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Humane Society of West Michigan
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Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace; times of plenty and times of want, Howard Growe lived life doing what he loved most. Along with his beloved wife and the family he held most dear by his side, Howard lived fully at every opportunity. An ever present fixture within his community, he was a tried and true Westsider, and formed many lasting friendships. With his sarcastic demeanor yet quick witted flair, he liked sharing his opinions on a variety of subject matters. For ways all his own, Howard will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
Howard’s story began at a time of great change in the U.S. Jazz music blossomed, and the flapper redefined modern womanhood. The year 1923 marked many firsts in the fabric of the American culture as the Walt Disney Company was founded, insulin became available for diabetics, and a vaccine for the whooping cough was developed. When the eight hour workday was established that very year, manufacturing boomed. In the riverfront city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Howard Southwick Growe was born on May 8, 1923, and was a welcome addition in the lives of his parents, Ernest and Elizabeth (Putt) Growe.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids on Carrier Street NE, Howard was one of 11 children in his bustling household. Along with his large family, times were especially difficult during the Great Depression which created economic struggles for all. Even so, Howard led a typical childhood for a young boy of his generation. He attended the local schools and went on to Creston High School where he remained through the 11th grade. Betty Smith was the young woman who captured Howard’s heart in high school, and the two shared a dating relationship which came to include a deep, abiding love.
With World War II well underway, Howard enlisted in the U.S. Army following high school. Having served in the South Pacific, specifically New Guinea, he remained in active service from January 1943 until January 1946. He was responsible for the boat used to take high ranking officers on R and R out on fishing excursions and sightseeing adventures. Unaware his platoon had shipped out, Howard was basically forgotten by the Army. Left to remain at the camp, for over a year he stayed alone on the boat. Although he had some provisions and supplies to see him through, he often relied on the villagers in the jungle for food and water. When finally located and honorably discharged in 1946, Howard received the full military pay he was due for the 13 months he was left stranded.
Howard returned home to Michigan and Betty’s awaiting arms. He lived with his parents and began working in a local factory. On June 27, 1947 in Grand Rapids, Howard married his high school sweetheart, Betty. Together they soon began a family of their own. Garry came along in 1953, and Tamdra followed in 1957. As a family, they were avid campers and enjoyed camping throughout Michigan, and at Yellowstone National Park and in Canada. Their family also shared special times at several trailers they had over the years on Croton and Hess Lakes. Howard liked hunting, but he mostly enjoyed the sport of fishing. Over the years he was also very involved in Boy Scouts and even served as a troop leader. Howard thoroughly enjoyed his time with the boys teaching them leadership and good citizen skills. He also taught them everything he knew about camping, fishing, and boating skills, his favorite pastimes.
In the early 1950s, Howard and his longtime friend, Gordon Stephens went into business together. For years they co-owned and operated the Crystal Flash Service Station on Alpine Avenue. There Howard built longtime friendships with many of his faithful, west side customers. He served his community well, and in addition he was an active member of the Marne Lions Club.
Howard was a man who loved to grill, but nothing compared to his love for Betty’s meatloaf sandwiches and bean sandwiches. They enjoyed going out for fish dinners, and Howard’s sweet tooth for Ludwick’s donuts was never ending. While spending time up north at their trailer, he enjoyed boating, fishing, feeding the ducks and sitting around the quiet of a bonfire. Big band music, the sounds of his youth, was Howard’s all-time favorite music genre.
When Howard eventually sold the station, he began working for Crystal Flash Petroleum driving a pickup as a supervisor. He retired in the mid 1990s, and for the following ten years Howard and Betty wintered in Wauchula, Florida creating lasting memories with good friends. They made their full time home in Newaygo until Howard fell and broke his hip. After he recovered, they then moved to Grandview Apartments in Grand Rapids. When Howard’s beloved Betty died in 2009 after 62 wonderful years together, he moved to Sanctuary at St. Mary’s where he remained for the rest of his days.
Howard had a quick witted nature and it was a joy to share his company. He relished the friendships of many, and treasured times spent with those he loved. Howard was a man of many opinions, and he never hesitated sharing those opinions which made for some interesting conversations a time or two! For these things and so much more, he will be dearly missed.
Mr. Howard Southwick Growe, aged 92, entered his eternal home on Tuesday, August 11, 2015. His 11 brothers and sisters, who along with their parents preceded him in death, as well as his wife, Betty, and his son, Garry. Howard is survived by his daughter, Tamdra Growe; daughter-in-law, Cathy; grandchildren, Rebecca (Joe) Keller, Andrew (Susan) Growe, Holly (Josh) Shirk, Casey Growe, Jenni (Robert) Berkenpas, and Carla (Ronald) Belcher; 16 great-grandchildren; his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Harvey (Shirley) Thompson; and many nieces and nephews. Friends and family will meet for a Memorial Visitation at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home; 851 Leonard St. NW on Tuesday, August 18 from 7-9 PM. Contributions in Howard’s memory may be made to the Humane Society of West Michigan. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to share a favorite memory or photo of Howard and to sign his guestbook online.