Life Story / Obituary
Perpetually happy and grateful, Theodore "Teddy" Totoraitis lived with joy in his heart and an infectious smile on his face. Despite many adversities, Teddy was a heart-centered man who inspired all who were blessed to share time with him. Cherished beyond words, Teddy’s powerful legacy will surely live on in the hearts and lives of those he loved.
At first glance the major events of 1971 could be that Atari released its epic video game--PONG. For those who are more discerning in their definition of what was most important that year, the birth of Clayton Hugh Gaff on March 24th would certainly be at the top of the list. As Theodore and Deborah Totoraitis welcomed their much-anticipated son into their hearts and lives, little did they know the impact Teddy would have on so many.
Growing up in a small house on the back property of his Totoraitis grandparents’ home, where the creek met the Grand River, Teddy knew the comforts of a loving and supportive family from his very first days. While his father worked at Grand Valley Honda in Standale; His mother was a stay at home mom who relished in caring for her two sons, Teddy and Bret.
Older than Bret by a year, Teddy took his role as “big brother” quite seriously. Fiercely protective of Bret, Teddy allowed him to tag along and play with his friends. At the age of six, Teddy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor which was treated with radiation and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the impact of the treatment resulted in a major change in Teddy’s physical and mental development. As Teddy’s physical and cognitive challenges grew, Bret stepped into the role of protector. From then on Bret was the one to make sure Teddy was safe, involved, and accepted by others.
Together, Teddy and Bret spent a lot of time in their youth often playing down by the river near Aman Park, where they would pretend it was “Dagobah” the home of Star Wars' Yoda. They'd easily imagine the swamp and tree roots as they played, acting out their imagination's best possible conversations with the great sage. Teddy’s good-nature assured that the pranks Bret would “share” with him were always well received and the boys forged a tremendously close relationship that lasted their entire lives.
Gregarious and magnetic, Teddy greeted every person he met with an enthusiastic “hi” and an infectious smile that left them instantly endeared to him. He was especially enamored with the girls, who received extra-enthusiasm in his greeting. Everyone liked and accepted Teddy, and when he and Bret graduated from Allendale HS together, Teddy received a standing ovation from the student body when he received his diploma.
With an ease that most of us have never experienced, Teddy embraced each moment with a sense of wonder, appreciation, and wholehearted joy. There was never a moment that Teddy was not the embodiment of delight. Some of his favorite moments were taking walks with Bret and their mom. Together they would meander along sharing the day’s gifts and just enjoying one another’s good company.
For a time, Teddy was able to participate in Kandu, a transitional sheltered workshop for people with developmental disabilities in Holland. Kandu organized and trained disabled young people to earn some money and also to build and develop community relationships. With Kandu’s support, Teddy began working lite assembly which he continued to do for six years.
Teddy's heart truly knew no bounds and he had many loves. He loved movies and amassed over 600 in his personal collection. There was no music that didn’t inspire a smile on his face and a meal of Peppino's Pizza or Kentucky Fried Chicken was always a hit. His greatest love was for fighter jets. Teddy had a vast collection of books, models, and metal cast jets. He could identify all the jets. He knew their weapon systems, schematics, capacities; you name it, he knew it! He had the good fortune of attending several air shows and was even invited to sit in the cockpit of an A-10 Warthog at AFB in Battle Creek. When not pursuing his knowledge of jets, he loved to fish. Many a wonderful fishing trip was taken to the U.P. and Canada. No meal delighted Teddy quite as much as freshly caught fish.
Teddy also had a passion for animals. While he had many pets over the years, Hannah the dog who sat at his side for the last 12 years and Lionel the golden cat were two very special companions. Teddy loved all animals and was blessed to be surrounded by 26 family pets during his final years. He also had the fun of helping rescue and care for a family of raccoons that first came into his life as babies who needed a lot of care.
13 years ago Teddy suffered a severe stroke which left him in need of 24-hour care. Without hesitation, Teddy’s mother and step-father, Steve, provided 100% of the special care he needed in the comforts of their home in Hastings. Regardless of the demands his health imposed, Teddy and his family remained firmly centered in their faith and the knowledge that they were sharing a divinely guided path. This faith was bolstered by their Christian Fellowship Assembly church family that Teddy was a part of his entire life. Having confessed Christ as a first grader and baptized in the Grand River in January when he was 12, Teddy’s faith was as unwavering as his positive nature.
An undauntable spirit, Teddy inspired all who had the gift of knowing him. Despite life’s challenges, Teddy was always easy to be with. In his presence, others thoroughly knew they were loved, appreciated, and enough. His capacity for kindness and generosity were most evident in his eager and sincere “thank you’s” that he always extended to his nurses and care providers, even when the procedures they performed caused him pain and discomfort. Teddy epitomized appreciation, and in his effortless, unconditional love he taught by example how to be a good and kind person.
Though it is hard to imagine life in the absence of his steadfast presence, may we find comfort in knowing that Teddy is free of the constraints of an earthly body: “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~Isaiah 40:31 Without a doubt, Teddy’s infectious and indomitable spirit has been lovingly welcomed into his eternal life by God’s warm embrace and words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” Well done.
TOTORAITIS, Theodore “Teddy”
Grand Rapids, MI
Age 46, passed into the loving arms of Jesus, with his family at his side on January 9, 2018. Teddy was born on June 24, 1971, in Grand Rapids to Theodore and Deborah (Doty) Totoraitis. He was preceded in death by his father; his grandmother, Orpha Totoraitis; and uncle, Scott Doty. Teddy graduated from Allendale High school and was a member of Christian Fellowship Assembly. He will be remembered for his strength and faith during his health struggles. Teddy is survived by his mother, Deborah (Steve) Balderson of Hastings; brother, Bret (Abby) Totoraitis of Holt; grandparents, Theodore Totoraitis of Grand Rapids, and Raymond & Shirley Doty of Marne; step-sister, Jennifer (David) Babcock of Owosso; step-brother, Bradley (Tracy) Balderson of Hastings; nieces & nephews, Nicholas, Anna, Graham, Elisabeth; step-nieces & nephews, Zoe, Hunter, Rorie, Reed, and Jax. A funeral service will be held on Monday, January 15 at 11 AM at Christian Fellowship Assembly, 9930 64th Avenue, Allendale, MI 49401. Friends may visit with his family beginning at 10 AM. Interment will be in Rosedale Memorial Park. Please visit Teddy's personal web page to read more of his life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.