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Life Story / Obituary
Through the life he lived each day, Victor “J” VanVelsen touched the lives of so many of those around him. He was no stranger to hard work, but he also took time to enjoy life along the way, often with his friends and loved ones by his side. J treasured his roles as a husband and father, but it was easy to see that nothing was better than becoming a grandfather later in life. He experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer, making priceless memories along the way. Although he will be forever missed, J’s friends and loved ones will forever cherish his memory.
The 1960s were an exciting time in America. Civil rights often topped the news of the day, and we elected the young John F. Kennedy as our 35th President of the United States of America. By the end of the decade, the nation had successfully put the first man on the moon. It was during this eventful time that Gerald and Darlene (Sanders) VanVelsen were filled with great anticipation as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their baby as February dawned in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1961. Their wait was finally over on February 2nd when the baby boy they named Victor "J" made his arrival. He was the youngest of three as he was raised in the family home in Kentwood alongside his older siblings, Jerry and Wendy. To support their family, J’s father worked at Steelcase, while his mother cleaned offices at night in addition to keeping things running at home.
From the time he was a young boy, J was a bustle of activity. As a student, he attended Brookwood Elementary during his younger years, and he later went on to graduate from East Kentwood High School in 1979. During his high school years, J avidly enjoyed his woodworking class. He loved to make useful objects out of the ordinary wood, and among his favorite projects from the class were a desk, a box, and a bowl.
New and exciting changes were in store for J as he met the love of his life one night in 1982 while out with friends at the Alibi Bar in Grand Rapids. The bar was crowded that night, and J offered Pamela Jonick a place to sit. He immediately sensed that there was something special about her. Pamela eventually left with some friends, but by that time, J knew that she was the girl for him. He tried to find her again for two weeks until they ran into each other once again at the Alibi. The two danced to a Foreigner song, “Waiting For a Girl Like You.” Soon after, J asked Pamela out for a date, which she accepted. The couple dated and fell deeper in love until they married on June 2nd, 1984, at St. John UCC Church in Grand Rapids. The happy newlyweds took a honeymoon to Disney World for a week before returning to Michigan. There, they purchased a house and started their lives together.
Family was always the most important part of J’s life. In order to support his family he worked at Steelcase, where he had been employed since high school. J received quarterly bonuses while working there, and, as his wife Pamela remembers, they enjoyed living the high life. J and Pamela often went to listen to her brother Scott play in his band. The couple was overjoyed when they learned that their family would be expanding, and they soon welcomed their daughter, Tori, into the world in 1990. Two years later, their family grew yet again to include Allie, their second beloved daughter. J loved his children and he raised them like boys. He enjoyed playing sports with them, including basketball and soccer, and the girls were thrilled when he bought them dirt bikes, go carts, and took them to the batting cages. J loved to do special things with each of his girls. He would take Tori and her friends to see WWE wrestling and to the Haunt, and he would take Allie to see the monster trucks. As a family, everyone enjoyed camping at places like Yogi Bear Park near Grand Haven or Ionia, where they would join up with Uncle Jerry and Aunt Kathy. J and his family loved to camp at all the state parks together, but the real joy in the experience was in the time spent together.
As his family and friends can attest, J will be remembered as a man of many interests. In addition to camping, he loved to go hiking, and perhaps his favorite part of any camping or hiking experience was the camp fires. Later, they had their trailer at Poncho's Pond for 18 years. When his girls were younger, J liked to snowmobile with his brother-in-law, Scott, and the two would take week long trips to Munising. He even raced sleds at Grass Drags, at least until he accidentally flipped over and lost his love of snowmobiling altogether. J was a classic rock fan, could be found yelling at the Lions, and although he didn’t care for sweets he loved Pam’s meatloaf as well as eating out at Red Lobster. He insisted in being aware of the weather and always had the Weather Channel on. J was primarily concerned about a heavy rain that caused flooding in the basement. Although he tried to fix it every year, it was just this past May when it was finally fixed with help from professionals. J loved the demolition part of a remodel, but what came after often took a while as it took him seven years to complete a bath renovation! Throughout his life he was usually found with his Marlboro Reds, but later it was Light 100s and his signature drink of choice was Budweiser.
Later in life, J experienced both peaks and valleys along his life’s journey. In the early 2000s, he developed what became a lifelong battle with AFib, and this later led to heart disease and heart failure. In 2017, J was filled with unspeakable joy as he welcomed his grandson, Jameson, into his life. Jameson was truly the light of his life. They saw each other all the time and read the newspaper together almost every day. J was so exited to take Jameson to Disney one day. He had never been a fan of pets, but when Pam and the girls brought home a Maltese named Max, J was smitten with him for the 14 years that followed. Although J had been looking forward to retiring in May, his health took a turn for the worse when he was hospitalized in May. J was able to go home, but life was never the same.
When reflecting on the life of Victor “J” VanVelsen, it is easy to see his love for life. He was someone who knew how to have fun, and it was even better when he shared these experiences with his family. Deeply loved, he will never be forgotten.
VANVELSEN – Victor “J” VanVelsen age 58, of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully on September 7, 2019. He was preceded in death by his father, Gerald VanVelsen and mother, Darlene VanVelsen-Rhoades. J is survived by Pamela, his wife of 35 years; daughters, Victoria “Tori” VanVelsen and Alexandra “Allie” Van Velsen; grandson, Jameson Haveman; siblings, Jerry (Kathy) VanVelsen and Wendy (Bob) Reznik; brother-in-law, Scott (Kim) Jonick; and several nieces and nephews. J worked for Steelcase for 40 years. Friends and family will gather with food and beverages from 5-8 PM on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 concluding with a brief service at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Contributions in his memory may be made to American Heart Association. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read J’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo, or sign the guestbook online.