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Life Story / Obituary
With a deep love for his Lord, Ray Winkel was every bit a devoted and dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and friend. With faith as his guide, he was a wonderful example for his children to live by. His servant’s heart lived for helping others, and his patience was without end. Ray also had a love for people in general, and could easily strike up a conversation with anyone. Selfless in all ways, Ray lived with integrity and devotion to his Lord and the family he so treasured. He will be long remembered and deeply missed.
With the onset of the Great Depression, by 1930 the unemployment rate had already reached astounding levels. Prohibition was law of the land while gangsters ran the streets of the big cities. Despite these trying times, entertainment and America’s passion for baseball was a welcome deviation from everyday worries. Yet for Ralph and Sarah (Wondergem) Winkel, the year brought much hope and promise when on July 29, 1930 in Grand Rapids, Michigan they celebrated the birth of their son, Raymond.
The sixth of eventually seven children, Ray grew up alongside his siblings, Dick, Cornelius, Elizabeth, Jeanette, Josephine, and Willard in their family home on the city’s Northeast side. His father worked as an insurance salesman and also managed the family grocery store at the corner of Leonard and Fuller while his mother looked after their household and took care of boarders. With seven children in tow, the Depression was extremely tough as they struggled to maintain their business. As charter members of East Leonard Christian Reformed Church, they relied on their strong faith.
Ray was close with his siblings and each day they walked to school together. Despite the times, Ray enjoyed boyhood adventures with his siblings and neighborhood friends. He held close fond memories of visiting extended family who owned a farm in Vogel Center, Michigan. During these visits, his family would all pack into one car and make the trip to visit his cousins and enjoy time spent on their farm. Beginning at the age of eight, Ray began living and working on the farm each summer which taught him an impeccable work ethic he carried his whole life through. Family get-togethers and the holidays were also an important part of Ray’s upbringing and heritage, which he continued with his own family.
During his youth, Ray enjoyed the outdoors with his many cousins and friends. Although he never much cared for working on cars, he had an eye for them and particularly liked driving them. From the start, Ray was a likable young man. His easy way with strangers afforded him the blessing of many close friendships throughout his life. Through church and school, he developed a love for gospel music and sang for pleasure throughout his life. He graduated from Central Christian High School.
With the Korean War well underway, Ray was soon drafted to serve in the U.S. Army. For 22 days he traveled by ship on the long trek overseas and never once got sea sick. Due to the ship crossing the International Dateline on Christmas Day, he never had Christmas that year. On their arrival, Ray’s platoon was asked if anyone knew how to type and Ray stepped forward as he had taken a typing class in high school. As fate would have it, he was given an office assignment and during the entire two years he was stationed in Korea he never saw the inside of a foxhole.
Ray returned home to Michigan following the service and worked odd jobs he could find, including Eberhard’s Grocery Store. Dorothy Slachter from Lucas, Michigan was a young college student attending St. Mary’s Nursing School. One weekend, when Ray and a friend planned to drive up North to hunt, Dorothy asked him for a ride to her nearby hometown. Ray and Dorothy shared great conversation and a wonderful visit on that car ride, and once back in Grand Rapids, Ray asked Dorothy out.
Their first date included a movie, and for the next two years they dated which came to include abiding love. On November 18, 1955, they were happily married at Dorothy’s parent’s house in Lucas and a dinner reception was held in nearby Cadillac, Michigan. After the reception, they ran into a terrible snowstorm while heading home to Grand Rapids, and were forced to spend the night in a little cabin in Big Rapids. They shared a laugh when they saw the sign on the door that read "Done Roaming." Later that week they traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where they enjoyed a memorable honeymoon.
The newlyweds settled into an apartment on Crescent Street for a short time before buying a house at 1256 Kelsey Street NE where Ray’s sister, Elizabeth lived right next door with her family. Although they had to borrow money for the down payment, the house was theirs and it was where they would raise their four children, making treasured memories along the way. Daughter, Bonnie came along in 1956, followed by their son, John in 1958. Nancy was born in 1961, and Amy completed their family in 1965.
Ray was a devoted family man. As a father he was loving and supportive, and his children could easily come to him for advice and direction. Ray had patience like no other. He taught Dorothy to drive along with all the kids and also taught them to golf. By 1960, Ray was working for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier, yet even on his days off he’d work with his brother in law, Clare, painting houses to earn extra money.
Ray and Dorothy were committed to a Christian education for their children. Although difficult at times, they made many sacrifices to do so. It paid off as Ray witnessed his children thrive in their faith and secure a solid education for their futures. With his work rotation, every sixth Saturday Ray and Dorothy packed up their family to visit Dorothy's mother up north. In addition to these special times, they also spent fun-filled family vacations in Florida, Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls.
A lifelong member of East Leonard Christian Reformed Church, Ray’s undeniable servant’s heart shone bright through his church activities. There he served as an elder, deacon, and was a member of the Special Projects Group and played on the church softball league for years. Although he liked some of the newer music in church, he preferred the sacred hymns he came to know and love from his youth.
Ray was a good conversationalist and had a gift for remembering names and faces. When he worked as a postman he could even remember people and their street numbers. When grandchildren came along, Ray was overjoyed. Ever loving and involved in the lives of his grandchildren, he was sure to attend their concerts, games and other activities.Ray's grandchildren and great grandchildren were the happy recipients of his loving hugs, and time spent in the big rocking chair. In retirement, Ray and Dorothy traveled to Hawaii and wintered in Florida for a number of years. From his early years and beyond, Ray loved nothing more than some of his favorite delicacies which included peanut butter sandwiches. He also favored cheeseburgers with “nothin on it”, one of Dorothy’s delicious beef roasts, mashed potatoes and raisin custard pie.
From meager beginnings, Ray Winkel lived with integrity and a hard work ethic. Most importantly, he achieved a life filled with the love of family, and a legacy never to be forgotten. Ray never lost sight of where he came from and appreciated every blessing that came his way. Truly a man of God, Ray’s patience and perseverance throughout his life is to be admired. With faith, he served his Lord and family well and for those he leaves behind, Ray will be remembered with great love and affection.
Raymond Winkel, age 88, of Grand Rapids was welcomed into his heavenly home on October 17, 2018. He was preceded in death by his parents, three sisters and by three brothers. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Dorothy; children, Bonnie (Bob) McGinnis, John (Sharon) Winkel, Nancy Markosky, Amy (Tom) Adams; grandchildren, Colleen (Mark) Bolek, Rachel (Ben) Gurk, Jonathan (Andrea) Winkel, Amber (Garrett) Westfall, Jenna Winkel, Brianna Winkel, Dan (Roxanne) Markosky, Ben (Carmen) Markosky, Jack (Mandi) Markosky, Joel Adams, Elise Adams; great-grandchildren, Evan, Claire, Emily, Nathan, Isaac, and Adalyn; many nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held Monday, October 22, 2018, 1:00 PM at East Leonard Christian Reformed Church, 1027 Leonard Street NE. Friends may visit with family beginning at noon. Interment will be in Fairplains Cemetery. Please visit Ray's personal web page to read more of his life story and to leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.