At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Rest Haven Homes
1424 Union NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Dr. John Wilson made the most of the days he was given. He was an intelligent and hardworking man who gave everything his all, and he loved sharing his gifts and talents with others most of all. John was a devoted family man who was blessed to share more than 70 years with the love of his life with whom he experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer. Guided by an unwavering faith throughout most of his life, he was a true inspiration to all who were near. Life will never be the same without John here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
It was great to be an American during the decade that we commonly recall as the Roaring Twenties as things like radios, refrigerators, and motion pictures in both color and sound were just a few of the noteworthy events of the decade. Amidst this exciting time was the year 1923 when Harry and Bessie (Johnston) Wilson were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named John Henry on March 25th in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of four as he was raised in the family home alongside his siblings, Margaretta, Louise, and Harry “Bud.” As the youngest, it’s possible that John was just a bit spoiled.
In many ways, John was a young boy of his generation. He developed his love for sports while growing up as he played football, basketball, and tennis. In order to play football, he had to forge his mother’s signature, giving him permission. John enjoyed swimming in rivers and always loved living among the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania. After his father became a Christian, he later became a pastor so John spent time in the church while growing up.
After graduating from high school, John was eager for all that life had in store. He attended Penn State for a year but decided that he wasn’t ready for college at that time so he returned home and worked a few odd jobs for two years. John found work at Sears, for a demolition company, and then in the coal mines. Later in life, he realized that he was actually angry at God during this time, which is why he was running in the opposite direction. But, he heard the good news of salvation, and it sparked new life within John. Although he had heard it many times before, it changed John’s heart and brought him to Moody Bible College.
It was while there that John met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Lois Steed, and they began dating. Deeply in love, John and Lois were married after he graduated on October 1, 1944, at John’s church in Pennsylvania. Throughout their 71 years of marriage, they were an affectionate couple who could often be found holding hands, sharing a quick kiss, and sitting next to each other.
As a young newlywed, John pastored a few churches in Pennsylvania.They started their family, welcoming their first two of what would become six children there. John also took a train to Pittsburg where he took classes at University of Pittsburgh, earning his Bachelors in Arts. He then took advantage of a move to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which allowed them to be closer to his wife’s family. Even better, this move allowed John to attend seminary at Grand Rapids Bible College and Seminary. After earning his Bachelors in Divinity, he was hired by the school, becoming full time professor in 1954 and serving thru 1985. To help provide for his family, John often preached at churches on weekends and served as an interim pastor for several churches over the years. When traveling was required to serve these churches, it was a special opportunity for his kids as John usually took one child with him. He also continued his education by traveling to Ann Arbor during the summer for three years, earning his Master’s of Arts from the University of Michigan in 1959. When John got home on Fridays, it was a cause for celebration complete with ice cream and chocolate syrup for the whole family. From there he pursued his Doctorate in Philosophy, graduating from Michigan State in the same year as his oldest son in 1969. He loved teaching, but around home he continued studying, always wanting to be prepared. Students will likely remember him for his insightful teaching in the books of Romans And Hebrew, remembering him as scholarly, academically rigorous and compassionate. His colleagues recall his research skills, leadership and council. For 21 years, John served as a member of the Executive Board of the Institute of Religious Research. In later years at the school, he would lead several student trips to Europe and Israel.
Although John was a busy man, family time was of the utmost importance when he was home. The family always had dinner together, and it was accompanied by lively conversations. These meals also included devotions with Bible reading and then added singing. John also prayed for specific missionaries around the world, each night praying for a different missionary. He was a strict disciplinarian, but his children always knew that they were loved. Special memories were also made when they all piled into the blue Volkswagen beetle for church. The family usually attended the church closest to where they lived including Highland Hills Baptist, North Park Baptist, Blythefield Hills Baptist, and City View Church. John was always so proud of his children including their pursuit of education and their strong work ethic. Later on, he loved visiting with his grandchildren.
Always one to be busy, John was a man of many interests. He enjoyed playing tennis and keeping a garden, although much of the work was delegated to his kids. John liked bike riding, going for walks in the woods, and tried his hand at photography. He and Lois loved Shakespearian plays, traveling to Stratford Avon Theater in Canada. John was more relaxed during retirement, and his sense of humor really took shape along with his corny jokes. Because he wanted to stay busy, John continued teaching, this time in the seminary's Asia extension program, traveling occasionally over 10 years to the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 10 years ago, and for the past five years he and Lois were living at Rest Haven. They loved all the fellowship and fun they had there. John was deeply saddened with the death of his beloved wife in April of 2016, and his Parkinson’s disease continued to progress. He drew his last breath surrounded by his loving family.
A faith-filled, hardworking, and kindhearted man, Dr. John Wilson was an inspiration to everyone he met. He was highly intelligent with a lively sense of humor and a zest for life that was truly contagious. A devoted family man, John treasured the moments spent with loved ones most of all. He will never be forgotten.
Dr. John H. Wilson, age 94 of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family on November 18, 2017. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lois; his son and daughter-in-law Luke and Bertha Wilson; and 2 infant grandchildren, Joshua Wilson and Alexander Green. John is survived by his children Stephen & Marcia Wilson, Philip Wilson & Beth Straebel, Aaron & Trang Wilson, Rachel & Keith Post, Ruth & Martin Green; 14 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren; as well as many nieces and nephews. The service to remember and celebrate John's life will be held on Saturday, November 25 at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE where friends are invited to visit with his family on Friday from 5-7 PM and on Saturday from 10 AM until the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Rest Haven Homes are appreciated. To read more about John, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com.