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Life Story / Obituary
For Don McKay, it wasn’t so much about the clothes he wore, the house he lived in, the car he drove or the places he traveled. For Don, life revolved around the family he loved. A loving and dedicated man, Don’s kind and easygoing nature was evident to all. Dearly missed, he will be fondly remembered.
Don’s story began during a time of economic prosperity as industry and the need for consumer goods rose to new levels. While Gershwin and Berlin dominated the music scene, men in their pan hats strolled along with swank and swagger, and were quite a match for the belles of the infamous Roaring Twenties, the flapper. At the same time, Ellis Island closed its doors as an immigration entry point leaving behind numerous memories of promises for better tomorrows. This was especially true for Andrew and Mary (McQuiston) McKay who emigrated from Ireland around 1900. They settled in the riverfront city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and nothing compared to their excitement when on October 24, 1926 they celebrated the birth of their little boy, Donald E. McKay.
The youngest of eight children in the McKay’s bustling household, Don joined his two older brothers and five older sisters. His father worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad while his mother looked after their home and thriving family. Sadly, when Don was merely four years old, his father passed away. Don remained close to his siblings throughout their lives. As a family they made their home on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. Times were especially difficult for Don and his family, and the hardships of the Great Depression only added to their struggles. Even though they never enjoyed family vacations during his childhood, Don and his close knit family made the most of these days.
Don attended the local schools and like many of his generation, he went through the eighth grade. During his youth he liked chumming around with his older brothers. He also loved fishing, and did so often. Don later went on to share this enjoyment with his own children.
As a young man Don often hung out at the Lucky Star Bar he and his brothers owned and operated. As well, in time he came to own his own bar, the Westside Tavern. As fate would have it, one night a couple came into his establishment with a younger sister who recently moved to the area. There to celebrate, it wasn’t long before Don caught Patricia’s eye, and the feeling was mutual. Quite smitten, Don and Pat began dating, and roughly six months later they were joined in marriage on June 17, 1950 at the home of Don’s brother. For a few years the newlyweds lived on Langdon Street NE near Houseman Field before moving in 1956 to their home on Hillsdale NE in Plainfield Township.
Don and Pat soon began a family of their own with the birth of their son, Tim in 1950. Andy came along in 1953, and Vickie completed their family in 1958. Wonderful memories were shared and enjoyed over the years at their family cottage on Slaton Lake. They also took in great adventures camping, and enjoyed great family trips to Mount Rushmore, the Smokey Mountains, the Adirondack Mountains, and the Black Hills. Nothing brought Don greater joy than making his family happy.
After Don sold the tavern, he began working at the General Motors plant on 36th Street. He remained there for the following 42 years of his career until retiring in 1988. Don was not only a great father, but he was a hard working, good provider for his family. He led by example, and served his children well.
Through the years Don especially loved cookouts on the grill. A good cook, he didn’t mind dabbling in the kitchen, but he greatly appreciated and loved Pat’s cooking, most notably the delicious dishes she made from their garden. In later years Don enjoyed going to Quinn and Tuites Irish Pub, particularly on Fridays for open mic night where he was fond of listening to others sing. Ever proud of his Irish heritage, Don reveled in St. Patrick’s Day each year. He kept up on current events with the Grand Rapids Press, and never seemed too interested in the new technology of computers.
A good man with a good heart, Don was ever dedicated to his family. When his beloved Pat passed away in August of 2004, Don counted the 58 years they shared together as husband and wife as the greatest years of his life. Through the love and support of family and friends, Don carried on despite the hole her passing left in his heart. He enjoyed spending time with his family, and for everything Don was and more, his memory will forever remain in the hearts of those who knew him best.
Mr. Donald E. McKay, age 89, of Grand Rapids passed away on Thursday, February 25, 2016. He is survived by his children: Tim and Karen McKay, Andy McKay and friend, Karol Koopman, Vickie and Craig Van Otteren; grandchildren: Mike and Jess McKay, Katie and Scott Frain, Colleen and Lee Shaler, Rebecca and Doug Anchors, Andrew McKay, Andrew Van Otteren, Brandon McGladdery, Megan McGladdery, and Carali Mae Van Otteren; great-grandchildren: Brittain, Jenna, Ian, Gabby and Lucy. The funeral service will be held on Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 1:00 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home-Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield NE. Relatives and friends are invited to visit with his family on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 from 2-4 and 6-8 PM. Contributions in Don’s memory may be made to a charity of one’s choice. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to share a favorite memory or photo of Don and to sign his online guestbook.