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Life Story / Obituary
A hardworking man if ever there was one, James Blok, Sr. was the sort of man who would do whatever he could for those around him. He was never one to be focused on what he had, rather, his mission was on providing the life he had always dreamed of for his wife and children. Jim was a loving husband and devoted father who inspired his children to work hard while following their dreams to become the adults who made him so very proud. A stranger to none and a friend to all, he was the sort of person whom everyone wanted to know. Wise, generous, and respectful of others, Jim came to embrace a personal faith during his sunset years. Although he will be deeply missed, he will be forever remembered.
Life during the 1930s was anything but easy as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate soared, families moved across the country in search of work, and countless Americans lost their homes and everything they had. Despite the trials of the time, Arend and Anna (DeGraff) Blok were filled with unspeakable joy as they welcomed a healthy baby boy into their hearts and home on July 28, 1938. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, James was the seventh of nine children and was raised in the family home in the area of Leonard and Garfield on the West side of Grand Rapids alongside his older siblings, Eleanor, Gertrude, Maxine, Dolores, Bud, and Joan, and his younger siblings, Jerry and Ronny.
In many ways James, or Jim as he was always known, experienced a childhood that was reflective of his generation. He got into his fair share of mischief at times, and he was athletic, too. Jim attended local schools including Union High School where he played football, which was instilled within him a lifelong love for the sport.
Daily life was forever changed for Jim when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Sandra Tumbling, and he was 17 while she was a bit younger when they met. It was at Hour Theater on Leonard, NW that they met when he had a friend grab her wallet. Jim held it captive so that she had to come over to retrieve it. Although Sandra’s first impression of Jim was that he was obnoxious, he managed to charm her over time. They eventually fell in love, and with a desire to establish a life together, the sweethearts were married on September 25, 1959, at 2nd Congregational Church and then honeymooned to Mackinac Island.
As a young husband, Jim worked at Dykstra’s Poultry for a time. Over the years he had several different jobs including as a supervisor at McInerny Spring and Wire and later at Reynolds Metals where he remained for nearly 18 years. Jim loved knowing that working meant that he got to be with people as he was naturally outgoing and social. Later on, he suffered a work injury that greatly affected the rest of his life as he dealt with ongoing pain and also endured several surgeries. Since he still needed to get out, Jim did various things to keep busy such as driving a Gus Bus, managing some gas stations, and working football games at Houseman Field.
Jim’s family was always his focus. Together he and Sandra became the parents of four children: Roberta “Bobbi,” Dawn, Jim, and Scott. For many of those years the Blok family lived on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids. With a desire to give his children more than he had growing up, he did whatever was necessary to provide for them and also to give them some niceties as well. There was one year where he worked some extra jobs and was able to give all of his children bikes at Christmas. As a father Jim never wanted to be the bad guy, however, if someone needed discipline, he wasn’t one to mess around. At the same time, his kids knew that he was always there for them in whatever way they needed. If they came to him for advice, Jim gave his opinion, but he allowed them to make their own choices. If things didn’t work well, he was always there to pick up the pieces without placing blame. Their family was close with his brother’s family, and for years the two families enjoyed several vacations together for two weeks every summer. They traveled throughout the United States, including down South, out West, and a two week trip to multiple amusement parks. Jim’s favorite trip was the one they took to Wyoming.
Later on, Jim was thrilled to become a grandfather, and it was easy to see that he adored his grandchildren. From day one he was very affectionate with his grandchildren, and he did things for his grandchildren that he shied away from doing when his old children were small as he even changed diapers and fed his grandchildren countless bottles. Jim helped watch his young grandchildren while his daughters finished college and was there to support and encourage them. For years he volunteered as Santa at North Kent Mall.
Anyone who knew Jim was well aware of his passion for the game of football. In fact, it has been said that according to Jim there were only two seasons in life - football and when is football starting! For years he coached Rocket football and served on the board there, and he also assistant coached for Creston High School. As a coach, he was a man of integrity who refused to scream or swear at players, and he also let them know that they were doing a good job. Jim was a great man who inspired numerous kids over the years.
In his spare time, Jim also enjoyed reading including things from Tim LaHave, Jerry Jenkins, Tom Clancy, Hal Lindsey, and various inspirational novels. When he wasn’t busy, it wasn’t uncommon for Jim to get in the car to head out somewhere to watch local kids play some sort of sport. He was also an avid MSU fan. Several years ago, he finally accepted Christ as his personal Savior after having many faith-based discussions with his brother as well as with others and then attended Ada Bible Church.
When he began having more serious health issues about four years ago, it changed Jim’s attitude on life because he was no longer able to get out and socialize. The last few months were particularly difficult as his health declined even further.
Jim Blok, Sr. will be remembered for his fun-loving sense of humor, for the way he was continually inspiring others, and for the way he loved to tease those he liked, but it will be his big heart that will be his lasting legacy. He will never be forgotten.
Jim passed into the arms of his Savior on Monday, August 24, 2015. He was born July 28, 1938 to Arend and Anna (DeGraff) Blok and was one of nine children. Jim was preceded in death by his grandson, Jeremiah Boersma. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sandra (Tumbling) Blok; children Roberta "Bobbi" Blok, Dawn (Blok) Boersma (Tom Marquardt), Jim (Debbie) Blok Jr., Scott (Jenny) Blok; 14 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren; and sister, Joan (Blok) Fuller. Jim's love of football was evident to all who knew him and led him to coach for many years in Grand Rapids Rocket Football and at Creston High School. The service to remember and celebrate Jim's life will be held on Thursday, August 27, at 4 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE where friends may visit with his family from 3 PM until the service. The family will also receive visitors after the service. To share a memory or sign his guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com