Wednesday, November 1, 2017
11:00 AM EDT
Westwood Christian Reformed Church
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Kalamazoo Christian School Association
2120 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Throughout his rich and rewarding journey, Richard “Ric” Vlietstra lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He was a hardworking man who accomplished so much of which to be proud, yet his greatest source of pride and joy was found in the family he treasured. Everyone loved Ric for his jokes, and his zest for life was truly contagious. He was a man of many interests who was always on the go. Ric was a man of principle who believed in doing things right and let his unwavering faith guide his steps. Life will never be the same without him here, but his family will proudly carry on his timeless legacy in his footsteps.
It seems only fitting that Ric’s story began during a time that was as vibrant as he was. It was the 1950s when James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were big names on the silver screen and television shows like Father Knows Best shaped the way we viewed the American family. Elvis Presley took the music world by storm, forever transforming the industry. Amidst this exciting time was the year 1951 when Hollis and Annette (Elgersma) Vlietstra were eagerly awaiting the birth of their first baby as the beauty of fall unfolded in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The big day finally arrived on October 10th when the baby boy they named Richard drew his first breath at Bronson Hospital. He was the oldest of three Vlietstra boys as he was raised alongside his younger brothers, Robert (Bob) and William (Bill).
Raised in the family home, Ric was a typical young boy of his generation. He was raised on the family’s 10 acres of land on Drake Road, which at the time was considered “out in the country”. Ric’s father supported the family as a plasterer, later opening a swimming pool business. His father was a hard worker, which is where Ric got his strong work ethic. While growing up he was an active kid who played various sports throughout his childhood. Ric attended Kalamazoo Christian High School and played on their first soccer team. He was also the first person to break their leg on the team! Ric graduated from high school in 1969, and his ties to the school would remain strong for years as he was the announcer for the school’s basketball games for 40 years. He held records at the school for soccer and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 for his accomplishments and contributions to the athletic program. After high school Ric attended both Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University where he studied business and played collegiate soccer. He went on to earn a certificate in home design after joining his in-law’s furniture business.
With his education behind him, Ric was poised for a rewarding career. He started his career working for Van’s Furniture in Kalamazoo, where his love of furniture, design and customer service grew. He later made his career as a representative in the furniture industry, which was a great fit since he was such a people person. Ric worked long and hard hours in order to support his family as he took his role as provider to heart. His work was second to none, and he was very respected among his accounts since he was so into getting the details right, providing excellent customer service, and also being very ethical in the business he did.
Although Ric found his work to be very rewarding, there was nothing that was of greater importance to him than his family. He was so proud to become a father to three amazing children, Mark, Scott, and Holly, and he was an active part of his children’s lives. Ric was always there to help and support them in whatever way they needed at any time they needed it. He has been described as an “All American Dad” as he loved to play ball with his kids and their friends. Grilling out was another regular activity that was filled with so many memories. When Ric was announcing games, it was a family affair and his children had such fond memories of attending the games with their father. Ric took great pride in being the “Voice of the Comets” and truly enjoyed picking out music and watching the players grow over their years playing basketball. As his children were growing up, Ric made a point for family vacations; camping in Pentwater every summer and skiing up north in the winter. Ric made Christmas and other holidays special for the family as he loved meticulously planning all the details, and playing Santa Claus when the kids were young, to make it such an amazing time for everyone.
Always on the go, Ric was a man of many interests. Golf was his passion, and over time he had the opportunity to play at both Pebble Beach in California and St. Andrews in Scotland and made sure to take his golf clubs wherever he travelled. He was very involved at Westwood Christian Reformed Church where he sang in the choir along with his father. As a father, Ric made sure that his children were brought up in the church, and they attended services on a regular basis. As someone who enjoyed singing he was a part of the Oratorio Society and also belonged to Singing Crusaders. A highlight was singing with the Singing Crusaders on a U.S. aircraft carrier. When relaxing, Ric enjoyed reading legal mysteries, American war history, and novels by John Grisham. Music was always a big part of his life, and he enjoyed all kinds of music but his favorite band was The Moody Blues.
Life was forever changed for Ric when his health took a drastic turn after suffering a heart attack in February of 2013. He relied on family for care and support and was able to become even closer with his children, his siblings, and especially his step-mother, Donna. In the spring of 2014, he received an L-VAD which assisted his heart to pump and gave him a second lease on life. He was finally able to golf, work, play with his grandchildren, go to trivia night with his friends and enjoy life again. December 18, 2016, he received a heart transplant at which time he suffered a significant stroke. Though his body could no longer do what he wanted it to do, his mind and spirit was strong. He worked incredibly hard toward his goals in therapy and always looked forward to having visitors. He persevered through great adversity all with a smile on his face and a joke not too far behind.
All who knew Richard “Ric” Vlietstra would agree that no one met him and left unchanged. All who knew him, knew how driven, loving, humorous, strong-willed, loyal, fun and stylish he was. He gave his everything to whatever he was doing, be it work, family time, or social activities. The best and most joyous days of his life were after his grandchildren were born. His love for them was so amazing and he cherished every second he was able to spend with them, he lit up when they were together and dreamed being able to chase them around again one day. Although he will be deeply missed, he will never be forgotten.
Richard “Ric” Vlietstra, of Portage, died on Friday, October 27, 2017, at Rose Arbor Hospice. Ric’s family includes his father Hollis; 3 children: Mark (Erin), Scott (Jennifer), and Holly (Jeff) Diebel; 2 brothers: Bob (Liz) Vlietstra and Bill (Marcia) Vlietstra; 3 grandchildren: Owen, Evelynn, Stella, and one expected granddaughter due in December. Ric was preceded in death by his mother, Annette and his stepmother, Donna. Visit with family and friends on Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at the Westwood CRC, 620 Northampton Road. Burial will be in the Grand Prairie Cemetery. Please visit Ric’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Kalamazoo Christian School Association.