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Life Story / Obituary
Thomas Warner Siegel was a man loyal to his family, enjoyed by his friends, proud of his work, and happy to have served his country! He brought life and laughter to family and friends alike, lighting up a room or a gathering wherever he went. He added immensely to the lives of all who knew him. That’s who Tom Siegel was.
Tom’s life began on April 28, 1943, in Grand Rapids, MI. It was a time of great American commitment as people across the country pitched in to join the war effort in Europe and the Pacific. Growing up at this time Tom witnessed first-hand the true meaning of family, neighborhoods, hard work, and patriotism. His father William Warner Siegel worked for the railroads, a thriving industry in those days. His mother, Marie Rose Connelly, was a school teacher—back when school was all about the three “R’s” plus conduct and discipline! Tom’s loyalty and work ethic came from his parents. Tom was very close to his sister, Jeanne. Their grandfather Connelly lived with them, too.
The family home was in Comstock Park on the corner of School St. and West River Dr. It was a busy home filled with love, laughter, and homework. Holidays were always celebrated in a big and festive manner. As a young boy, Tom loved to run around the neighborhood and have fun playing pick-up games with any kids who were out and ready to play. Tom’s world expanded at a fairly young age, though. It was when his grandfather Connelly died and his mother took him and his sister on a cross-country train trip. Unfortunately, Tom’s mother died at age 45 from hypertension. Tom went to Blessed Sacrament for grade school and then on to Catholic Central High School.
After high school, Tom enlisted in the United States Air Force and served proudly from 1961 to 1964. He joined the Air Force on May 9, 1961, and was deployed to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. He served on active duty until Dec. 8, 1964, and received his Honorable Discharge on May 8, 1967. While he was in service in Germany Tom ran a roller rink for the GI’s. Tom was a good roller skater and running the rink added some real fun to his time in service. After his time in service, Tom started his career—by getting his license as a Master Barber Stylist at Green’s Barber College in 1969. As Tom himself would say, he “survived” high school but he excelled in barber trade school! Tom had his own barber shop, called Shear Genius, on 44th St near Old Farm Estates. And yes, Tom was known for having a handlebar mustache for quite a long time.
Tom was a big sports fan, as were most barbers then. He followed the Lions, the Tiger, the Pistons, and was a big Red Wings fan. He even knew some of the pros at different times. Guys like Dave Rozema of the Tigers and Mike Lucci and Greg Landry of the Lions. Sports and games and just having fun were always important to Tom. He loved a good round of golf, he enjoyed casino games, and he liked to dance, too. And along with dancing came Tom’s favorite music, primarily that of the 50’s and 60’s, plus jazz, pop, big band and rock.
It was during these years of schooling, getting his career going, and having fun that he met a beautiful gal by the name of Carole Hare. Carole worked at Rospatch Corp in Grand Rapids. These two love birds met at a dance at Westgate Bowling in Comstock Park. After dating for a year or so, they found themselves seriously in love and so . . . they joined their hearts in matrimony and were married by a Justice of the Peace on March 15, 1968, in Walker, MI. It was a great day for this happy couple. They didn’t take a lot of time for a honeymoon, but they did make it to Detroit for a weekend. Carole had three children of her own—this may be partly why they were so busy! The children were Karen Lynn, Robert Gerard, and Cheryl Ann. Tom took to the kids with ease and from day one he considered them his kids. No step-children, no step-dad for him. They were his from that day forward. As time went on Tom and Carole had a son together. The named him Eric Christopher. As a dad, Tom always wanted to show his love. He was accepting and loyal. You knew he had your back. That’s the kind of guy Tom was.
Tom liked riding roller coasters when he was young and was happy to discover that Carole liked them too! Cedar Point, the roller coaster capital of the world, became a fun destination with their kids and later in life they took their grandkids too. Tom loved telling that one occasion while riding on the Magnum his cigarettes came right out of his pocket and hovered in the air! At home, Tom could often be found cooking steaks or pork chops on the grill. The filet mignon at Outback Steakhouse was his all-time favorite. He also cherished his collection of pocket watches, his star sapphire ring, and his harmonica.
In addition to being a husband and father, Tom enjoyed a good book—especially mystery novels. Tom and Carole liked to travel and enjoyed trips to Las Vegas and cruises to Cancun, Aruba, and the Mediterranean—especially to Santorini in the Aegean Sea. After retirement, they took trips to Mesa, AZ, and Lake Havasu. Tom also liked being a member of the Scott Lake Century Club and the Great Lakes Senior Golf Association. The American Legion Post 208 on 44th St. was important to him too. He was proud to be a member of it. Tom and Carole went to the Post regularly on weekends to dance. One of the most rewarding experiences for Tom was acting as a guardian escort for the Honor Flight 311 when he escorted WWII Veteran Walter McVeigh to the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.
Tom Siegel could be described as outgoing and boisterous at times, and one who enjoyed exaggerating stories! You couldn’t mistake his presence in a room, that’s for sure. Somehow he found a way to be in the spotlight more times than not. Make no doubt about it, Tom was a liberal democrat and he wasn’t afraid to let you know it. He would post things on Facebook just to get a reaction! Barbering wasn’t Tom’s only career, by the way. There was a time when he tired of running the shop and became a wine consultant. And then he was a long-haul truck driver for a spell. But he eventually went back to barbering. Tom liked to say he was a jack of all trades and a master of many! He retired altogether in 2005.
Unfortunately, Tom was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2011 and was thought to have only a few months to live. When Tom was diagnosed he prepared a bucket list and was able to complete all the items before his death. He beat the odds and lived until February 8, 2016. Tom died at his home after four bonus years of life.
Thomas W. Siegel aged 72, of Walker, passed away on February 8, 2016. He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Marie Siegel; step-mother, Mildred (Debri) Siegel; step-brothers, Thomas Debri and Leo “Bud” Debri. Tom is survived by his loving wife of 48 years, Carole; his children, Karen (Chuck) Bush, Robert Ritzenhein Jr, Cheryl Scalise, and Eric Siegel; grandchildren, Sean, Brian, Heather, Stephen, and Ashley; great-grandchildren, Christopher, Vinnie, Elli, Zachary, Emma, and Weston. Also surviving are his sister, Jeanne (Burdette) Helenius; step-sister, Dorothy Broekstra; step-brother, Donald (Cheryl) Debri; sisters-in-law, Janice (Frank) Kosak and Diane (Jeff) Brown; step-sister-in-law, Helen Debri and several nieces and nephews. Tom served in the U.S. Air Force from 1961-1964. A Memorial Service to celebrate Tom’s life will be held at 12 PM on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. N.W. Friends are invited to visit with his family from 10 AM until the time of the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to Lacks Cancer Center or Hospice of Michigan. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read Tom’s life story, archive a memory, photo, or sign the guestbook online.