Friday, August 7, 2020
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM EDT
1400 Maynard Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Mask and social distancing requested
Life Story / Obituary
Ron Kooistra was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many. His vibrant personality could light up any room. A generous, driven, and dedicated man, he lived his life with great passion. Ron selflessly modeled acceptance for each and every person he met. Although he will be deeply missed, Ron leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories for his family and special friends to cherish for years to come.
After many years of suffering through the Depression and World War II, the year 1949 brought much-needed prosperity. Televisions and cars were gaining in popularity in a growing consumer society. In the midwest town of Lake County, Indiana, Valentine and Annette (Hubert) Kooistra welcomed home their newborn son, Ronald Jay, on January 20th. Born the second child of four children, his birth brought great joy to their lives.
Ron was born with an innate sense of adventure and never settled for mediocrity in his life. His family relocated to Grand Rapids where his father took a job with Bylsma Dairy. Growing up on Pine Street NW, Ron attended West Side Christian School where his feisty personality made anyone lucky to call him friend. They knew that there would never be a dull moment when Ron was around! He stayed active by swimming at the West YMCA and finding the usual amount of childhood mischief in the meantime. When he was at the tender age of fifteen, he met Jack Wielhouwer, the owner of the local Jack’s Service Center, who allowed him to live in the back of his shop and learn how to work on cars. Within a short time, he was able to afford his first car, a ‘55 Ford, which he purchased for fifty dollars. Always living on the edge, he would drive it to school without a license or insurance! Working at the shop gave him an opportunity to do what he loved. It was no surprise that he preferred the shop over school! As a matter of fact, Ron spent a good portion of time coming up with creative ways to be kicked out of school! Once, he showed up with a lit cigarette in his mouth and his plan worked! He spent the rest of his day hopping a train to Chicago and watching a Cubs game! Remarkably, he still held a spot on the National Honor Society and graduated with the Class of 1967 from Grand Rapids Christian High School. Ron had strongly considered enlisting in the war effort in Vietnam, but his long time teacher and guidance counselor, Tom Duthler, saw great potential in him and encouraged him to go to college. Driven to succeed, Ron paid his own way and before he knew it was graduating from Calvin College in 1971.
Not to be forgotten was the meeting of the special woman who would change his life for the better, Marsha Venema. The two of them met at the library on Calvin’s campus. She was immediately struck by Ron’s charming demeanor and good looks and he was taken by her smarts and smile. Although they dated for a while, they broke up for a short time until Marsha pursued him. He was moved by her persistence especially of her singing the popular ballad Johnny Angel by Shelley Fabares and changing the words to Ronny Angel! The happy couple joined in marriage on August 1, 1969 at LaGrave Ave Christian Reformed Church! They returned home after their romantic honeymoon to Houghton Lake, so Ron could wrap up his time at Calvin before he was later enrolled at Valparaiso University School of Law. Committed to continuing seamlessly through his program, Ron would work the steel mills in Gary, Indiana during the summer months to meet the fall tuition bills. Ron’s strong work ethic was shown in his ability to balance work and school while at the same time raising a family! While still in law school, he and Marsha welcomed home two sons, Mike and Matt. Once his credits were complete, he moved his family to Grand Rapids, where he continued working for DeMaat Brothers Painting while studying for the bar exam. It was after he passed the bar and was practicing law, he and Marsha welcomed daughter, Sarah in 1976 and son, Dave in 1977.
Never one to settle for less than his best, Ron went into private practice, Ron Kooistra Law which was located on De Hoop in Wyoming. Ron loved his work and the ability to help many families over the years. He especially enjoyed his pro bono work for juveniles and was proud of his hard work to help make direct adoption legal. Despite his busy schedule, Ron packed in many fond memories over the years as a father. He took the time to share interesting bedtime stories as well as take the family camping. They treasured their time at Brower Park, Higgins Lake, and Aloha State Park. They enjoyed his special breakfasts of Ronny McMuffins before spending nearly the entire day boating and swimming. His dream came true when they purchased their own cottage on Mullett Lake in 1995. Any amount of time up the cottage was never enough for Ron! As a result, they used the cottage year round for relaxation and special family gatherings. Ron was also very active in the kids’ wide variety of interests including Boy Scouts and trips to the West Walker Sportsman Club for shooting. Later, he loved to support his grandsons as they shot with the Orange Crushers shooting group at Kent County Conservation League.
Ron modeled for his children a lifetime of hard work and hard play! He continued his work as well as took on extra work as a referee for Juvenile Court to supplement his growing family’s needs. They also enjoyed trips to the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, yet Ron stopped traveling after smoking on airplanes wasn’t allowed! A highlight of his career was when he was awarded the S. Barnes Award from Legal Aid for his pro bono work. He celebrated with a large party at the B.O.B. in Grand Rapids with many area professionals and his supportive family. Although this was important to Ron, nothing brought him greater reward than the time he spent with the family he so loved.
There was no doubt that as much as he was easy-going, he also was set in his ways. He loved to play tennis and go on long walks or bike rides with Marsha, and equally loved his food! Ron enjoyed pork roast dinners, a good burger at Bud's Hamburgs, or his favorite Shrimp Lenny Dinner at the Douglas Lake Bar & Steakhouse in Pellston always hit the spot! Particular about his brands, Ron also liked root beer, but especially Stewart’s, ginger ale, but only if it was Vernor’s, and when it came to satisfying his sweet tooth, he always picked the Brach’s brand spice drops or honey candy! Ron wasn’t bashful when it came to enjoying the goodness of food and never skimped on the rich opportunities that life had to offer. He lived his life to the fullest enjoying every moment doing the things he enjoyed. Things slowed down for him after he survived a car accident in October of 2018. Complication from a previous knee surgery, two back surgeries, diabetes, followed by heart failure and kidney failure, were a formitable foe and he just couldn't beat all the obstacles despite his amazing perserverance. Ron was a man of great achievements and successes yet his legacy will always be his ability to stay grounded and his connection to people. He loved all people and wanted nothing more than to share in the success of others throughout his journey. May the memories of his quick-wit and compassionate ways warm the hearts of his many special friends and loved ones forevermore.
Ronald J. Kooistra, age 71, of Byron Center, Michigan, died on August 4, 2020 at his home with his family. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Marsha; children, Michael Kooistra, Matt (Carrie) Kooistra, Sarah (Pat) Groves, and Dave (Nicky) Kooistra; grandchildren, Bretton, Connor, Ayva, Lilly, Wyatt, Annabel, Sam and Will; sister, Lori Van Ree; brothers-in-law, Bruce (Chris) Venema and Dennis Venema; sister-in-law, Phyllis (Ken) Hoogeboom; and several nieces and nephews. Visitation will be held outdoors (Masks and social distancing) from 3-6 PM on Friday, August 7, 2020 at Grant Pavilion – Millennium Park, 1400 Maynard Ave SW. In order to support two of Ron’s passions, the family would prefer donations be made to West Michigan Legal Aid or Kent County Conservation League – Orange Crushers. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook online.