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Life Story / Obituary
Much can be said for a man like Joe Snell. Ever the hard worker, he provided well for the family entrusted to his care. Joe was an easygoing fellow and a gentle sort, yet he possessed a humorous nature that always brought smiles to those enjoying his company. A loving, dedicated husband, father, grandfather, and friend to all, Joe will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered.
Joe’s story began in 1932 as the economy continued to deteriorate as a result of the Great Depression. Unemployment increased to over 24 percent with an astounding 13 million out of work, and many struggled to keep their families fed and a roof over their heads. Even so, the entertainment industry grew by leaps and bounds and was a welcome deviation from everyday worries. Yet for Andrew, a Dutch immigrant and Mary (King) Snell who was french Canadian, the New Year offered hope and promise as they celebrated the birth of their son, Joseph Reese, born on January 5, 1932, in Lansing, Michigan.
Young Joe’s father worked at Michigan State University as a groundskeeper where years later his own granddaughter would graduate with her degree as a physician. His mother remained at home as a homemaker, taking care of Joe, the youngest, and his six older siblings, Jacob, Ellen, Christopher, Frank, Adrian, and David. His family moved often, and Joe attended several elementary schools during his childhood. Even so, he experienced the adventures of boyhood creating fond memories along the way. Joe Was a member of Boy Scouts of America as a teen.
Joe and his family eventually moved to the area of Owosso, Michigan where Joe loved playing basketball on his high school team. In 1950 he graduated from Owosso Bible School, and with the Korean War well underway, he went on to serve his country in the U.S. Army in 1953 as a radio operator. While in the Army, Joe continued his love for basketball. He was a member of the Army’s basketball team which afforded him the opportunity of traveling with his team to several bases while stationed in Germany. Following his honorable discharge, Joe returned home to Michigan where he attended Mott College, earning his degree in business.
During this time, Joe was married for a time. To this union, he was blessed with the birth of his daughter, Starla with whom he kept in close contact. He landed a job working at General Motors in the office for 15 years. Following GM, he then moved on to several other places including Stanton Mental Health Center, the State of Michigan, and until his eventual retirement in 1994, he was a dealer’s representative for Bank of America. As a job’s coordinator, Joe learned the art of glass blowing. He created beautiful figurines and other works of glass blown art, even peddling his wares at many of the local art fairs.
Although he had a good job, good friends and a wonderful daughter, something was missing in Joe’s life. He joined an area single’s group, Caring and Sharing where he met Joanne Welmerink. Joe and Joanne made for the best companions and after dating for a few years, they were happily married on March 20, 1981. After a memorable honeymoon in Three Rivers, Michigan, the newlyweds began their new lives together, and Joe lovingly took on Joanne’s two children, Pete and Terri as his own. They made their home in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the city’s west side at 1315 Lake Michigan Drive, and seven years later they moved to their current home on Lynne Lane, also on the west side.
When Joe retired, he kept himself plenty busy. He took a tax course offered by H&R Block and used this knowledge to help local seniors with their taxes at the West Side Senior Complex. He also did volunteer work for AARP. Never too old to learn, Joe also took computer classes to keep abreast of the many changes.
Joe loved working in his vegetable gardens where he grew the best tomatoes. He also enjoyed yard work. One of the many things he and Joanne loved to do together was dance, and they did so at every opportunity. Whenever the American Legion or the VFW halls had something going on, Joe and Joanne were sure to be there out on the dance floor. During the summer they loved visiting the area beaches to soak up some sun. When it came to watching TV, Joe, with his uncanny sense of humor, no less loved his comedies such as Everybody Loves Raymond, Cheers, and Seinfeld. An avid reader, Joe preferred reading magazines like Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic.
Quite talented in the kitchen, Joe loved to cook and he often had dinner ready for Joanne when she came home from work each day. A few of his specialties included his delicious chicken cacciatore and every Saturday morning Joanne awoke to the fond smell of Joe’s scrumptious pancakes. Along with dancing and other activities he and Joanne liked, they also went blueberry picking often during the summer. Joe delighted all with his great sense of humor. He was a great jokester, and boy could he pull some good ones! He especially loved time spent babysitting his grandchildren and he always looked forward to seeing them. When his daughter and grandkids lived in Europe for a while, Joe missed them tremendously.
Joe began showing signs of dementia in 2007. It was indeed frustrating for him as he knew he was slipping, and as the disease progressed, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He began living at the Christian Rest Home, and for the last several years he resided at Brookcrest Nursing Home where Joe received exceptional, loving care from their kind staff. Joanne, always loving and dedicated to Joe, visited him as often as she could.
Joe Snell was a gentle gentleman who knew the value of hard work. Devoted and dedicated in all he did, he used his skills and creative nature for the benefit of others, He was intelligent and always caring, he will be fondly remembered and deeply missed.
Joseph R. Snell, aged 84 of Grand Rapids, passed away on Thursday morning, December 1, 2016, at Brookcrest Nursing Home. He is survived by his loving wife of 35 years, Joanne Snell (Robach), his daughter and son-in-law, Starla (Rolf) Dietrich; stepchildren, Pete (Jenny) Welmerink, Terri Brieske; his grandchildren, Jana and Monika Dietrich, Christopher, Matthew and Aaron Welmerink; his dear sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Barb and Ken Simons; many other extended family including brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law; nieces, nephews and many friends. A proud Veteran, he was a member of The American Legion Comstock Park Post #47 and the VFW Creston Post. A service to celebrate Joe’s life will be held on Saturday, December 3, 11:00 am at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Visitation on Saturday at the funeral home from 10:00 am until the service begins at 11:00 am. Burial in Rosedale Memorial Park. Contributions in Joe’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or to a charity of your choice. To read more about Joe’s life, to leave your own memory of him and to sign his online guest book, please visit his webpage at www.lifestorynet.com.