Life Story / Obituary
Like many, Phil Smith had his share of ups and downs in life, but foremost was the family he loved and admired. A hard working man, he would take on any task, and with his goodhearted nature, he was always there for a family member or friend in need. He gave of his time and talents, never expecting anything in return, and in all ways was beloved by those who knew him best. Dearly missed, gone but never to be forgotten are the wonderful memories he leaves behind.
Although conservative in nature, the decade of the 1950s sculpted the culture of America. Everything from music to movies, art and media to beloved comic strips and cartoons introduced households to a whole new way of life. With manufacturing and home construction on the rise, the economy boomed as the suburban dream was being realized. It was indeed a time of change as well as blessings, especially in the lives of Albert James and Dorothy Ruth (Goulooze) Smith of Grand Rapids, Michigan when on March 16, 1951 they welcomed the birth of their little boy, Philip James Smith into their arms.
Growing up on Kinney Avenue on the city’s northwest side in Walker, and moving between there and Marne offered a young boy like Philip much adventure. His father owned Smith Brothers Wood Products and he often built homes and then went on to sell them for a profit. His mother looked after Philip and his five siblings, Jennie, Kay, Barbara, Paul, and Marcia as a homemaker and also helped his father at their family store. Phil attended Walker Station Elementary School before graduating from Kenowa Hills High School with the Class of 1969 where he was a member of his school’s baseball team.
Following high school, Philip took a job working on an oil rig in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was hard work, and he continued to do so when later he worked alongside his father as a commercial builder after returning to Michigan. Phil helped construct many buildings throughout the area, and eventually became a pretty good excavator clearing land for houses, driveways, and drain fields.
Life for Phil wasn’t all about work. His life was truly made complete when he met Mary Jane Minasola at Make Believes, a local restaurant. The two dated for several years, fell in love and before long, married. Phil lovingly took on Mary Jane’s children, Joseph, Christian and Dawn as his own. Together as a family they made their home on Maplerow NW and later moved to a house on Awixa NW. They eventually purchased a home on Lamont Avenue where Phil would live for the remainder of his days.
Phil was a diehard MSU fan and loved all the Detroit sport’s teams. When it came to music, he preferred classic rock and the sounds of his youth. In his free time, Phil was an avid reader, especially novels authored by John Grisham. A real meat and potato’s kind of guy, Phil loved sitting down to a good, home cooked meal. On the weekends, he was a grill master in his own right. He loved grilling out enjoying steaks, burgers, hot dogs and brats on the open flame.
In 1985, Phil’s dad built a cherished place where his family could gather for generations to come. “The Lighthouse” on Linden Avenue continues to accommodate nearly 100 people and is large enough for their growing and ever increasing family. Great times and family get-togethers there for the holidays remain a treasure. A summer ritual in his family included memorable deck parties. He and his siblings traded getting together at each others homes for great times, wonderful food and shared laughter through the years.
Phil was a spiritual man of quiet faith. He attended First Evangelical Church and New Life Baptist Fellowship where he shared the friendships of many. With his numerous skills in carpentry work, Phil worked at Indian Trails Camp which brought Phil a great sense of accomplishment and joy. He was one to always offer a helping hand, and among his family and friends he was known to be counted on as truly giving and trustworthy.
On Saturday, August 22, Phil suddenly collapsed at his home. He was transferred to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital where he was placed on life support. Philip later died with his family by his side. Ever the hard worker and just as loving in all he said and did, Phil Smith was a bighearted man and with unending compassion, he will be greatly missed by his beloved family and many friends.
Philip James Smith, aged 64 of Walker, passed away on Monday, August 24, 2015. He was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Dorothy Smith. He is survived by his former wife and companion, Mary Jane; his stepchildren, Joseph (Michelle) Minasola, Christian Minasola, Dawn (David) Sutter, step-grandchildren, Madison Buechner, Max and Myah Sutter; his sisters and brother, Jennie (Thomas) Luyk, Kay (Donald) Owen, Barbara Smith, Paul (Sharon) Smith, Marcia Smith; many nieces, nephews and friends. Cremation has taken place. A service to celebrate Phil’s life will be held on Saturday, August 29, 11:00 AM at Standale Baptist Church - 3714 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Relatives and friends may meet his family at the church on Saturday from 10:00 AM until the service begins. Please consider contributions in his memory to Indian Trails Camp. To read more about Phil’s life, to leave your own memory of him and to sign his online guest book, please visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com.