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Mel Trotter Ministries
225 Commerce Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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Life Story / Obituary
A hardworking, courageous, and patient man, Thomas Hoekstra was a blessing to so many others. He worked hard to support his family, but he also took the time to enjoy life along the way. Tom treasured his roles as a husband and father, but he just may have argued that nothing was better than becoming a grandfather. A man of faith, he willingly served others in ways both great and small throughout his life. More laid back by nature, Tom was the sort of person who took everything in stride. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The 1930s were largely defined by the Great Depression that blanketed our nation and much of the world in unrelenting hardship. Although things were headed in the right direction as the decade was coming to a close, there was still a lot of ground to cover. It was as spring appeared on the horizon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1939 that Wilbur "Bill" and June (Van Oss) Hoekstra were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby. The big day finally arrived on March 24th when the baby boy they named Thomas Lee drew his first breath. He was the only child in his family and was raised in the family home on the Northwest side of the city.
In many ways Tom was a typical young man of his generation. He experienced an enjoyable childhood when he could do so many of the things he loved. As an only child Tom spent a lot of time with his cousins, and he loved being outdoors. Tom attended Oakleigh Elementary and Union High School. A talented athlete, he ran track and played tennis in high school. He was actually quite a tennis player as he and his partner, Denny DeVries, won the city doubles tournament. Tom also loved baseball and softball, which were a couple of sports he played as an adult. He attended local schools and then went on to Hope College where he also played tennis and later graduated.
Not to be forgotten during his years as his young man was Tom’s introduction to the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Nancy Hoekwater, and they met through some mutual friends in Grand Rapids. She was about four years younger, and they began dating. After dating for several years, Tom and Nancy were married on August 10, 1962, at Highland Hills Baptist Church. The couple then spent their honeymoon in the Smokey Mountains.
Tom spent his career guiding and inspiring students as a teacher. He spent his first six months teaching in Grand Haven, but he then took a job at Kenowa Hills High School, which is where taught for the rest of his career. Tom loved teaching math, and he balanced being patient with letting his students know what was expected. He was laid back with his students and rarely got rattled by anything. Tom also enjoyed the professional relationships at work. Tom earned his master’s degree from the University of Michigan. In addition to teaching, he spent several years coaching tennis at the high school, and he loved it. Always willing to work hard, Tom also taught driver’s training for several years. He started off teaching it with the high school during the summers, but he later taught privately with Sears Driving year round. Tom’s stories about his driving students were the best!
Although he was devoted to his work, Tom treasured being a family man. Together he and his wife welcomed their two children, Scott and Kristin, into their hearts and home. They first lived near Green Ridge Country Club, but they later moved to a home in Alpine Estates. Tom was active in the lives of his children in a variety of ways including as his son’s tennis coach. He also loved taking them to the races at Berlin Raceway. Tom enjoyed sitting by the pool while listening to Cubs games on his old radio. Just as he was at work, around the home he was very patient and steady. On the rather rare occasion that Tom did get angry, it was probably well deserved. As a family they enjoyed vacations for a couple of weeks at Elk Lake each summer, which is a tradition that started when the kids were young and continued throughout his life. Tom also took great care in making sure that things were just right around the home, and he was meticulous when it came to the yard.
There were many things that kept Tom busy over the years. For many years he attended and was very involved at Calvary Church including in serving as an usher. Attending church instilled a deep and quiet faith within him. Tom and Nancy were a social couple who took part in a lot of activities with church. Tom played on the church softball team and also played on a city league team, and together he and Nancy were members of tennis clubs for several years. In 1978, he bought a 1977 Corvette that he pampered for years, and he loved taking it out for rides. Tom especially loved going to Fricano’s for pizza.
After retiring, Tom had more time for the things he enjoyed. He had always played golf, but being retired meant that he had more time to enjoy it. Tom was delighted to become a grandfather, and his grandchildren affectionately called him “Papa.” He loved spending time with his grandchildren whether he was taking the girls on vacations, going to the cottage with them, or just sitting and playing with his grandson. Tom always did whatever Murphy wanted such as playing cars or school. He also took him on special outings during their days in the summer. Tom and Nancy spent a few months in Treasure Island, Florida, for many years. There, they met friends and built relationships, and Tom also golfed a lot, played cards, and walked on the beach every day. He and Nancy always stopped at the Corvette museum on their way South in the spring, and it was there that he first noticed that something was not right. He was soon diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and spent seven months fighting hard but never complaining.
All who knew Thomas Hoekstra would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and loved. While not loud and outgoing, he was very conversational with those he knew best, and his love for his family was easy to see. Deeply loved, Tom will be forever missed.
Thomas L. Hoekstra, age 77 of Walker, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on October 27, 2016. Tom was a math teacher and tennis coach at Kenowa Hills High School for many years and was a longtime member of Calvary Church. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; children Scott Hoekstra and Kristin & Wayne Dorais; grandchildren Addison and Avery Hoekstra, Murphy Dorais; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law Dale (Sharon) Hoekwater, Russell Hoekwater, Jayne (Dave) Swanson; as well as cousins and special friends. The service to celebrate Tom's life will be held on Wednesday, November 2 at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends are invited to visit with his family on Tuesday from 7-9 PM and on Wednesday from 10 AM until the time of the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Mel Trotter Ministries are appreciated. To read more about Tom's life, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com