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Immanuel Lutheran Church
2 Michigan St. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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Life Story / Obituary
Reflecting on the life of Ralph Sund, words such as hardworking, dedicated, and traditional come to mind, but no greater word could describe his life than generous. A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he treasured the time he spent with his growing family sharing life’s abundant blessings with each and every one of them. There is no doubt that he will be dearly missed and fondly remembered for generations to come.
Reflecting on the 1920s, it was a period of sustained economic prosperity. The media was focused on jazz music and celebrities giving radio stations a renewed popularity. In the same year that the jukebox was invented and Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo flight across the Atlantic, Albert and Bertha (Uecker) Sund welcomed home their newborn son, Ralph Kenneth, on May 7, 1927 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His birth brought much hope and happiness to their home.
Growing up on 325 Pine St. NW, Ralph lived a typical childhood of the times. His father worked as a furniture maker and his mother was a homemaker. They raised their five boys with a strong Christian foundation and attended Immanuel Lutheran regularly for worship. Hard workers, they rarely took family vacations, so anytime they could, they gathered with family for large dinners. Ralph and his brothers had their fair share of mischief and sibling rivalry but all in all they remained very close.
Born with a sense of adventure, Ralph enjoyed taking risks in his childhood. When he was just a grade school boy, he snuck away from his parents during a parade and shook the hand of President Teddy Roosevelt during his visit to Grand Rapids without his parents noticing. He never told them for fear of being in trouble. He enjoyed ice skating at Richmond Park and also playing stickball with the neighborhood kids. By the time he was a teen, he and his brothers were playing baseball and winning championships. He attended Union High School, yet never graduated as helping out with his parents and younger siblings became more important. Later in life, however he returned to complete his GED. These early years involved working at local filling stations where Ralph gained a wealth of knowledge about automobiles and used these skills throughout his life.
A great accomplishment in his life was when he enlisted in the United States Army at the tender age of seventeen. He was eager to locate his brother Alvin when the two of them were stationed in Europe. During his years of service, he was a truck driver and was also able to play organized baseball in Germany. Mostly driving medic ambulances and supply trucks, Ralph was given special clearance to drive anywhere in the four military occupation zones controlled by the French, British, United States, and the Soviet Union. He was very proud to serve his country and remained a history lover throughout his adult years. Although he didn’t care to read many books, he never missed an opportunity to read a newspaper and many other periodicals including the Reader’s Digest. He was especially passionate about war history credited to this time in his life.
After being discharged, his driving skills landed him a job with the Associated Truck Lines in Grand Rapids. Dedicated as well as trustworthy, he eventually moved up to a dispatcher position and later a sales manager before retiring. Not to be forgotten, however, was the meeting of his special lady, Alta Mae Mercer in 1947. She was working at Doehler Jarvis Company and his truck driving job brought him to her work place often. Initially she was reluctant about Ralph but his persistence paid off when she agreed to a first date. After two years of dating, they were eager to spend the rest of their lives together and joined in marriage on July 23, 1949 at Ralph’s home church Immanuel Lutheran. That day, Ralph, Mae, and her three year old son, Ronald, became a family. Later, Ralph adopted Ronald as his very own. They later welcomed two more children; Douglas and Susanne.
As a father, Ralph was strict yet loving. They never missed their annual summer trip to Mae’s parent’s farm in Illinois. For two weeks the family experienced farm living and enjoyed caring for the animals. Later, he and Mae also purchased property with a small trailer on Wabasis Lake for enjoying boating, fishing, swimming, and barbecuing with their family. In the winter months, he would pour them a backyard ice skating rink which would keep them busy for hours! All in all, he enjoyed his role as a father, and wanted nothing but the best for his family.
Ralph had many special pastimes. He and Mae were longtime fans of the Detroit Tigers. They also enjoyed playing golf. Once he was retired, they took a very memorable vacation to Hawaii and always talked of the wonders of the trip. Ralph also continued his commitment to volunteerism with his work at Mary Free Bed Hospital and with the Grand Rapids Police Department Auxiliary. A meat and potatoes guy, Ralph loved eating his lovely bride’s home cooked meals over any restaurant in town. Yet, he would, on occasion, give her a night off and order takeout from Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Buster Bar or cake from Dairy Queen.
Blessed with grandchildren, Ralph loved spending time with them. He was much more easy-going with his grandkids, giving them much more liberties than his own kids. Naturally nurturing and a pleasure to be around, many other children affectionately called him grandpa over the years. He was very accepting when his daughter adopted and fostered children. He always treated them special and they never doubted his love for them. Described as a funny joke teller, a handyman, and a faithful husband, Ralph lived his life to the fullest and walked in faith. He modeled a giving and generous heart and left a wonderful legacy of putting others first. May they find comfort in knowing that they were blessed by his unconditional love and may they treasure his memories forevermore.
Ralph Kenneth Sund, age 93, went to be with his Lord on Saturday, October 24, 2020. He was born in Grand Rapids, MI in the spring of 1927 to the late Albert and Bertha Sund. Along with his parents, Ralph is preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Alta Mae and their sons; Douglas and Ronald. He is survived by his daughter, Sue (Brian) McGibbon, numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, brother, Donald Sund and many nieces and nephews. Ralph proudly served his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1945. Funeral services officiated by Pastor Tyler Carter will be held on Wednesday, October 28 at 11:00 am at Immanuel Lutheran (2 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Visitation will be held for one hour prior to the service. Ralph will be laid to rest next to his wife and sons in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Immanuel Lutheran Church. You may sign Ralph’s guest book and leave a memory of him by visiting his web page at www.heritagelifestory.com