Saturday, November 21, 2020
2:00 PM EST
Washington Park Memorial Gardens
1205 Richmond St NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Please respect COVID 19 restrictions by social distancing and utilizing face masks.
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
With a warm smile, unwavering faith, and a generous heart, Ralph Junior Koll, lived a life of Christian service. Ralph embraced marriage, fatherhood, career, and community with humility, conviction, and commitment. He embodied the principles of his faith, welcoming each person as a friend, and embracing life's joys and sorrows with equal gratitude. Ralph gifted each of us with a role model for how to live an authentic and heart-centered life. An inspiration to all who were blessed to know him, Ralph will long be remembered and everso missed.
1925 proved especially prosperous with the advent of many remarkable debuts. These included the first motel, the dedication of Mount Rushmore, the opening of the first Sears Robuck store, the first issue of the New Yorker and broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry, the election of our nation's first female governor, the founding of Chrysler Corporation, the publishing of The Great Gatsby, and the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. This vibrant time grew even more brilliant on September 2, as Ralph and Nellie Koll welcomed their son Ralph into their hearts and home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Born in a time of plenty and growing up during the Great Depression, Ralph's early years were filled with struggles and delights that formed the firm foundation upon which he built the rest of his life. When Ralph was seven, his father left the family, never to return. Despite the hard ache that came with his father's absence and the financial struggles of the times, Ralph found much comfort in the many deep connections within his home. Living with his mother, younger brother, Henry, and maternal grandmother on Elmwood St. NE, in Grand Rapids, Ralph learned the importance of faith, family, and resiliency. Regardless of the hardships they faced, his grandmother remained sweet and content; her example left an indelible mark on Ralph and inspired him to develop a similar way of being; he consciously practiced an attitude of gratitude, choosing to find the blessings in every moment, especially the tough ones. He was incredibly close to his maternal Uncle Simon, whose care and companionship became a powerful influence on Ralph. His mother was a homemaker. She also held various jobs outside the home to help provide for the family, including working at Zondervan Family Book Store.
Ralph was very industrious as a boy. He had a paper route to make extra money and also walked very far to work for Mr. Perkins, a local farmer. Farmer Perkins took a liking to Ralph and quickly promoted him to "Straw Boss," a position of authority over the other kids working at the farm. As a young boy, Ralph was scolded by his mother for spending so much money on what she thought was extravagant when he found a $5.00 bill while delivering papers and bought an apple pie for her. It proved a memory that lasted his entire lifetime. Ralph loved playing softball as a young boy, student, and throughout his life. He also liked collecting baseball cards. As an adult, he claimed his mother kept him from being a millionaire when she threw out all his valuable baseball cards after he left home for the Army.
Ralph attended Creston Christian School and Grand Rapids Christian High School. As a proud member of the class of 1943, Ralph took his studies seriously. His exceptional talents in the Business classes caught his teacher's attention, and it became clear that additional higher-level classes needed to be created to continue to challenge him. After graduating from high school, Ralph joined the U.S. Army and served his country with his childhood friend, Bill Koning. After completing boot camp in Georgia, Ralph was station in Germany with the 86th infantry. After a 30-day furlough, he returned to the Philippians. Ralph earned a bronze star for his exemplary service and was discharged in 1946.
As a teen, Ralph had the good fortune of becoming reacquainted with Jean Klaasen. Though they were baptized on the same day and knew one another as young children, they'd lost touch when Jean's family moved. Ralph and Jean had attended the same church their whole lives, and they recognized their romantic connection at the church youth group. They became very close by writing letters when Ralph was away in the Army. While home on leave, their romance blossomed, and they became engaged. Their engagement motivated Ralph to survive, and soon, he returned home to the embrace of his loving fiancee.
Ralph and Jean married on November 28, 1946, at Creston Christian Reformed Church, just seven months after Ralph's return from war. The date was particularly special; it was Thanksgiving Day that year. Jean and Ralph had so much to be thankful for, and their anniversary was always a day for remembering and expressing their gratitude for one another.
The newlyweds spent their first year in an apartment on the Westside of Grand Rapids. There, they were blessed to welcome their firstborn son. They soon bought on Emerald Ave. NE in Grand Rapids, where their family grew to include four more children. Ralph relished in family life. With his beloved at his side, he dedicated himself to creating a loving home for Kenneth, Carol, Gordon, David, and Richard. He was a fair disciplinarian who included his children in all that he did. In 1957 the family moved to Jennette Ave. NW, where Ralph and Jean remained until retirement.
Ralph and Jean centered their family life on their faith, modeling their beliefs, guiding their children with strong morals and values. Ralph was a hard-working and loving father who gifted his children with the precious gift of witnessing how a good man treats a good woman and the sacredness of marriage. The family enjoyed strong traditions that included celebrating holidays with extended family and gathering for big meals with lots of food. The family also enjoyed camping vacations with one memorable car trip to Florida in 1964 in the family's new Ford sedan, where they stayed with Jean's relations.
For 40 years, Ralph worked as a faithful employee of Keeler Brass. Ralph and Jean were very engaged in their church. Over the years, Ralph gave much time in service of his faith community, holding various positions, including being an Elder, Deacon, Sunday School teacher, and bible school instructor. He had a passion for evangelizing. Once their children were grown, and upon retiring, Ralph and Jean welcomed more opportunities to devote even more time to ministry. For three years, they had the privilege of working as the Directors at the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds in Grand Haven. They enjoyed serving the Lord together as a unit and spent time being involved with the CRWRC (Christian Reformed World Relief Committee). Jean and Ralph spent most of their time in that ministry volunteering in Florida with hurricane relief. They also enjoyed a few trips to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where they served with the Mississippi Christian Family Services.
In 2006, Ralph moved to Edison Christian Independent Living after Jean unexpectedly died. Though he missed his wife deeply, he found comfort in the loving community at Edison. With a signature commitment to being of service, Ralph continued to lead the weekly Men's Bible Study at West Leonard Christian Reformed, a position he'd held since 1992. He also led Bible study twice a month for the community at Edison. During his alone time, he rigorously studied the bible and enjoyed listening to gospel music. His favorite songs were those of the Gaither Vocal Band. Ralph also continued to enjoy any time spent in the good company of his children and grandchildren, always centering himself in Godly contentment.
While it is hard to imagine life in the absence of Ralph's steadfast presence, may we find comfort in knowing he has been welcomed to his heavenly home and is united with his Lord and Savior. May we also find comfort in carrying his legacy of love and faith forward. With each moment we center ourselves in God's grace, freely give of our time and talents, and give thanks for our blessings, we celebrate the many ways Ralph gifted our lives. And in this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.
Ralph Koll, aged 95, of Grand Rapids MI, passed from this life into his heavenly home with God on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Jean W. [Klaasen], and his brother Henry Koll. Ralph is survived by his children Ken and Sue Koll, Carol and Rev. Ren Vandesteeg, Gordon and Marcia Koll, Rev. David and Sally Koll and Richard and Kim Koll, as well as by 12 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, 3 great-great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews and sister-in-law, Dorothy Koll. In lieu of floral tributes, memorial gifts to the Christian Rest Home or West Side Christian School would be appreciated. Visitation hours are scheduled for Friday, November 20, 2020, from 2- 4 and 6-8 PM at the Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, Alt Shawmut Chapel (2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). Ralph will be laid to rest next to Jean in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. To read more of Ralph's life story and to leave a memory or condolence, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com