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Life Story / Obituary
Determined to find the answer or fix to every problem with dedication and perseverance, John Sterk lived his life fully. Whether it was an engine needing repair or a tax question needing an expert - John was capable of finding a suitable solution. He was equally dedicated and attentive to his family and friends. John was a caring husband, a loving father, and a cherished grandfather and friend. We will dearly miss such a good soul in this lifetime.
The year in which John began his life, a new decade was also dawning bringing in the year of 1940. The United States was finally beginning to feel some relief from The Great Depression, but WWII raged on abroad. American citizens rolled up their sleeves to help with the war efforts manning factories or merely planting vegetable gardens to lessen the burden of the low food supply. The country supported Franklin D. Roosevelt who was elected to an unprecedented third term in office. Closer to home, in Willimasn, Michigan, Jelle and Jeannette Sterk were beginning a new chapter in their lives. Late in the month of October, they welcomed their first born son, John Peter, into the world on the 27th. Over the course of his earlier years, John would be joined by four siblings; Marilyn, Robert, Calvin, and Linda helped complete the family.
John's parents worked hard to provide the family a good life. Their father was a builder and developer. His mother stayed home to keep the family organized and the house livable and happy. Since their father was a builder, the family found that they moved around to different houses quite often; in fact, John lived in 17 homes as he grew up. Finally, the family settled in more permanently within the city of Grand Rapids. John attended Oakdale Christian Elementary followed by Grand Rapids Christian High. He graduated with the class of 1958.
As a young adult, John spent much of his free time tinkering with cars. Tinkering was something he would continue to do his entire life - always fixing or improving the existing things around him. He worked on cars that eventually raced at Berlin Raceway. His friends all became big name racers at the complex. One adventure to Florida with friends happened in a '42 Ford which needed to have repairs on the entire rear end half way to their destination. With John along, the fix was made, and the journey south continued!
After high school graduation and a few personal adventures, John enlisted in the Coast Guard. This life decision thrilled his mother, as she hoped the service would "straighten him out." He spent 6 months on active duty and several years in the Reserves.
John chose to attend Davenport College where he specialized in accounting. He found a job working as a clerk. While in this position, one of the CPA's encouraged him to seek a complete degree. He took the advice, and he enrolled at Ferris and earned his accounting degree. This was a wise choice, as he dabbled with this line of work for the rest of his life. Upon earning his degree, he took a job with the Michigan Trust Building downtown. This opportunity proved to be fruitful because this is where he also met the love of his life. Janice Zeeff captured John's heart, and the two began dating.
The Fairview Reformed Church hosted their family and friends in the celebration of their marriage in 1966. This special union outlasted every challenge and captivated all of the good times in the 51 years of their lives together. The newlyweds traveled to Florida for their honeymoon and survived a shark encounter! While out exploring and wading in the water, the two noticed a shark nearby. John ran out of the water, leaving Jan, only to return with a spear to rescue his bride!
Upon their safe return home, the couple rented an apartment on Prospect Street. John went to work as an auditor, but soon he decided to start his own firm out of their home which was named John Sterk Accounting. This was a very exciting and memorable achievement. Business was going well, so they looked forward to their next adventure together. Before too long, they were expecting their first baby. Right around this time, they also decided to move to a home on Abbington Street NW. This was an old home rolled over from the nearby golf course, and it needed a great deal of repair. In time, the house was fixed up, as it welcomed three children; Julie, John, and Joel filled the home with lots of love and activity.
This home witnessed traditions of Saturday night pizza and Pepsi enjoyed out of a glass bottle. The family created many memories together outside of the home too. They traveled to Clearwater, Florida and Disney World. Once they bravely set out on a trip in a borrowed motor home. They traveled all the way to Lansing before their big plans were spoiled with a transmission failure. This didn't keep the family from trying again, however, they still made it to such places as Washington DC and Boston. Closer to home, the kids always looked forward to going swimming at the YMCA. As the kids matured, they had to learn to accept that Dad's heavy workload during the tax season always occurred during spring break, so vacations and leisure time had to be planned alternatively. Even so, John made up for it by spending time with his family otherwise. He liked to escort the boys on small fishing expeditions where he was there "just in case they fell in."
John's love for yard work and tinkering did not leave much time for hobbies, for these activities kept him plenty busy. He loved to fix anything broken, and he loved to help others fix things too. If he heard there was a problem, he would research it and print off many documents on how to handle it - generously sharing with anyone needing his assistance. He tinkered on the Internet almost as much as he tinkered with broken items.
Many family and friends marveled at his beautiful lawn, a carpet of Kentucky blue grass. He worked on this diligently and with great pride. He looked forward to grilling out - especially ball tip steaks marinated in teriyaki. John would find great delight using his metal detector too - finding many interesting treasures throughout time. In true CPA and accounting spirit, John loved to keep track of his gas mileage. He would calculate every fill-up on a tablet of paper (no computers or apps!). He required the same of his children when they reached the privileged driving age. When he was able to get the cost of operation down to 10 cents a mile, he would give the car away for free.
As John's family matured, life took some new direction. They decided to move to 2700 Westbrook NW in the 80's (a house which they still own). He also became an Elder/Deacon for his church in Orchard Hill. His firm experienced change with an expansion becoming Sterk-Edwards-Solomon and relocating to the Fuller-Fulton area and then finally to Lake Eastbrook. John never fully retired from his career, as he enjoyed doing personal taxes for people. As time progressed, he did take more personal time for himself only going in to work once and awhile. He had a vision of selling their home in Michigan to move to Florida where he could fish and enjoy the small things in life with a little more southern sunshine and warmth.
Recently, John began to experience some hip pain and unexplained weight loss. He was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in May. Sadly, he passed away on September 7, 2017. Knowing that he is resting at peace with his Lord affords us comfort during this time of grief. We will hold the memories we shared with John close to our hearts, and we will never forget him.
Mr. John P. Sterk aged 76, of Grand Rapids, went to be with his Lord on September 7, 2017. He was preceded in death by his brother-in-law, Garry Switzer. John is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Janice (Zeeff); daughter, Julie and Michael Meindertsma and their children, Micah, Aubrey, Gabriel and Samuel; son, Jonathan and Brandi Sterk and their children, Taylor, Kendall, Jacob and Grayson; and son, Joel and Jana Sterk and their children, Jonah and Jason. Also surviving are his siblings, Marilyn and David Winzenz, Robert and Diane Sterk, Calvin and Pat Sterk and Linda and David Sugarbaker; sister-in-law, Annette Switzer; and many nieces and nephews. John worked as a CPA for many years and will be remembered mostly for his caring/generous spirit that enabled him to put others first. The Funeral Service will be held at 11 AM on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. The family will receive community support at the funeral home from 6-8 PM on Monday and on Tuesday from 10 AM until the time of the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to Orchard Hill Church or Faith Hospice. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read his lifestory, archive a memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook online.