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Humane Society of West Michigan
3077 Wilson NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Life Story / Obituary
Cornelius “Neil” Noordyke Jr. was a devoted family man and dedicated professional. He loved his wife, children and grandchildren and stayed true to his friends. He knew what he wanted and said what he thought. However, he tempered his opinions with good heartedness and great humor. As a tribute to his character, Neil was afforded the same respect and affection that he showed to others.
Neil was born February 12, 1935 in Grand Rapids, Michigan at a time when families were trying to make life pleasant in the midst of difficult conditions. The son of Cornelius “Nick” Noordyke Sr. and Katie Mae VanderPan Noordyke, Neil came of age during the Great Depression when money and jobs were scarce but Americans were resilient. They learned to do with very little and pulled together as a society. At home, they made their own entertainment playing parlor and board games, listening to the radio, and being inspired by President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. Such was a generation shaped by simplicity and sacrifice.
Nick Noordyke Sr. did well to have a job with the City of Grand Rapids Street Department, and Katie Mae stayed home to parent four children: John, Herbert, Neil and Betty. Living on Clark Street in Comstock Park, Neil attended the local elementary school and then Comstock Park High, but he then left his schooling behind in the tenth grade, entering the work force to help support his family. He later went on to earn his GED. In addition to doing yard work for various neighbors, Neil caddied at Greenridge Country Club on Alpine Avenue. He then took a job at Light Metals Corporation and American Die Cast company before being drafted into the US Army. After serving for two years, Neil returned home and was hired by the City of Grand Rapids, as his father and brothers had been. Known as “The Whip,” Neil would work his way up to supervisor in the street department and retire as the supervisor of the highway department in February 1991, following a long career of diligent service.
Life became all the more settled for Neil when his friend, Ron Nezwik, introduced him to Martha “Toots” Flipse. On their first date, the Neil and Martha took a car ride to Morley, Michigan, a picturesque town on the Little Muskegon River. For an outdoorsman like Neil, it was a perfect spot to begin what turned out to be a 4-year dating relationship. The loving couple married in a church wedding on February 16, 1963 and held a reception at the 40 & 8 Club. They didn’t have money to spend on a honeymoon, but there were many more lovely villages for the newlyweds to explore.
Neil and Martha set up housekeeping in a trailer park on 14th Avenue for the first two years of their marriage and then moved to the home on 3 Mile Road, where they lived to this day. Toots worked at Michigan Bell Telephone and later at Kenowa Hills High School in the cafeteria. She and Neil raised two children, Jeffrey who was born in 1963 and Julie born in 1968. Always eager to travel the countryside, Neil took the family on camping vacations, first in a tent, then a pop-up camper and finally a travel trailer. They ventured around Michigan, to the Upper Peninsula and farther beyond to Colorado, California, the Dakotas, Florida, Maine, Tennessee and more.
Being an avid fisherman and hunter (mushrooms as well as animals), Neil was in his element when he was outdoors. He and his buddies Hershel Collins and Ed Cherry were always together and were often joined by Bob Koperski and Bob Rosenzweig. They went walleye, trout, and fly fishing anywhere and everywhere and deep sea fishing in Florida. When he retired and Martha was still working, Neil spent time with his sister Betty and her husband Wayne “Snuff" Boerma at their home. Neil helped cared for his mother-in-law, Claire Flipse for many years at her home, which was just down the road from his house. When they were both retired, Neil and Toots drove their camper pickup to Alaska and spent two months with friends Jack and Nancy. They later rented a mobile home on the water at Panama City Beach, Florida and stayed up to three months during the winter. At that time of life, it was grandchildren who kept drawing them back home. They loved spending time with the kids, and Neil was rightfully proud of all they accomplished in life.
At home, Neil was very active. In wintertime the family snowmobiled, and in the summer Neil tended beautiful flower beds and "tried" his hand at a flawless lawn. He grew lots of vegetables for the family table but froze and canned them as well. He liked listening to Big Band music and watching such TV shows as All in the Family, Western and war movies and the History Channel. He made trips to Michigan casinos and regular visits to Sandy’s Donuts or Mr. Burger for coffee. He was good at keeping in touch with friends, like his childhood pal Jim Felty, and he looked forward to Wednesdays with his coffee buddies.
In 2002, Neil was injured in an automobile accident in which he suffered a closed head injury. Still, he wasn’t deterred from fishing; he just needed help getting in the boat. His friends provided that and more. Neighbors Tom and Roy were always there to watch out for Neil, make a meal when needed or look after the dog. Neil and Toots were forever grateful for such wonderful neighbors.
For several years, Neil was in a wheelchair and in recent months he sustained several bouts of pneumonia. He was in and out of the hospital and rehab facilities, but when little more could be done to combat the infection, Neil was placed under the care of hospice. He died at St. Ann’s Home on Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 8:00 AM.
Neil will be lovingly missed and remembered by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
Cornelius “Neil” Noordyke Jr., aged 80 of Walker, Michigan, was preceded in death by his parents, Cornelius “Nick” and Katie Noordyke Sr. and his brother John Noordyke. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Martha “Toots” Noordyke (Flipse); his children, Jeff and Mitzi Noordyke, Julie and Brad Meredith; his grandchildren, Nicholas and Zachery Noordyke, Grace Meredith, Kayla Baragar, Coty Flier (fiancée Cindy Toppel); great grandchildren, Caden Toppel and Rachael Flier; his brother, Herbert Noordyke; his sister, Betty Boerma; many nieces, nephews and friends. A service to celebrate Neil’s life will be held on Monday at 11:00 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Burial in Rosedale Cemetery. Visitation will be held at the funeral home on Sunday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM. In lieu of flowers please make a contribution in Neil’s memory to Humane Society of West MI. To read more about Neil’s life, to sign his guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com