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American Cancer Society
20450 Civic Center Drive
Southfield, MI 48076
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Life Story / Obituary
A man of honor, integrity, and compassion, John Wiggins was an extraordinary person to know and love. He had a contagious zest for life and was fun-loving with just the right amount of spunk that made him so much fun to be around. John was a loving husband and attentive father whose devotion to his family was easy to see. Always willing to help those around him, he was a true gentleman with a heart of gold. John worked hard and was a natural leader and well respected among his peers. Full of timeless wisdom, and at times quirky sayings, he had a way of making everything seem right with the world around him. John will be deeply missed and forever remembered by all who were blessed to be within his reach.
The 1930s brought us some of the most trying days we have ever faced as a nation as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, which drove the unemployment rate to over 25 percent leaving countless Americans desperate to do whatever they could to make ends meet. At times this meant picking up and moving clear across the country in pursuit of work. It was during this eventful time that a young couple from Allenhurst, Texas, was able to shift their focus to a joyous time in their own lives with the birth of a healthy baby boy on March 28, 1933. John L. was one of nine children born to his parents, William Harold and Allie A. (Jackson) Wiggins, and was raised on the family farm where his father worked hard as a sharecropper to provide for his family. John and his family were given a tough pill to swallow with the death of his mother when John was only two years old, which left his father on his own to raise John and his eight siblings including Grace, Lillie Mae, Lloyd A., Willie B. Demby, William McKinley, Naomi E., Charles Augustus Lindbergh, and Bernice.
In many ways John experienced an upbringing that was a reflection of the times. His father and all nine children lived in a five room home, and John’s sister, Naomi, became a mother figure in his life throughout his entire journey. As a family they often found fun in rather unusual ways such as riding pigs across the pigpen with the loser being the one who fell. John and his siblings were also known to sneak up on the neighbor’s blind bull and smack it. He completed his high school education in Houston as opposed to at a country school so that he could receive a better education. John loved singing and was quite talented, too. In fact, he had hopes of making it as a professional singer, although his minister father persuaded John to let his dream fall by the wayside as he did not approve of “secular music.”
Because John’s sister Naomi thought his future would be brighter outside of Texas, she bought him a ticket and sent him up North to live with his brothers, Mack and Lloyd in Detroit. When he was only 17, John lied about his age and volunteered to serve in the Air Force. His time in the service spanned from approximately 1950 through 1955 and included two tours during the Korean Conflict.
No matter what he was doing for work John was known for his strong work ethic. He spent some time working at the Wrigley Supermarket Store, which included making it to work every day during the riots of 1967. He also worked for Ford Motor Company for about 10 years and eventually settled in with Yale Material Handling, now Alta Equipment, for the remainder of his career. While there he was a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 614 and was elected shop steward by coworkers to represent them in regards to labor contract negotiations, grievances, and much more.
It was while working at Ford Motor Company that John met the woman with whom he would share the best years of his life. Her name was Delore, and with a desire to share their lives together John and his sweetheart were married at the courthouse in 1973. It was the second marriage for both, and John quickly embraced her five children, Dan, Lynne, Laurie, David, and John, as his own. Together John and Delore welcomed their son, Scott, into their busting clan.
Throughout his life John drew others near with ease. He was an active father who loved coaching and managing Scott’s soccer teams. John did so much more than teach kids the ins and outs of the game as his players all thought of him more as a life coach than a soccer coach. In fact, at a recent reunion of the Livonia Strikers he was brought to tears by former players’ outpouring of love for him after more than 20 years had passed. John just had a way with the younger generation as he was thought of as the “cool uncle” with the nice car and fancy clothes among his nieces and nephews. They loved and adored their uncle, too. John was full of fun sayings like telling his son to shut his mouth by saying, “Don’t be the duck,” in addition to other quirky and wise things like, “Lower than a snake in a wagon track, “Hungry enough to lick the sweat off a café window,” and, “Wiggling like a worm in an ant bed.” When a child was sitting on John’s knee he also claimed that they were on “the knee of wisdom!” When grandchildren arrived John loved being with them, and he came to as many of their soccer games and other events and activities as he could.
There were numerous things that enriched John’s life through the years. His father was an evangelist minister who was an instrumental part in shaping John’s religious beliefs that were a part of the foundation on which he raised his family. When healthy, John spent five to seven mornings a week at the Livonia Recreation Center where he gave his jaw a good workout. He knew his way around the kitchen and enjoyed cooking and doing BBQs for his family and friends. With a heart for making a difference in the world around him, John spent time helping the Livonia community understand diversity as the chairman for the Livonia Human Relation Commission. Around home he enjoyed relaxing with a western novels, especially those written by Louis L’Amour as he could read his work over and over again. John was also an avid blues music fan who could often be found out in his car in the driveway after arriving home so that he could finish listening to a song.
A well-respected part of the community he called home for much of his life, John Wiggins made a significant impact in the lives of numerous others. With his sparkling personality and his warm demeanor he made everyone he met want to be his friend. It was easy to see that John’s family was his priceless treasure, and it was when surrounded by his friends and loved ones that he was happiest. His memory will be forever cherished.
John L. Wiggins passed away March 21, 2014 at the age of 80. Beloved husband of Delores. Loving Father of Scott (Claire) Wiggins, Lynne (Jerry) Sokoloski, Laurie Shimel, David Shimel, and John (Nancy) Shimel. Dearest Grandfather of 10 and Great Grandfather of 1. Visitation Wednesday 2-9pm at the Neely-Turowski Life Story Funeral Homes 30200 Five Mile (Between Middlebelt and Merriman). Funeral Service Thursday 1pm at the funeral home. In Lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society. To sign the guest book, where you may also share memories, please visit: www.TurowskiLifeStory.com