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Life Story / Obituary
Throughout his rich and rewarding life, Thomas Kirkwood made the most of the days he was given while holding his loved ones near. He was a hardworking man who was well respected in his work, yet he also made the time to enjoy life along the way. A devoted husband and father, Tom was an incredible role model for his family, and he treasured moments spent with his grandchildren later in life as well. Known for his sharp wit, he could be a prankster at times, and his zest for life was truly contagious. Life will never be the same without Tom here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of our nation were focused overseas as WWII raged on. Countless young servicemen and women were serving overseas, and those who remained stateside became familiar with rationing on common goods like coffee, sugar, paper, and tin. Amidst this eventful time was the year 1942 when Emmett and Ruth (Witte) Kirkwood were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the beauty of spring unfolded that May. The big day finally arrived when the baby boy they named Thomas Emmett drew his first breath. He was the oldest of four boys to be raised in the family home on the Northwest side of Grand Rapids. He was a typical young boy of his generation who attended St. Anthony Elementary. As he got a bit older Tom had a paper route. His high school yeas found him at Catholic Central High School. Tom went on to graduate from high school in 1960.
New and exciting changes were in store for Tom when he met the young girl of his dreams. Her name was Jan Shaffner, and they met while visiting with friends. She was attending Davenport University and was chaperoning an event. They were immediately smitten with one another when their eyes met. Tom was trying to play it cool and “reading” a book, which was all fine except that the book was upside down! They dated for three years, and with a desire to spend the rest of their lives together they eloped and were married in 1967. The couple made their home at 2660 Sinclaire, NE, and together they welcomed two boys including Matt and David into their hearts and home. To support his family, Tom was a postal carrier for the United States Postal Service. He usually came home for lunch and played with the boys. Tom was forever giving them bear hugs, and they loved it when he pretended to drop them off the landing. Although Tom worked six days a week, Sundays were spent with his family. He was an amazing provider, nurturer, and mentor who taught his boys invaluable life lessons. He retired in the mid 2000s, which was also about the time Tom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
There was never anything of greater importance in Tom’s life than his family. He taught his boys to play tennis and basketball as well as how to swim. As the boys got a bit older they had a paper route. Tom was usually the one to deliver to the houses that were far off, and once they were done they often went out for donuts or to McDonald’s for pancakes. Tom was always there for his boys. He was frequently out there playing ball with them and their friends in the yard, and he also taught his boys to shoot bb guns at targets. These adventures were often followed with a trip to McDonald’s as well. As a family, the Kirkwoods did some camping, often with friends. Camping wasn’t really at the top of Tom’s list, he he did it for his family. Hoffmaster and KOA campgrounds were some of their more frequent spots. As a father Tom was easygoing with his boys. There was one time that he took the boys to Long John Silver’s and David smashed a tarter sauce packet on the counter, sending sauce all over Tom. He just smiled and gave him “the look.”
In addition to spending time with his family, he enjoyed pursuing his interests in his time away from work. He stayed active playing both fast and slow pitch softball, usually playing first base. Tom was on local basketball teams and also liked to play golf. For years Tom had an annual golf getaway with his friend, Bill Ronan, and he also had a “fantasy football” completion with Bill every week. An avid sports fan, Tom kept up with the Lions, Tigers, and Pistons. He was excellent with dates about several historical facts and events, and he was a historian who liked reading about war history. For years Tom and his wife wintered in Florida and went to see Jan’s parents in Tarpon Springs. He and his wife were members of Plainfield United Methodist until it closed down.
All who knew Tom would agree that he was truly extraordinary. He had a sharp wit and liked to have fun, and he could also be quite a prankster. When grandchildren came along Tom loved pranking around with them. He especially loved teasing them with the alphabet song, singing it all out of order with them. Tom was naturally shy, although he opened up quickly. As Parkinson’s disease limited his activities and facial expressions during his sunset years, Tom did his best to maintain a normal life. He continued to find such joy in spending time with his grandchildren and was famous for making Donald Duck noises with them.
Taken from his loved ones without warning, Thomas Kirkwood was such a blessing in the lives of those around him. He was a hardworking man who gave everything his all whether he was on the job or playing a round of golf, goofing around with his boys outside, or being silly with his grandchildren. Tom was never one to worry about the little things, rather, he was a man who was content in whatever life brought. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
KIRKWOOD- Mr. Thomas E. Kirkwood, aged 74, of Grand Rapids Twp passed away on December 24, 2016. He was preceded in death by his parents, Emmett and Ruth Kirkwood; In-laws, Boyd and Nell Shaffner; and brother-in-law, Larry Shaffner. Tom is survived by his wife of 49 years, Jan; sons, Matthew (Jennifer) Kirkwood and David (Alysha) Kirkwood; grandchildren, Aidan, Logan, Bennett, and Emmory. Also surviving are his brothers, Joseph Kirkwood, Michael (Joan) Kirkwood and Gerard (Cathy) Kirkwood; sister-in-law, Pat Shaffner; and many nieces and nephews. Tom was a kind, loving husband and father. He will be remembered for his love of fun, sharp wit and sense of humor. He was a postal carrier for the U.S. Postal Service for over 40 years and enjoyed participating in sports; especially bowling and softball. A Funeral Service will be held at 11 AM on Friday, December 30, 2016 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. Friends are invited to visit with his family from 6-8 PM on Thursday at the funeral home. Contributions in his memory may be made to Michael J. Fox Foundation. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read his life story, archive a memory, photo, or sign the guestbook online.