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Life Story / Obituary
Meticulous, incredibly handy, a perfectionist -- these are just a few of the traits that come to mind when thinking of Wesley Paauwe. But for those who knew him well, probably the best description of Wesley would be “family man”. He was devoted to his wife and children, and his grandchildren were one of his life’s greatest gifts. And, it’s possible that becoming a great grandfather was his greatest joy of all!
In 1935, America was in the grips of the Great Depression. Unemployment was at a record high and life was a struggle for many. Families did what they could to seek respite from these trying times. Friends and family gathered around the radio to listen to shows like Fibber McGee and Molly or to play a game of Monopoly. Quiet times might be spent reading a new Penguin paperback book. For Martin and Anna (Hooyer) Paauwe, the summer of 1935 was a happy time as they awaited the addition of their newest family member. On August 18, in Grandville, Michigan, Wesley made his debut.
Wesley enjoyed a typical childhood. There was never a shortage of playmates as he grew up in the good company of his brothers, Eugene, Gerald and Douglas, and his sister, Lucille. As was common at that time, Wesley learned to drive on a farm in an old, dilapidated truck. Hard work also played a big part of his childhood. Wes worked right alongside his dad when it came time to build the family’s new home on 28th Street in Grandville.
Wesley attended local schools and graduated from Grandville High School. Following graduation, he took some classes at Grand Rapids Junior College before deciding to enlist in the Air Force. His brothers we all in the service as well, each one in a different branch. While in the service, Wesley trained as a mechanic, working on the engines of B52 planes. It was work that he enjoyed, and the skills that he learned would serve him well throughout his life.
After his discharge from the service, Wesley’s friends set him up on a blind date with a girl by the name of Barbara Bosch. One date was all it took – Wesley was immediately smitten. He knew from day one that Barbara was “the one”. At the time, Barbara was traveling and attending nursing school so she was not ready to commit to a serious relationship. However, Wesley was persistent and made sure to keep in touch. Eventually, their relationship evolved and he persuaded to her to say “yes”. On April 28, 1962, the young couple was happily married in Holland and they enjoyed a romantic honeymoon in the Pocono Mountains.
Wes and Barb made their home on the southwest side of Grand Rapids for a few years before purchasing their longtime home on Van Ess on Grand Rapids’ northwest side. During this time, the Paauwe family grew to include two sons, Matt and Steven. Wes was a loving and nurturing father but not much of a disciplinarian – he left that part up to Barb! He was very involved with both of the boys and he spent time participating in each of their individual interests. With Matt, he shared the love of fixing cars; with Steven it was fishing or tossing a ball back and forth in the yard.
Using the skills he learned while in the Air Force, Wesley began working as a diesel mechanic with a friend – the same friend who sparked his interest in racing. Wes eventually moved on work at Betton Imports, specializing in diesel engine repair. He enjoyed his work there and felt fortunate to be able to stay late on Wednesdays to work on any project car he had at the time. An Austin Healey was one of his project cars that he worked on and raced.
Because of his love of racing, Wes and his family spent a lot of time at the tracks throughout the Midwest, racing his car and camping along the way. They were active members of the Sports Car Club of America. Though Wes could drive like crazy on the racetrack, you didn’t want to get behind him on the highway – he was never in much of a hurry there! Regrettably, Wesley’s racing career came to an end after a wreck. However, after some time, he carefully restored his race car and decided it was time to sell it.
Wes and Barb shared a love of camping, starting out roughing it in a tent. But as the years went on, they moved up to a pop-up trailer, then a larger trailer. Every couple of years they would upgrade to a larger trailer or motorhome, until it became more “glamping” than camping! Camping was not complete, however, without fishing. Wes would spend casting his line, with his favorite fishing spots being the pier in Grand Haven, and later the pier in Pentwater.
Wes and Barb’s love of camping carried on into their retirement years. After dreaming of it for many years, the couple was able to sell their home and spend their time traveling in their motorhome. They spent most winters on Lake Havasu in Arizona but they would take the scenic route to get there, returning to Michigan in the spring. They traveled to every one of the states in the continental U.S., including Alaska! Wes would keep busy along the way, finding something to do at each park they visited. Whether it was repair projects, or helping a neighbor, he was never one to be idle. He was also a perfectionist, so if a project would normally take two hours, it was safe to say that it would take Wes four hours to complete!
During the summer months in Michigan, Wes and Barb became campground hosts which fit perfectly with their personalities. Both had the gift of gab, and they were able to strike up a conversation with anyone. As a result, they easily made new friends. The summer also meant time with the grandchildren. Wes made sure to be home in the spring for the first birthday of the year and didn’t leave to head south again until the last birthday in October. They cherished spending time with each grandchild at the campground, whether enjoying the outdoors, or playing a game of cards or dominos. It didn’t matter what they did, as long as they were together.
In 2011, Wes and Barb made the decision to buy a home and put down roots again in Michigan. As they settled in, they became involved with the Richmond Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. Being in Michigan year-round provided comfort to the couple knowing that family was nearby.
In September of 2019, Barb passed away. After 57 wonderful years of marriage, Wes missed her dearly each and every day. He relied on the strength of his family, but ultimately, Wesley’s own health began to suffer. Sadly, on July 13, he passed away. Though he will be dearly missed, may we all take comfort in the fact that he is reunited with the one and only love of his life, his wife Barbara. His memory will live on in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.
Wesley Paauwe, age 84 of Walker, passed away on July 13, 2020. Wes was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara, in 2019; brothers Eugene and Gerald Paauwe, sister, Lucille Clay; and his great grandson Logan. Wes is survived by his children Matt and Steve (Tina) Paauwe; grandchildren Stephanie (Derek) Williams, Blake, Eric, and Brooklyn Paauwe and their mother, Carolyn Parrish; great grandson, Lucas; brother, Douglas (Carol) Paauwe and several nieces and nephews. The service to remember and celebrate Wes’ life will be held Saturday, July 18, 2020 at 12 Noon at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends are invited to visit with his family on Friday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM and on Saturday from 11 AM until the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions may be made to a charity of your choice. To read more about Wes, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com