was a time of great celebration in the lives of Frank and Edna (Gilbert) Kramer as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Louis Darwin on December 14, 1925, in the family home on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids. He was the older of two as he was joined in his family by his younger brother, Charles. Lou’s father worked at Baker Furniture while his mother had more than enough to keep her busy at home. As the reality of the Great Depression set in during the 1930s, his family felt the extreme strain, which caused them to move near his mother’s family in Sand Lake. They lived on a farm there, which meant they could grow and raise their own food.
In many ways Lou was a typical young boy of his generation. As a family then were members at Berean Baptist Church, establishing his faith as a cornerstone in Lou’s life during his formative years. As a student he attended local schools including Creston High School, but after they moved he left school for a time. In addition to holding down his studies, Lou had his fair share of farm chores. If he had down time, he could often be found out playing with friends.
Right after graduating from Cedar Springs High School, Lou was ready for big changes. Just one day after he graduated, he left for basic training in the Army. Two months later, Lou was on a troop carrier traveling across the Atlantic, eventually landing in Southern France. He was part of the Rainbow Division, advancing North while troops moved South from the Normandy Invasion. The troops met at the Battle of the Bulge. Lou was shot there, and later he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service. After recovering, first in France, then at Fort Custer, he returned home. Back on American soil, Lou started school at Western Michigan to become a teacher. He played on the baseball team there, and it has been said that he was a talented athlete.
New and exciting changes were in store for Lou when he met the young woman of his dreams while working on a road crew in Cedar Springs. He had stopped in a local drugstore and couldn’t help but notice a younger woman working at the counter. Her name was Doloris Zenk, and the sparks soon flew. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Lou and Doloris were married on June 17, 1949, at the local Methodist church. The newlyweds then took a honeymoon in the beautiful Upper Peninsula.
After graduating from Western, Lou found a job at Pittsford, just outside Hillsdale. Later on, he did earn his master’s degree. After one year, he took the advice of a longtime friend and took a teaching position and a football coaching position in Howard City. This is where he and Doloris started their family. Together Lou and his wife welcomed two children, Kim and Korrine, into their hearts and home. The same childhood friend told him of another job, this time in Grand Rapids. Lou and Doloris moved their family to Grand Rapids, and he began his longtime career at Wyoming Public Schools where he taught World and United States history for over 30 years. His students always enjoyed him as a teacher, and he was a well-liked coach as well. Over the years he coached a variety of sports. Lou also continued playing baseball, even playing on the local leagues at Sullivan Field. For years he was a left fielder and power hitter. Lou was an avid sports fan who loved all sports and stayed involved throughout his life. In time, Lou became athletic director at the school and later, assistant principal. Upon retiring, he started working with the Ottawa Kent Athletic League, eventually becoming executive director. He was instrumental in developing the various OK conferences that are still being used today. Lou also enjoyed referring.
From the moment they moved to Grand Rapids, Lou and his family plugged right in to Western Michigan life. They built a home on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, and this was the place Lou and Doloris called home for the rest of their married life. Lou also became very involved with his church, Berean Baptist Church. In addition, he took part in several other projects with other leaders from the church such as establishing Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College and Grand Rapids Baptist Academy. Their family enjoyed spending time together, including on an annual summer vacation for two weeks when they camped all over the country. As a father, Lou was firm but always fair.
During his retirement years, Lou didn’t really slow down much. He and Doloris enjoyed some traveling, and over the years they went to Europe a couple of times, Hawaii, throughout the Caribbean, and they spent many Christmas holidays in Nassau, Bahamas. They enjoyed many years of playing tennis together as well. Lou loved hunting and fishing. Although he wasn’t a big talker, this changed some as he got older. This was especially true about his time in the military. Lou began opening up about his time in the service and began traveling to high school and colleges to speak about this time spent serving in WWII. For years Lou also kept an office with the OK League, scheduling officials. He and Doloris were thrilled to become grandparents, and he saw his grandchildren often. Lou loved watching them, and he was a natural leader in the family.
Although he was more quiet and reserved by nature, Louis Kramer was passionate about inspiring students, bringing his faith to life, and making priceless memories with his loved ones. An educator through and through, he was instrumental in athletics in various ways in the community he called home through much of his life. Lou will be forever remembered by all who were blessed to know and love him.
Louis D. Kramer, age 94 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on November 4, 2020. Lou was proud to serve in the Army, being awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in World War II, particularly in the Battle of the Bulge. Lou was a passionate educator, working many years as a history teacher at Wyoming Park Schools. He also spent 50 years involved in High School Athletics in and around Grand Rapids: as a coach, athletic director, referee, and as Executive Director of the Ottawa Kent Athletic League. He was a lifelong member of Berean Baptist Church and used his leadership skills assisting in the start of Baptist Bible College and Grand Rapids Baptist Academy. Lou is survived by his wife, Doloris; their children Kim (Edith) Kramer and Korrine (Phillip) Rogers; grandchildren Nicholas Kramer, Kari (Jeremy) Jones, Troy (Sarah) VanWingen, Tara (Ted) Westbrook, Alex (Kate) VanWingen, Amanda Rogers, Jessica Rogers and Kevin (Abbie) Rogers; great grandchildren Sienna, Sawyer, Charlotte, Grey, Laura, Gene, Zelda, Josephine, and Sully. A service to celebrate Lou’s life will be held in the spring. A private graveside service was held at Blythefield Memorial Gardens. To read more about Lou, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com