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Life Story / Obituary
Donald DeSmit was an honorable and humble man who treasured nothing more than spending time with the family.
The 1930s were primarily defined by the rising unemployment rate that resulted from the Great Depression. It was just as this decade was dawning that John W. and Catherine (Orne) DeSmit were able to shift their focus as they welcomed the baby boy they named Donald William into the world. He was the third of four children as he was raised in the family home on Alpine and Crosby, NW, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, alongside his siblings, Marian, Jay, and John “Babe.” His father worked in road construction while his mother was a homemaker. As a boy Donald loved sports and played both baseball and softball. He also attended Harrison Park Elementary and Union High School in 1948.
After high school Donald was eager for all that life had in store. He joined the United States Air Force, serving four years as a fireman in Alaska and Niagara Falls during the Korean Conflict. With his military duties fulfilled, Donald returned home and took a job at the General Motors plant on Alpine. After two years, he took another job at Clipper Belt Company where he remained for nearly 35 years until retiring in 1995.
While establishing his career, Donald’s life was forever changed when he met a woman named Patricia Norkus through friends. After dating, they were married on January 31, 1954, at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church. They settled into a home on Alpine Avenue and welcomed their daughter, Kathleen, into their hearts in 1954. Although they divorced after five years, they continued to be together during holidays and birthdays and vacations to the UP and throughout Northern Michigan. Donald was thrilled to become a grandfather, and he was there for all their events, activities, and birthdays. When his grandkids went sliding at Richmond Park, Don was sure to have hot chocolate and potato pancakes waiting for them at his house near the park.
A man of many interests, Donald was always on the go. He spent more than 30 years sharing many of his interests with his longtime companion, Edna Ezinga. An avid slow-pitch softball player, Donald played on three different teams including the Mariners Shell team, Sparta Moose Lodge team, and Clipper belt Co. team. He was active at Sparta and Grand Rapids Moose Lodge, Knights of St. Casimir – 6th St. Hall and Vytatus Aid Society where he made many friends. Donald was an avid golfer who regularly traveled to Florida with his golfing buddies, and he was a frequent bowler as well. Around home he could fix anything, and he diligently cared for his lawn. Donald loved several Chevy El Caminos over the years, and his grandchildren affectionately called him Grandpa El Camino. He read the paper every day, loved panfishing for bluegill at area lakes, and watching the Detroit Tigers and Michigan football.
Donald William DeSmit, aged 87 of Grand Rap ids, passed away on Friday evening, November 10, 2017 at Trillium Woods Faith Hospice. He was preceded in death by his great great grandson, Zayden Dykstra, his sister, Marian (Chuck) Reintges and his brother, Jay DeSmit. He is survived by his daughter, Kathleen (David) McKnight; step-daughter, Jody Bouwens; his longtime companion, Edna Ezinga; his grandchildren, Jim (Laurie) Dykstra, Robert Dykstra, Kathryn (Sean) Travis, Megan McKnight; his great grandchildren, Michaela and Tyler Dykstra, Megan, Samantha, and Erika McGuirl and Carl Forbush; his great great granddaughter, Alayna Dykstra; his brother, John “Babe” DeSmit; his sister-in-law, Phyllis DeSmit; many nieces, nephews and friends. Don honorably served his country in the US Air Force during the Korean War. He retired from Clipper Belt Co. and was a member of Sparta / Grand Rapids Moose Lodge, Knights of St. Casimir-6th St. Hall, and Vytatus Aid Society. A service to celebrate Don’s life will be held on Tuesday, November 14, at 11:00 am at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Burial in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. Contribution in his memory to Faith Hospice. Relatives and friends may meet his family on Tuesday at the funeral home from 10:00 am until the service begins at 11:00 am. To read more about Don’s life, to leave your own memory of him and to sign his guest book, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com