Mar 5th 1917 - Jul 27th 2012
Herman W. Wilbert lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan all of his life. It is the place he called home, and the place where he created a lifetime full of memories with his family and friends. A true people person, Herman had a natural social talent that left people charmed and smiling, though many of his happiest memories in life were spent in the company of his family, who he held dear to his heart.
1917 was a year filled with fear and conflict as the United States declared war on Germany, officially starting World War I. As thousands of young men raced to enlist in the armed services and prepare for battle overseas, the U.S. was also battling a worldwide flu epidemic that in the end claimed the lives of over 500,000 Americans. Despite the tragedy the year brought, for Henry W. Wilbert and his wife, Jennie (Johnson), of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1917 brought a blessing when their first child, son Herman, was born on March 5th. Herman and his younger sister, Frances, led a typical childhood of the time, growing up in the quiet suburbs of Grand Rapids. Herman received his education in the area schools and went on to graduate with the class of 1935. Then, like so many other young men of the time, he enlisted in the U.S. Army when World War II began, and proudly served his country for 3 years in the Pacific Theater.
Once home from the war, Herman’s life took a new and exciting direction when he met a beautiful young lady named Mary Sella. The two dated, fell hopelessly in love and were happily married. It wasn’t long before the happy couple became a family of three when they adopted their son, Richard, as an infant; he brought them such pride and joy! To provide for his growing family, Herman worked as a printer for a while, though eventually his primary job became owning and operating the Oakway Bar on Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. He was a successful businessman for over 30 years before he handed over the reins to his son, Richard, who took over until it closed in 2001.
Herman was a longtime resident of Grand Rapids. He and his family lived for many years on Umtilla Avenue, SE, Dunnigan NE and later in an apartment on Swawmut Blvd. NW. They were faithful members of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, and as a proud veteran, Herman was a member of the local VFW. Although Herman’s life was happy, it was also marked by great sorrow when he lost his beloved wife Mary in 1989, and his son Richard in 2005. As he grew older, Herman’s health began to diminish and he moved to Maple Creek Lodge, an assisted living community in Grand Rapids. With his outgoing nature, it wasn’t long before he made even more friends with the residents here. In June 2012, Herman developed pneumonia and it took a great toll on his health, causing him to be placed under hospice care. He passed away on Saturday evening, July 27, 2012, at the age of 95.
Herman will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Wilbert, his son, Richard Wilbert, and his sister, Frances Magnan. He is survived by his grandchildren, Richard (Merry) Wilbert, Alyssa Wilbert; his nephew, Bob Magnan; and his daughter-in-law, Alicia Hanson.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, August 1, at 10:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, 101 Hall Street, SE. Burial in Chapel Hill Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet his family at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 1833 Plainfield NE, Grand Rapids, on Tuesday, July 31, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. To sign Herman’s online guest book and to leave your own memory of him, please visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com.