Life Story / Obituary
With a journey that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Michael Sanders lived a life of purpose filled with priceless memories created with his friends and loved ones. He worked hard, but he made the time to enjoy life as well, and much of his time was spent in the great outdoors. A devoted husband and father, Mike was very active throughout his life, and everything he did was made better when he experienced them with his family. Although he will be deeply missed, he leaves behind a timeless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
In 1942, Steven and Frances (Bolek) Sanders were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the warmth of summer unfolded in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The big day finally arrived on June 14th when the baby boy they named Michael Steven drew his first breath. He was the youngest of four children in the Sanders clan as he was raised alongside his older sisters, Barbara, Maxine, and Patricia. Mike’s father was a foundry worker at Wolverine Brass while his mother was a busy homemaker. Later on, they moved to 2468 Bristol, NW, in Grand Rapids, and Mike called the Grand Rapids area home for the rest of his life.
In many ways Mike was a typical young boy of his generation. He attended St. Adalbert Catholic Elementary School and developed a love for the outdoors that would remain his constant companion throughout his entire life. Mike especially enjoyed fishing and hunting deer and small game at the family property in Freesoil. Dogs were a regular part of Mike's life, especially as a boy.
After high school, Mike joined the United States Navy. He completed his basic training at Great Lakes Naval Academy and then worked as a mechanic. Mike spent four years in the Navy, traveling all over the world and making it to every continent except Antarctica. By the time his military duties were completed, he had earned the rank of 1st Class on the USS Hermitage.
Once again a civilian, Mike returned home and soon had his life forever changed when he met the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Judy McConnell, and they met through a friend. After dating for about year, the sweethearts were married on November 27, 1965, at St. Adalbert Church, which was followed by a small reception at his parents’ home. The newlyweds then took a honeymoon trip to the Lake of the Ozarks.
Eager to settle into their new roles as husband and wife, Mike and Judy lived in a home on Vineyard, NE. Together they welcomed three children including Todd in 1966, Michelle in 1968, and Deborah in 1973 into their hearts and home. After Deb's birth, Mike and Judy built their family home on Bluehill Drive, NE. Mike worked as a tool and die maker at a few shops in Grand Rapids including Kelvinator and General Motors where he spent the bulk of his career. Mike spent 30 years there and was awarded a patent before retiring. He enjoyed spending time with his family in his time away from work, and some of their favorite memories were made on vacations to places like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Niagara Falls just to name a few.
Over the years Mike was a man of many interests. He had a hot rod Plymouth that he often ran at Martin Dragway, and enjoyed bowling and golfing with his work league. Mike regularly hunted with his father and brother-in-law and enjoyed the hunting trips regardless of their success. He often bird hunted with his Irish Setter in Manistee National Forest. They had a cottage on Gun Lake, and many of their favorite times were spent there with extended family. Summers for the family were spent being pulled behind the red speed boat that had the big red dog standing at the bow.
Prior to his retirement, Mike was proud to put all three of his children through college at MSU. Once it was time to focus on themselves, Mike and Judy enjoyed traveling. They bought a travel trailer and enjoyed several road trips. Mike and Judy traveled to every state in the United States except Hawaii, because you couldn't drive the truck there. They eventually joined many other snow birds during the winters in Bowling Green, Florida, a small town south of Orlando.
Mike also enjoyed his summers at home. He liked working on his landscaping in the yard as well as growing tomatoes with his biggest fan, his granddaughter Alyson. Mike truly valued every moment he got to spend with his grandchildren, Alyson, Katelyn and Matthew. Mike was an avid reader and you could often find him at the library or used book store. Mike watched the news and read the paper every day. Mike enjoyed keeping up with the political heartbeat of the country, and didn't shy away from sharing his opinions with anyone. He spent hours in his workshop making detailed historical cannon replicas. They were authentic and he received many awards at the shows he took them to. He liked eating with friends at Vitale’s and Nick Fink's on West River Drive, and when it came to music he loved the Kingston Trio, Simon and Garfunkel, and Neil Diamond.
Last February, Mike had bypass heart surgery. During his recovery, further complications led to the diagnoses of lung cancer. As his health diminished he was put under hospice care. Michael Sanders died on Wednesday June 20, 2016, with his wife at his side.
Loving, compassionate, and dedicated to the ones he loved, Michael Sanders was a genuine family man. He could be grumpy at times, yet he also was the sort of person who was willing to help anyone. Mike was very intelligent, crafty, and resourceful, and it seems he could fix just about anything. He was content in whatever life brought and lived each day to the fullest. Deeply loved, Mike will never be forgotten.
Michael Steven Sanders, aged 74 of Grand Rapids, MI, passed away at home, with his loving family at his side, on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. He leaves his loving wife of 50 years, Judy Kay Sanders (McConnell); his children, Todd and Tammy Sanders, Michelle Sanders, Deborah Sanders; his grandchildren, Alyson Bryde, Katelyn Sanders, Matthew Sanders; his sister, Patricia (Guy) Estep; several brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his sisters, Barbara (Howard) King and Maxine (Melvin) Hammond. Michael honorably served his country in the US Navy. He retired from General Motors where he worked for 30 years. Michael loved the outdoors, whether it be hunting, fishing, boating, traveling, and making cannons . He was a loving and dedicated husband, father, grandfather, brother and a friend to all who knew him. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered. Relatives and friends are invited to meet his family to celebrate Mike’s life on Thursday, July 28, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Please join Mike's family for Graveside Services to be held on Friday, July 29, 11:00 am at Plainfield Township Cemetery, Packer Dr. NE 49306 (see map on Mike’s web page), under the auspices of the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard. Luncheon to follow at Nick Fink's in Comstock Park. The family would like to thank the staff of Spectrum Health Hospice and Trillium Woods Hospice for the love and care given to Mike and his family these past weeks. In lieu of flowers, Mike’s wishes were for you to take your family or friend you haven’t seen in a while out to dinner or a drink. Enjoy their company while you can. Contributions in Mike’s memory may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital or a charity of your choice. To read more about Mike’s life, to leave your own memory of him and to sign his guest book, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com