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Life Story / Obituary
Martin Alkema was hardworking and deeply committed to his responsibilities. Deeply disciplined, Martin focused on his work and providing for his family. Martin held himself and others to high standards and never shied from his commitments. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed the gifts of lifelong friendships and the family he and his wife created together.
Born on November 27, 1931, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Martin lived a pretty normal childhood. The baby of the family, Martin enjoyed spending time with his older sister Doris. When he was seven years old, Martin’s parents divorced, and his mother moved the family to Holland, Michigan. Martin enjoyed going to the beach in Holland, fishing off the pier, and swimming.
When he was 13, Martin’s mother married Floyd Runk, who was a very positive and good influence on Martin. The family moved to McDonald Avenue in Grand Rapids, and Martin enjoyed hunting behind Oakley school where he attended.
Too small to competitively play the sports he enjoyed as a high schooler, Martin volunteered as the manager of the football, baseball, and basketball teams. He forged lifelong friendships with his buddies, Bill, Jerry, Connie, Fred, Paul, and John, during these years as well. They spent much time adventuring outdoors and generally having a good time.
As a teen, Martin and two of his friends rescued a group of young ladies from a ditch they’d accidentally driven into. One of those young ladies was Marilyn Peterson. From that fateful moment, Martin and Marilyn were a couple. After dating for a time, they married on January 19, 1952, in the pastor’s study and honeymooned at Daytona Beach in Florida.
The newlyweds settled into their life together at Martin’s parents’ home in Grand Rapids, and Martin worked at Heyboer Heating and Cooling and Blooms Mobile Station. In 1953, Martin was drafted by the Army to serve in the Korean War, and Marilyn lived with his sister before joining him in New Jersey for a couple of months. Once Martin was shipped overseas, Marilyn returned to her parents’ home in Northport, where she gave birth to their son Mike in 1954.
When Martin safely returned home, the family lived in an apartment on Pine Street, where their son Mark joined the family in 1956. The family eventually moved to a home on Lake Michigan Drive, where they lived for many years. While Marilyn was the warm heart of their home, Martin was the disciplinarian. A drill sergeant around the house, Martin was very tough in his love for his boys. When their children were young, the family had little time for vacations. Aside from a single trip to Memphis, Tennessee, the family enjoyed camping when they could. They started camping in their wagon and later moved up into tents and even a trailer. Martin would take his family and trailer to various campgrounds and get them set up before returning to the city to work during the week. Come the weekend, he would rejoin his family, help pack up, and bring them home.
Martin worked a long career for Coca-Cola as a driver for 13 years before moving into pre-sales. From 1970 to 1973, Martin attended the University of Wisconsin, earning a business degree. In time, he continued to grow his career with the company, becoming a route manager, district manager, and manager of shipping and receiving. Martin managed a large team of people; his son Mark even worked under him for a time.
Martin enjoyed golfing, fishing, and hunting small game, like deer and rabbits. He was excited to become a member of the senior golf leagues and hunted until his 80th birthday. Martin and Marilyn spent their retirement years in the quiet of Cedar Springs. After Marilyn died in 2011, and when Martin required more support, he moved to Green Acers Assisted Living.
Martin will be well remembered for his love of the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and the steadfast support he provided to his family.
Martin Alkema Jr. passed away on November 30, 2023, with his family by his side. Martin was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Marilyn, and his sister, Doris Lappins. He is survived by his sons, Mike (Barbie) Alkema and Mark (Nikki) Alkema; grandchildren, Matthew, Nathan, Andrew (Alicia), Aaron, Jessica, Mark Jr. (Brooke), Anthony, Jamie-Lynn, and Jackson. He also leaves behind nine great-grandchildren. Martin’s family will meet with friends on Tuesday, December 5, 2023, from 4-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, Alt and Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. The service to remember and celebrate Martin’s life will be held on Wednesday, December 6, 2023, at 11:00 AM at the funeral home, with visitation one hour prior. Interment in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial donation to Faith Hospice. To share a favorite memory or photo or to sign the guest book, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com