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Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
3950 Leonard St. NW
Walker, MI 49534
Life Story / Obituary
A loving soul with a wonderful sense of humor, one who was filled with admirable faith and an open mind, Ione J. Zokoe will forever live in our hearts. She lived 91 years in this life with us, and we will never forget her. She was a loving wife, a caring mother, and cherished grandmother and friend to many. It is hard to say goodbye to such a good spirit.
Ione made her life's debut in 1926 - a decade that was still very much in full swing with the notable title, “The Roaring Twenties.” Life was good, and there was plenty of work for the country. Henry Ford announced the 40 hour work week for The Ford Motor Company’s factory workers. And with so many cars in production, it was imperative that the year also completed the famous Route 66 - taking travelers from Chicago, Illinois all the way out west to Los Angeles, California by automobile! The weather was also quite active during this particular year in history. President Calvin Coolidge faced helping his country rebuild after storms of disastrous proportions. As if the Great Miami Hurricane with its Category 4 destruction was not enough, the country experienced 27 tornadoes in one season. Thank goodness for the creation of Winnie the Pooh as a comfort to so many children during these and other storms throughout the year and for many still to come.
Early on in the year, and just days after Valentine's Day, Daniel and Hattie (Church) Dontje were preparing to receive the greatest gift of love. On February 19, 1926, in Manton, Michigan, Ione June was born into the world. Her older siblings, Wayne, Roger, and Jean helped their parents welcome their new little sister. She was later part of the welcoming party for her younger siblings, Leonard, Grover, Robert, Joyce, and Judy who helped complete the large and happy family.
They made a home on the family farm. To support the family, her father worked as a celery farmer, and her mother had her hands full with organizing the home and the lives of her 9 children. Everyone in the family pitched in to help with the daily farm chores and general housekeeping with so many hearts under one roof. Ione attended the local elementary school and later Manton High School graduating with the class of 1944.
Upon graduation and seeking an adventure all of her own, Ione moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan with her friend, Alma Muller. The two girls rented an apartment together in the Heritage Hill area. To support herself, she obtained a job working for Michigan Bell Telephone and later Wurzburg's Department Store. She was quite successful in establishing a life for herself, and this prompted her to eventually open her heart to the idea of love.
It was on a blind date where the two clearly saw an immediate attraction to one another. Clarence J. Zokoe and Ione quickly fell in love. Wedding bells rang with great enthusiasm on May 8, 1955, at Immanuel Lutheran Church. The newlyweds traveled to Niagara Falls before settling down to live the rest of their lives together. And life came at them fast; they purchased their first home located at 84 Cummings SW in Walker, and swiftly celebrated their first son, Jeff, three months earlier than expected, as he was born prematurely. Soon after, he was joined by two sisters, Peggy and Kristin. To complete the Zokoe family, Daniel was welcomed as the youngest. Many happy memories were created together as the family matured. After 11 years, they chose to sell some of their land and build a new home next door. Clarence worked as a tool and die maker to support their family while Ione stayed home to care for the family and involve herself in the many activities of family life. They raised their children to adulthood in this home and spent the next 47 years together enjoying life there.
The Zokoe's were members of the Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church where Ione spent many hours in various activities such as the Ladies Guild, cooking for the religious education classes' Wednesday suppers, helping out with the church food pantry, and teaching Sunday School. Outside of church, she was also very active as a Girl Scout leader.
When the family wanted to get away from life and vacation, they enjoyed many camping trips together. At first, they adventured in nature using only an old Army tent, but later they spoiled themselves with the luxury of a pop-up camper. Some of the places they made great memories included Brower Park and Traverse City. Sometimes they even rented a cottage at Crystal Lake, Crooked Lake among many others. Once they even braved a long distance trip to visit Yellowstone National Park out west.
Ione was an amazing cook. Everyone looked forward to enjoying the likes of her famous pot roast, meatloaf, or chicken which were always served with the full spread of equally delicious veggies, potatoes, and a colorful salad. If that were not enough, she also had a knack for creating delectable desserts including cakes, pies, bars and many scrumptious chocolate treats sure to please any sweet tooth in the crowd.
She and Clarence celebrated tradition quite regularly. Friday nights were always known for popcorn, and Saturday one could find them at Shelers Drive or Mr. Fables for burgers and fries and onion rings. Their home was the place where everyone gathered on Sunday night for dinners with the whole family. They stuck to the idea of tradition even when they were in a disagreement, as they would go to the Matterhorn Restaurant in Standale to "discuss it" properly.
Most of the time, the two got along like great friends would. They were always very active and spent lots of time together. They would spend warm summer evenings practicing their golf in the backyard of their house. They were also in bowling and golf leagues. Many nights were enjoyed merely socializing with their large group of friends.
When Ione had some time for herself, she had many interests as well. She took ceramic classes and loved to read mystery books as well as books about faith. She worked many crossword and jigsaw puzzles in the evening or during the cold winter months. Her talents in crochet produced many gifts for family and friends. Her beautiful heirloom Christmas tree skirts, made for family, will forever adorn the holiday season as artifacts of her love. The Detroit Tigers held a special spot in her heart, as she was an avid fan and cheered them on with zest! The golf channel was also a favorite, and it would often be on in the background as would "The Price is Right" if it happened to be on when she was in the mood for some television.
As her children moved on to find adult lives of their own, she and Clarence were joyfully blessed with 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Ione always looked forward to seeing them and attending their many activities. She especially loved to see the baby grandchildren. This time of life also afforded them the opportunity to purchase a trailer in Newport Richie, Florida where they spent 7 winters enjoying the sunshine together. They also took a trip to Hawaii where they took in the beautiful sights and made memories to last a lifetime.
As time passed, Clarence began slowing down. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and also endured a fall in 2009 which resulted in moving him to the Christian Rest Home. Ione supported her best friend as well as she could during this difficult time. After 82 years, Clarence passed away in 2010, leaving Ione with only memories she held close to her heart. With the support of her loved ones, she was able to find the goodness in life once again, but she was also beginning to feel the pangs of time. Jeff cared for Ione in her home for some time, and then Jamie, Ione's granddaughter, moved in to help as well. Jamie cared for Ione by assisting with daily chores to make Ione's life more comfortable.
In February of this year, Ione moved to assisted living at Green Acres where she received more intense care as her health continued to decline. Most recently, she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection and was admitted to Butterworth Hospital on Thursday morning. Her family kept a vigil at her side, and she was placed under hospice care. Sadly, Ione passed away on Friday, June 9, 2017, at Butterworth with her family by her side. She will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered.
Ione J. Zokoe (Dontje), age 91 of Grand Rapids, passed away with her family at her side, on Friday, June 9, 2017, at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital. She was preceded in death by her husband Clarence in 2010, her brothers, Bob (Sylvia) Dontje, Roger (Marge) Dontje, Leonard Dontje, Grover (Virginia) Dontje and her sister, Jean (Kermit) Moore. She is survived by her children, Jeffrey Zokoe, Peggy Bultema, Kristin (Victor “Bud”) VanSolkema, Daniel (Susan) Zokoe; 10 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren; her brother and sisters, Wayne Dontje, Joyce Cleary, Judy Sperry; many nieces, nephews, and friends. Ione was a longtime member of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church. Cremation has taken place. A private family service will be held. Contributions in her memory may be made to Spectrum Health Hospice or Mt. Olive Lutheran Church. To read more about Ione’s life, to sign her guestbook and to leave your own memory of her, visit her web page at www.lifestorynet.com