Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Roger Datema Sr

May 6, 1944 - November 20, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, November 24, 2020
5:00 PM to 7:30 PM EST
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Van Strien Creston Chapel
1833 Plainfield Ave., N.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
(616) 361-2613

Capacity limits and masks will be enforced.

Driving Directions


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.

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation
21301 S Tamiami Trl Ste 320 PMB 226
Estero, FL 33928
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With great kindness and care, Roger Allen Datema Sr lived a life rich in family and friends. Roger welcomed each person as a friend and could strike up a delightful conversation with just about anybody. He listened with sincerity and empathy while reflecting the goodness in others. Roger possessed an indomitable spirit that inspired him to embrace life joys and hardships with equal gratitude. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Roger never hesitated to give of his time and talents in service of others. Revered by many, Roger will long be remembered and ever so missed.

1944 marked a time when all American lives were directly impacted by the war effort in Europe. While countless young people actively served in the trenches of WWII, those who remained stateside poured their energies into supporting the war effort in any way they could. As Americans welcomed the end of meat rationing and began planting Victory Gardens, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill and became the only U.S. president to be elected to a fourth term. As the nation looked toward peace, Claude and Betty (Parm) Datema celebrated their hopes for the future as they welcomed their son Roger into their hearts and home on May 6.

The third of the six Datema kids, Roger grew up in an active home on Union Street on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, where he enjoyed the comforts of a loving and supportive family. Roger spent much time playing with friends in the neighborhood, and at an early age, he developed a great love for fishing. He and his brother Claude spent many an hour casting their lines and enjoying the outdoors. He also enjoyed the short walk to his grandma’s house near Alpine and Three Mile Road. His first jobs included a paper route and caddying at Kent Country Club in the summer months. After shoveling the sidewalk in the winter, he was rewarded with going for ice cream. Once home, he would make floats with the ice cream and red pop.

Roger attended Creston High School, and though he loved sports, his small stature kept him from playing. Instead, he became the manager for the basketball and football teams. After graduating from high school, he took classes at Grand Rapids Junior College and began working at Montgomery Wards in Rogers Plaza, which required riding the bus a lot.

While working at Montgomery Wards, Roger had the good fortune of meeting Kathleen “Kathy” Krieve, one of his coworkers who hung out with the same group of friends. After getting to know one another in the group while going to movies and out to eat at Braan’s Restaurant, they grew closer and began to date. In time, the young couple set their eyes and hearts on sharing the future and became engaged to be married.

In April of 1966, Roger enlisted in the Air Force. Disappointed when an expected leave following basic training was not made available, Roger had to persuade his superiors for a long weekend to return home. He arrived home on Wednesday in June, and he and Kathy married on Friday at her family home. On Monday, the newlyweds moved to Mississippi and officially began their 54-year adventure.

Nearly a year later, when Roger was sent to Okinawa, Kathy returned to Michigan. During his continued service, Roger worked primarily on communications installations and repair on aircraft. After a year apart, Roger returned to the States and was stationed in Maine, where he and his beloved reunited. In time, Roger trained as an electronics instructor for the Airforce, which required the couple to live in Illinois for a couple of years before moving to Biloxi, Mississippi.

While they were in Biloxi, the happy couple was delighted to welcome their children into their family. Their son, Roger, and daughter, Melissa, quickly became the centers of their world. Roger and Kathy worked as a wonderful team to provide their children with a warm and loving home. Roger was an active dad who parented with tremendous warmth and care. While he insisted on an orderly home, he also modeled a healthy balance between work and play. A steady presence and source of comfort, Roger was the one his kids would seek out when they were sick or needed help with homework or sports. His patient teaching and unwavering support were powerful gifts for his children, as was the way he and Kathy modeled a healthy, strong marriage.

Upon completing his service with the Air Force, Roger and Kathy returned to Grand Rapids, settling with their family in their house on Emerald NE. In time, they moved to their longtime home on Breckenridge Drive. Roger worked for the Kent County Sheriff Department, working on the communications devices for various county departments. He spent the rest of his career with the department, enjoying working long days with his hands and lending his talents in the service of his community. He also finished his education, earning a business degree through Aquinas College.

At home, Roger focused on his family, which included many friends. He and Kathy were a pretty social couple; everywhere they went, Roger seemed to always know someone. A lot of lifelong friendships were made with their neighbors. They were also involved in bowling and golf leagues and were members of an investment club with these friends. Rogers’s passion for sports inspired him to coach his son and manage the little league umpires. He was involved in Athletics in the Northview area for many years and was fondly known by many as “Coach Datema.” After retiring, he worked at Blythefield Country Club for several years, doing odd jobs and locker manager, and always looking for ways to be of service.

Roger and Kathy’s home was often the place for large family get-togethers. All were welcome in their home. They didn’t draw lines when inviting family, frequently blending both sides of their family. For several years, the family enjoyed renting a cottage on either Lake Huron or near Traverse City for a summer getaway. A natural animal lover, Roger enjoyed feeding the squirrels and the family pets. Though they often had dogs, he really preferred cats.

As their family grew to include grandchildren, Roger and Kathy’s joy grew even greater. They spent as much time as possible with Brooke and Mitchell. Roger delighted in picking them up before school, attending their sporting events, and sharing his love of fishing, which often resulted in a delicious fish fry! Even when faced with the daunting limitations of pulmonary fibrosis, Roger’s stubborn determination to share in his grandchildren’s lives proved a powerful motivator. As the disease progressed and required him to spend much of his time at home, he fought to welcome his grandson home from military service and to see his granddaughter marry just a few months ago.

Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Roger’s steadfast presence. May we find comfort in knowing he is free of pain and discomfort and has been reunited with his loved ones who have gone before him. May we also find comfort in carrying his legacy forward. With each game we cheer on, line we cast, feast we share, and special occasion we share with our loved ones, we celebrate the many ways Roger gifted our lives. In this way, we keep his memory alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.

Roger Allen Datema, age 76 of Grand Rapids, passed away November 20, 2020, in the comforts of his home. Roger was preceded in death by his parents, Claude and Betty Datema; his son, Roger Datema Jr; and his sister, Sharon Hurley. Roger is survived by his wife, Kathleen; his daughter Melissa (Kurt) Hein; grandchildren Brooke (Alex) Westdorp and Mitchell Hein; siblings Claude (Sally) Datema, Linda (Tom) Himebaugh, Lonnie Datema and Dannie (Diane) Datema; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law Roger Hurley, Sylvia Steinberg and Charles (Sandy) Krieve as well as many nieces and nephews.

Friends are invited to visit with Roger’s family on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, from 5-7:30 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Van Strien Creston Chapel. A private service will be held separately.

For those who wish, memorial contributions to the Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation are appreciated. To read more about Roger, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com