Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Rich Ekkens

May 26, 1932 - March 15, 2019
Grand Rapids, MI



Sunday, May 5, 2019
2:30 PM EDT
Oakview Community Church
4242 Plainfield Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525


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.

American Cancer Society, W. Michigan Area Service Ctr.
129 Jefferson Avenue SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 364-6121
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Oakview Community Church
4242 Plainfield Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Life Story / Obituary


A faithful servant of His Lord, there was no denying that Rich Ekkens loved his family. A man of his generation, he showed his love through his hard work ethic and providing for those entrusted to his care. It was through his unwavering faith, devotion to family and dedication to work that Rich served as a wonderful role model. Spending time with his beloved family was at the center of his heart where he humbly and joyfully followed the Lord’s direction. Gone yet never to be forgotten, Rich leaves much to be remembered.

By 1932, the economy continued to deteriorate as a result of the Great Depression. Unemployment increased to over 24 percent with an astounding 13 million out of work. Many struggled to keep their families fed and a roof over their heads. Even so, the entertainment industry grew by leaps and bounds and was a welcome deviation from everyday worries. Yet for Allen and Emma (Greschke) Ekkens, the year offered hope and promise as they celebrated the birth of their son, Richard Allen Ekkens on May 26, 1932 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The youngest of three children, young Rich joined his older siblings, Alvin and Mildred.

In his early years, Rich’s family made their home on the city’s northwest side before moving across town to Burr Oak Street NE where he attended the local schools. He went on to attend Creston High School and following high school, Rich began working at Peterson Plumbing which launched his lifetime career in plumbing.

From his earliest beginnings, faith played a vital role in Rich’s upbringing. His family was members at Broadway Christian Reformed Church where a deep faith was instilled in Rich’s heart that would help define his life.

While in high school, Rich went on a double date with a friend where he was set-up on a blind date with Evelyn Antonides. From the moment they met it was NOT love at first sight yet by spending more time together, Rich and Evelyn’s relationship grew. Over time, they fell in love and and on August 1, 1952, they were happily married at East Leonard Christian Reformed Church. Before settling into married life, the newlyweds honeymooned up north in Michigan near Torch Lake. Their first home together was a rented apartment while Rich served in the Naval Reserves.

Although the Korean War would soon come to an end, Rich and Eve had been married a year before he eventually enlisted to serve in the U.S. Navy. After he completed his training, Eve joined Rich in Little Creek, Virginia where he was stationed. Rich enjoyed his time in the Navy and learned much, although each time he sailed he’d get quite sick for the first few days. Following Rich’s honorable discharge, he and Eve returned home to Grand Rapids to pick up where they left off. Rich also returned to his work with Peterson Plumbing, eventually becoming a Master plumber. He would then work for Howard Huizenga Plumbers where he remained for many years. In addition, Rich also earned his certification in welding, a trade he learned while in the Navy. Years later, Rich completed his career working in maintenance with the Grand Rapids Board of Education where he worked for over ten years. While there, numerous friendships were formed and he still gathered with them occasionally for coffee.

Back home after the service, Rich and Eve found a home being built on Ellsmere Street NE. Quite the handyman, Rich was able to do most of the plumbing and much of the finish work inside the house until they made it their forever home. It was here where they raised their family that grew to include two fine sons, Mike and Mark. As a father, Rich was simply the best. He always made time for his boys and always handy around the house, he’d often have his boys help to teach them if they showed interest. Most importantly, Rich endeavored to serve as a role model to his sons of a godly man; someone who loved the Lord, was obedient to His will and demonstrated that to everyone he encountered.

Rich was also a man of routine all while creating a regular and stable life for his family. As a family they gathered around the dinner table at the same time each day, sharing scripture, spending time as a family and attending church together each Sunday. Their family attended Arcadia Christian Reformed Church for many years and then in later years, Rich and Eve became members of Oakview Community Church.

Although Rich was never a real outgoing fellow, he worked hard, was friendly and enjoyed the friendships of many. As he and Eve approached retirement, they began visiting New Port Richey, Florida. What began as a couple of weeks each winter soon became several months as they wintered there for 24 years. While in Florida, Rich was much more social and became involved in many activities. Additionally, he and Eve enjoyed golfing for several years but eventually began biking, which quickly became their favorite activity together. At one point they came to ride 2-3 thousand miles per year! Rich had other hobbies too, like woodworking. Throughout the years he built many small and medium size projects in the woodshop in his basement.

Grandchildren were a very important part of Rich and Eve’s lives. Rich especially loved seeing them and attending their activities and events whenever he could. He was a great supporter and when they were young he loved nothing more than getting down on the floor and playing with them. Rich was also a wonderful example as a faithful servant of the Lord to the grandkids, also, in addition to being a consummate role model.

In July of 2018, Rich began having health problems and was eventually treated for Mesothelioma. Over the last month he spent in the hospital he had time to visit with his family and to even meet his youngest, new great-grandchild. For those he leaves behind, a tremendous void is now left yet Rich’s family has the assurance of being reunited one day. In the meantime, they cling close to treasured memories and lessons taught and learned from a man so deeply loved and admired.

Richard A. Ekkens, age 86 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on March 15, 2019. He was preceded in death by his brother, Alvin Ekkens and his sister, Mildred Penning. Rich is survived by his wife of 66 years, Evelyn; their children, Mike (Cindy) and Mark (Susan); grandchildren, Dustin (Abby), Nathan (Angela), Erin (Joe) Rivard, Kristen (Kyle) Wartella, Jacob (Molly) and Brett (Sophia); as well as 12 great-grandchildren. Cremation has taken place. The service to remember and celebrate Rich's life will be held on Sunday, May 5, 2019 at 2:30 PM at Oakview Reformed Church, 2424 Plainfield Ave NE. To read more about his life, to share a memory or photo of Rich, to sign his online guestbook, or to find up to date service information, please visit www.lifestorynet.com.