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Life Story / Obituary
Although he was taken from his loved ones without warning, Richard Grooten made an enormous impact in the lives of everyone he met. He was certainly unique with a personality that was all his own and a zest for life that was truly contagious. A devoted family man, Rick treasured his roles as a husband and father, but he just may have argued that nothing beat being a grandfather. After being with him for only a few moments, it was easy to see that Rick’s life was based on something different, something deeper, and that something was his unwavering faith. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever treasure.
It seems only fitting that Rick’s journey began began during a time as vibrant as he was. It was the 1950s when televisions were becoming part of our homes in record numbers, Elvis Presley introduced us to rock ’n roll, and by the end of the decade America was made complete with the additions of Alaska and Hawaii as our 49th and 50th states. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great anticipation in the lives of Lambert and Nelma (Vaughn) Grooten as they were eagerly anticipating the birth of their new baby as the beauty of spring began to unfold in the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The big day finally arrived on April 4th when the baby boy they named Richard L. drew his first breath in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
In many ways Rick was a young boy of his generation. He was the youngest of five Grooten children, and to say he was a bit spoiled by everyone just may be an understatement. Rick’s siblings, Ron, Don, Jan, and Pat all helped take care of him. When Rick got up in the morning, it was his routine to sit on the steps waiting for his mother to bring him hot chocolate. He owned a Ford Mustang at the young age of 16 and attended local schools. While a student at Kalamazoo Central, Rick played football, and at Kalamazoo Community College he played baseball.
New and exciting changes were in store for Rick when he met the young girl who would forever hold the key to his heart. Her name was Evonne, and they met at Covey Hill Baptist Church when he went to sing there with a men’s group and she was the piano accompanist. Rick called her to practice with him and the rest is history, as they say. Rick and Evonne began dating and soon found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to establish a life together, the sweethearts were married on August 10, 1979. As newlyweds they attended Covey Hill Baptist Church, and they also led the youth group there. Together Rick and Evonne welcomed four children including Sarah, Julie, Vicki, and Casey into their hearts and home. He was an active part of his children’s lives. Over the years he was there for all of their sports activities, plays, concerts, and so much more. It was hard to imagine that anything could top being a husband and father, but Rick was over the moon excited to become a grandfather and to spend time with his grandchildren. They called him Papa G., and he was so happy to be a huge part of their lives. Rick also adored his nieces and nephews, often taking them on camping trips.
From the time he was 16 years old, Rick worked in the building industry as it was all he ever wanted to do. He was very dedicated, hardworking, and creative as he was forever building things for his kids including an amazing treehouse and many other projects. Rick even led a team to build churches in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
One of the things that Rick was most known for was his steadfast faith. He had been attending Faith Baptist Church in Mattawan since 1993 and was very involved there. Rick and his wife began leading their junior church program where he was known for singing his favorite song "Father Abraham". Rick was also a leader and policeman at the kids carnival, involved in youth ministry, sang in the choir, and was always helping with various church projects. He did things for the Lord, not because he felt obligated to but because his greatest desire was to please the Lord.
Throughout his life, Rick was a man of many interests. He was an adventurous outdoorsman who loved hunting and fishing. Rick went bear hunting and fishing in Canada with David and Tim Kellogg, and he also went salmon fishing in the St. Joe River and took his family fishing at times as well. Always active, Rick coached softball at Howardsville Christian School. He enjoyed watching the MSU Spartans when he could. Later in life, Rick had a hobby farm with goats, chickens, pigs, and cows. He and his wife loved riding their motorcycle, and they also did some traveling including spending their 20th wedding anniversary attending "The Price Is Right" in California. For their 25th anniversary, Rick and Evonne traveled to New York City. In addition, Rick was creative and imaginative at making games.
Always thinking of others first and foremost, Richard Grooten was a blessing to everyone he met. He was truly unique; his way of saying things like, “Son of a gun”, “Ridiculous”, and "Man alive!" and many more will never be forgotten. Rick was also good natured and positive, no matter what came his way. His faith was easy to see and he lived to be the hands and feet of the Lord he loved. Rick will be forever missed.
Richard L. Grooten, of Paw Paw, died on December 17, 2015. Rick’s family includes his wife, Evonne Grooten; children: David and Sarah Taplin, Chris and Julie Fennell, Chad and Vicki Thornburgh, and Casey Grooten; grandchildren: Audrey, Haley, Brett, Maddie and Zechariah Taplin; Joe and Nathan Fennell; and Colton, and his soon-to-be sister-in-April Thornburgh; siblings: Don and Deb Grooten; Ken and Jan Chandler and Pat Bednarz; father and mother-in-law, Louis and Barb Gersey; sisters and brothers-in-law: Sue Schafer, Jim and Lisa Gersey and Steve Gersey and many nieces and nephews. Rick was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Ron Grooten; and brother-in-law, Greg Bednarz. Visit with family and friends on Sunday from 4 – 7 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson-Paw Paw, 60900 M-40; 657-3870. Services will be held Monday 11 a.m. at Faith Baptist Church (56070 Murray St., Mattawan) followed by a luncheon in the church hall. Private burial will take place at West Oshtemo Cemetery. Please visit Rick’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the Faith Baptist Church or RBM Ministries.