Sunday, June 5, 2016
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Vigil Service at 7 PM
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.
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned eight decades, Fred Thompson experienced the joy of marriage, the fulfillment of hard work, the beauty of nature, and the deep love of family. Who could ask for anything more? He was a man who went about life quietly, in his own way and time, but knew very well the value of a day’s work, of providing for his wife and children, and of being faithful to his beliefs and his church. In his own way, Fred lived a life full of purpose and he found fulfillment right up to the end, leaving a wonderful legacy many can only hope for.
Fred’s life began on January 12, 1933, the height of the depression when work was scarce and money was tight. Growing up during that time by nature affected your value system of work, home, and family. Young Fred Thompson, along with his brothers and sisters, learned quickly what was important in life and lived those values throughout his own life. His father, Frank Thompson, worked at Packaging Corporation of America and his mother, Josephine (Kelch) kept the family home, doing all the things a mother of six needed to do to stretch every dollar and keep things going during hard times. They were a close family then and now as well, with the brothers and sisters all remaining close to this day.
The Thompson family home was on Prospect St. next door to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Fred attended St. Andrew’s Elementary School and like many boys of that day left after 8th grade to go to work. He took a job at a gas station and later, when he was 19 years old, followed the footsteps of his dad and went to work for PCA.
Little did young Fred know that behind the scenes something big was going on that would soon begin to add immensely to his life. It was through what turned out to be mutual friends at Catholic Young Adults that Fred was set up on a blind date with a lovely young gal named MaryEllen Kirkwood. What are friends for if not for fixing you up on a blind date? Well, guess what. Just as their friends had hoped, Fred and MaryEllen hit it off right away and after dating for a year and a half discovered they truly loved each other. Fred asked MaryEllen to be his wife and she said yes! And so it was, on Saturday, October 21, 1961, that Fred and MaryEllen pledged their love to each other in a beautiful ceremony at St. James Catholic Church on Bridge St. NW in Grand Rapids, MI.
What better way could there be than to start your new life together by honeymooning amidst the magnificence of Niagara Falls? The mist, the gorge, the elegant flower gardens were the perfect setting for two young lovers to celebrate their marriage. After enjoying the sights and sounds of the Falls the young couple returned to Grand Rapids and made their first home at 1012 Bridge St. NW, with MaryEllen's grandmother living downstairs. MaryEllen worked for the telephone company and Fred had his job at PCA. Life was good. And, as time went on, Fred and MaryEllen added to their family with three beautiful children. First to come along was Christine, Tim, and then Rob. Years later Christine married Patrcik Flood and had a son, Samuel, which became Fred's pride and joy. Together, these children and grandchildren brought the meaning of life full circle for Fred and, in his own quiet way, he enjoyed it immensely.
Every household has its routines. Fred was no exception, he had his and was very regular about it. After a hard day at work, he liked to come home and eat right away. This gave him a long evening and more time to go outside and work in the yard until dark or close to it. His day ended when he finally came in and sat down to have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. Talk about working all day—that was Fred. He took that idea literally and worked from sunup to sundown. Finally, he would go to bed—so he could start the routine over the next day!
Whether it was growing up during the depression or it was just in his nature Fred liked to keep busy. He was never one to sit around and he didn’t watch much television, although he did enjoy listening to Glenn Campbell. He was happiest doing something, anything, especially being busy with his hands. Fred was good with his hands and found enjoyment in remodeling, painting, and hanging wallpaper in the family home at 2022 Kenning NW. It could be said he was happiest when he was busy. He liked working on cars and refinishing furniture. Most anything that kept him busy made him happy.
Fred wasn’t all work and no play, though. He enjoyed fishing and the great outdoors in Canada with his brothers, and he hardly ever missed bowling on Tuesday nights at Westgate. Again, both things that kept his hands busy, and his mind as well. Plus he liked being close to his brothers. Fred was the quiet type and tended to be shy. He never initiated conversation or activities easily and tended to rely on his brothers to get him involved in things. Once involved, he made his way and enjoyed himself. He rarely missed Tuesday Night Bowling League at Westgate. He liked going to garage sales and flea markets also, looking for treasures and seeing what people had to offer. Reading the Grand Rapids press was a favorite, too, and he never put the paper down without checking the “Bargain Corner”!
Fred’s favorite for all time, however, was time spent with his wife and family. Nothing compared to the joy he felt in his heart when he was surrounded by the love of his family. Whether it was meals together at home or vacations together up north, those were the moments most precious to him. Being together every summer at Ludington State Park was very special. There’s something marvelous about camping—perhaps it’s the closeness of being together outdoors, perhaps it’s the awesome beauty of the lake and the woods, either one or both create memories that last a lifetime. This was important to Fred. Family dinners at home were important too. Fred’s favorite meals were meatloaf or liver and onions. Sounds fitting, doesn’t it, for a hardworking man who was busy every minute and needed to eat well. Pies were special too, especially rhubarb pie. For Fred, it was next to impossible to top the satisfaction he found in a family dinner with pie for desert.
Several years ago, age crept on Fred and the family noticed him having trouble remembering things. It was hard to see but they did all they could to help him remain active. He and MaryEllen continued taking some road trips but at this point MaryEllen would do the driving and Fred would be the “navigator”. Eventually, Fred would go to Hope Network on Walker Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays where he would have lunch and participate in various activities. This brought pleasure to his life at a difficult time, a time of relief which MaryEllen and the family were most grateful. Nighttime was more difficult as Fred was agitated then and required more care. Earlier this year Grace Hospice stepped in to provide the care Fred needed. The family is very thankful for this as it allowed Fred to remain in his home. As much as home meant to Fred it seems only right that he should pass away in his home. And he did. On Thursday, June 2, 2016, surrounded by his loving family.
At the time of his death, Fred was ready to go. His heart was full of pride for his family, his work, and his faith. After all, he married the love of his life, raised three wonderful children, retired at age 62 after working 43 years for PCA, and had attended Saturday evening Mass at Holy Spirit Parish for nearly 50 years. This quiet but proud and loyal man will be missed greatly but leaves a legacy of memories that will live on in the hearts of his family and all who knew him.
Mr. Fredrick W. Thompson aged 83, of Grand Rapids, passed away on June 2, 2016. He was preceded in death by his grandchildren, Sean and Moriah Flood; and brothers, Gerald and Louis Thompson. Fred is survived by his loving wife of nearly 55 years, MaryEllen (Kirkwood); children, Christine (Patrick) Flood, Tim Thompson, and Rob Thompson; grandson, Samuel Flood; siblings, Patricia Minnema, Gladys (Gerret) Baker, and Thomas and Janet Thompson; sisters-in-law, Patricia Thompson, Jean Thompson, and Rosemary Huizenga; brothers-in-law, Bill and Sharon Kirkwood and Rob and MaryLyn Kirkwood; and many nieces and nephews. Fred retired from PCA after 43 years of service and enjoyed spending time fishing, camping, and being with his family. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 AM on Monday, June 6 at Holy Spirit Parish, 2230 Lake Michigan NW. The family will receive visitors from 5-7 PM, with a Vigil Service at 7 PM, on Sunday at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. N.W., and for one hour prior to Mass at the church. Contributions in his memory may be made to Grace Hospice or Ronald McDonald House. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read Fred’s lifestory, archive a memory, photo or sign the guestbook online.