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Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned more than a century, Irene Sommerdyke lived life to the fullest, while holding her loved ones close to her heart. She was a faith-filled woman whose life was focused on serving others in ways both great and small. Irene treasured her roles as a wife and mother, but nothing was sweeter than witnessing her family tree blossom to include the grandchildren,great-grandchildren, and even great-great- grandchildren she adored. Irene was content in whatever life brought, and her strength, resilience, and vibrant spirit were an inspiration to everyone who knew her. Deeply loved, she will never be forgotten.
Life 100 years ago was much simpler. For Zygmund “Ziggy” and Wanda (Luckowska) Surat, it also was a time of great celebration, as they were blessed with the birth of the baby girl they named Irene Louise on September 12, 1914, at the family home on Leonard Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The family was blessed again eight years later with the birth of a second daughter, whom they named Nancy. Together the girls were raised in the family home on Muskegon Avenue in Grand Rapids. Their father was a professional gambler, who also worked in other skilled trades and factories including Brunswick Corporation in Kalamazoo, while their mother was a homemaker. Sadly, their mother died in a tragic house fire when Irene was just 12, which left her raising her younger sister and tending to the household responsibilities, while her Aunt Mary and other neighbors also helped out at times. The family of three then moved into an apartment on Scribner. Irene attended local schools, but had to quit school in 10th grade, as shewas needed in the workforce to help support the family. She took a job at Woolworths, taking the streetcar to and from work every day.
It was while at Woolworth's in 1933 that Irene met the young man who would forever hold the key to her heart. His name was Gerard P. “Mutt” Sommerdyke, and it was love at first sight. Infact, Irene broke off an engagement with someone else to start dating Mutt. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, the sweethearts eloped to Indiana and were married by thelocal justice of the peace on April 2, 1934, but later that same day they exchanged their vows for a second time in Little St. Joe’s Catholic Church on Grandville Avenue at 11:30 p.m. Thenewlyweds lived in an apartment above Mutt’s sister, Fran, on Naylor Street. Irene gave birth to their first child, Jaynie Lee, on March 10, 1935, and Irene stopped working to devote her time toher home and family. After Jaynie’s birth, the family of three rented a humble home for $10 a month on Eugene Street. The family expanded again with the birth of their second daughter,Joan, in November of 1936. Five years later, Irene gave birth to a third girl, Janet Lynne. Sadly, Janet lived only three days before she succumbed to internal organ complications. The family bought their first home at 222 Fox Street, and then later moved into a 100-year old home on a 73-acre farm at 6085 Ivanrest Avenue, where they raised, cows, pigs, and crops. Irene and Mutt remained there until selling the property to the State of Michigan for the construction of the new M-6 highway.
Life in the Sommerdyke home was always a fun place. Every Sunday the girls looked forward to having popcorn for dinner and the one and only soda they were allowed for the week. They also rented a cottage on White Lake each year where the girls had to catch fish for supper each day. Irene and Mutt later built a cabin designed by Joan’s architect-husband, Bill Thrall, on the Little Manistee River, where many memories were made swimming, boating, fishing, tubing, snowmobiling, and having all kinds of family fun. Irene loved being a grandmother to eight grandchildren and savored every moment she had with them.
Although caring for her family was her primary focus, Irene was also busy with other things that enriched her life. They were members of St. Frances Xavier Catholic Church and were later members of St. Pius X Catholic Church. An avid golfer for more than 40 years, Irene was on a golf league, and she was also on a bowling league for 25 years. She loved gambling and playing the slot machines, making several trips to Las Vegas with friends and most recently with two of her granddaughters. Irene always said that gambling was “in her blood.” She volunteered in the gift shop at St. Mary’s Hospital and also at Indian Trails Camp for years.
On July 25, 2002, Irene was deeply saddened with the death of her beloved husband after 68 years of marriage. Although she missed Mutt, she continued on with life and remained active with swimming, visiting friends, visiting casinos, golfing, and spending time with children and grandchildren. Irene kept driving well into her nineties.
With unending love for her family and friends, Irene Sommerdyke created a beautiful legacy through a life well lived. She was giving, curious, and completely focused on her family, creating priceless memories along the way. Irene will be forever missed.
Irene Louise (Surat) Sommerdyke, (101 years of age), was born on September 12, 1914, and died peacefully at home on July 5, 2016. She was preceded in death by her parents “Ziggy” and Wanda Surat, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania; her only sister, Nancy, whom she helped raise after their mother died in a fire; her husband Gerard (Mutt), long-time partner in Sommerdyke Brothers Plumbing; their daughter, Janet, who died in infancy; her sons-in- law Joseph Cordes and William Thrall; and her great granddaughter, Corinne. Irene loved people, life, laughter, and keeping busy. She started working at Woolworth’s when she was just 14 years old, and was on the go her entire life: raising her daughters, renovating a 100-year old farmhouse, golfing (40 years in a league), bowling (25 years in a league), swimming, tubing,fishing, snowmobiling, making ceramics, eating cookies (“They’re good for the bones!”), volunteering, traveling and visiting casinos. She and Mutt, who eloped to Indiana at 19, then wed again later that day in the church, enjoyed 68 years together, often singing “Pennies from Heaven” to one another. There were lots of laughs and good times spent with family and friends and at their beloved cabin on the Little Manistee River in Irons. Irene’s daughters, Joan and Jaynie, both nurses, were a source of great pride and a constant joy to her, as were their children and grandchildren, who were always treated to M&Ms, Cracker Jacks, and popcorn at Grandma’s. Irene will be remembered for her wonderful smile, quick wit, and fabulous outlook on life. She is survived by daughters Jaynie Cordes and Joan Thrall; grandchildren Steve (Carrie) Thrall, Patti (Tim) Zuk, Janet Cordes, Joe (Cindy) Cordes, Michael Thrall, Julie Lawrence, Jennifer (Jeff) Mesler, John (Heather) Cordes; and great grandchildren Emily, Parker, Brenden, Skyler, Liam, Cleo, Hunter, Chloe, Taylor, Ben, Nick, and Maggie; great-great grandchildren Aaron, Sully, and Aurelia; and numerous nieces and nephews. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday morning at 11:00 am at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 3933 Wilson Ave., Grandville, MI. Relatives and friends may meet her family on Friday from 5:00 – 8:00 pm at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, with the scripture service at 7:30 pm. Visitation again at the church on Saturday from 10:00 am until the Mass begins at 11:00 am. Burial at Resurrection Cemetery. Contributions in her memory may be made to Multiple Sclerosis Society or American Cancer Society. To read more about Irene’s life, to sign her guest book, and to leave your own memory of her, visit her webpage at www.lifestorynet.com.