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Orchard Hill Reformed Church
1465 3 Mile Rd NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49544
2100 Raybrook St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
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Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Andrew Wagner was a man of honor, integrity, and sound moral principle who lived an amazing life. He was a lifelong resident of the community he loved, and he was positive, happy, and always wearing a smile. Blessed to share the majority of his life with his true love, Andrew was filled with joy to watch his family grow to include children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Always willing to lend a helping hand, he was such a blessing in the lives of others. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Born on January 28, 1925, during the exciting decade of the Roaring Twenties, Andrew was the ninth of 10 children. He and his siblings, Pauline, Jeannette, John Jr., Herm, Leonard, Mathilda, Anne, Nancy, and James were raised in the family home on Pannell Road, NW, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by their parents, John and Magdalene (VanProoyen) Wagner. Their home was on three acres of land where they ran a produce farm and raised pigs, chickens, and cows for their own food. Although times were hard during the Great Depression, their family always had food to eat. Their home was a simple one where they had to pump their water and use an outhouse.
Andrew’s father worked in the cement business while his mother was a homemaker. When he was almost one, Andrew’s father sold all of their possessions and moved the family by train to California in order to start a concrete business. It was much too hot, however, so Andrew’s father, expectant mother and nine children returned to Michigan via an open back Model T Ford truck. The trip took three weeks.
As a young boy, Andrew was called “Jolly Boy” by his siblings and friends because he was always smiling. He attended Fairview Elementary School until the eighth grade when he had to drop out of school to help his father on the farm. Even as a young boy, Andrew learned what it meant to work hard. He watered the crops, milked the cows, and cleaned the barn. Andrew loved hunting small game, fishing, and pheasant hunting, and he was a crack shot. There were no toys, only what they made themselves. Andrew attended Sunday school with his siblings.
When he was 19 years old Andrew was drafted into the Army on April 24, 1944, during WWII. He spent much of his time in Germany in the Infantry. A mortar landed near him, killing the soldier on each side of him and severely injuring Andrew who was hospitalized. After his recovery he was sent back to Europe as the Sergeant of the Motor Pool. He was discharged from military service on May 17, 1946. He took a job at Grand Rapids Foundry and later at Betz Foundry. The work was hot and dirty so he and his brother, Len, started a concrete business. Eventually, he attended trade school at night in order to obtain his card as a machinist. Andrew worked at Rospatch and Label for 30 years and then at Bulman Manufacturing until he retired at age 62.
New and exciting changes were in store for Andrew when he met the love of his life. Her name was Selma Derstein, and they met while roller skating. They began dating, fell in love, and were married on May 21, 1948, at “The Country House”. Following their reception, the newlyweds took a honeymoon to Niagara Falls in New York. After returning to Grand Rapids, Andrew bought five acres on Waldorf and Bristol for $1000.00. There he built their first home on the corner, and together he and Selma were blessed with the births of four children, Ruth, Kathleen, Richard, and David. They remained in that home for 17 years. After that he built another home on the same property and then a third. There was never anything of greater importance to Andrew than his family. They took many family vacations in the summer, going to places like California, Wisconsin Dells, Arizona, and parts of the UP. In 1955, Andrew built a cottage on Emerald Lake in Newaygo which was the backdrop for numerous family events.
As a family they were members of Fairview Reformed Church which later became Orchard Hill Church. Church services were attended every Sunday. Andrew loved singing all the old church hymns. He served several terms as elder and deacon.
Andrew enjoyed woodworking, a game of golf with family and friends, fishing at the cottage in the summer, and ice fishing in the winter. Andrew and Selma loved traveling, and for years they spent their winters in Florida or Arizona along with their siblings.
Andrew was thrilled to become a grandfather, and he loved visiting with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They loved him dearly as well. He was always ready to help his children and grandchildren in any way he could, and he was so patient in everything he did.
As they aged Andrew and Selma moved to Edison Assisted Living and later to Covenant Village of the Great Lakes.
All who knew Andrew Wagner would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He had a great sense of humor and loved sharing a laugh with those around him. Perhaps what Andrew will be most remembered for is his unwavering faith, his life truly exemplifying what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord he loved. He will never be forgotten.
Andrew Wagner, aged 93 of Grand Rapids, walked through heaven’s gate and met his savior, Jesus Christ, on Friday, March 2, 2018, with his loving family at his side. He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Magdalene Wagner, 4 brothers, 4 sisters, and their spouses. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Selma Wagner (Derstein); his children, Ruth (Dennis) Stilley, Kathy (Gary) VanderWeide, Rick Wagner, Dave (Karen) Wagner; his grandchildren, Duane (Michelle) Volkers, Rhonda (John) DeYoung, Renee (Ben) Scholten, Brandon (Tifanie) VanderWeide, Darrin (Hollie) VanderWeide, Janelle (Josh) Ponder, Ashley Wagner (fiancé Kevin Bush), Alyssa Wagner, Matthew Wagner; 10 great grandchildren, sister, Nancy Haga; Cathy Tjeerdsma family; many nieces and nephews. Andrew was a loving and dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and a friend to all who knew him. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered. Andrew honorably served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a member of Orchard Hill Reformed Church. A service to celebrate Andrew’s life will be held on Wednesday, March 7, at 11:00 am at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, with Rev. Kathy Bartels as celebrant. Burial will be in Washington Park Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet his family at the funeral home on Tuesday from 2-4 and 6-8 pm and again on Wednesday from 10 am until the service begins at 11:00. Contributions in his memory may be made to Faith Hospice or Orchard Hill Reformed Church. To read more about Andrew’s life, to sign his guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com