Life Story / Obituary
There is no greater man than one who lives by his convictions and cherishes those entrusted to his care, and Bill Dunstan was such a man. The foundation of his family, Bill worked hard to provide for those he loved, and as their foundation, he lead by example with integrity and quiet strength. Bill found great joy in his family. They could always count on him with his steady and calm demeanor, and his reliable nature was exemplified not only through his family, but in everything he did. For these things and so much more, Bill will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved him best.
Marked by a time of prosperity, the Roaring Twenties emerged as a decade of economic prosperity rich with optimism and innovation. The stock market soared and people everywhere were brimming with hope. Yet nestled in the small community of Ironwood, Michigan, William John and Hilda Dunstan had some exciting news of their own when on January 5, 1927 they announced the birth of their little boy, William John Dunstan Jr.
The fourth of eventually five children, young Bill grew up alongside his siblings, Mae, Bob Myrtle and Don. Growing up in Ironwood, the state’s westernmost city just south of Lake Superior offered a boy like Bill much adventure during his youth. However, the onset of the Great Depression created economic struggles for all, even in small towns like Ironwood. Bill was always on the quiet side, and well behaved. Even in later years he never smoked or drank. Having attended the local schools, Bill worked for an area florist during his high school years before graduating from Luther L. Wright High School.
Just prior to the thankful end of World War II, Bill was drafted into the U.S. Army. His older brother, Bob had been killed during the war and when the government passed a bill allowing a service man to be stationed at the base nearest home Bill applied for a transfer, which was refused. His sister Mae contacted their congressman and the transfer was finally approved. Bill spent most of his time in the service in Georgia and in Chicago, Illinois. As his comrades returned home from the war, Bill spent time as a clerk, serving with the military police as an MP, and as a supply line worker.
Following his honorable discharge, Bill returned to Ironwood and soon, through mutual friends, he met the young woman who forever changed his heart. He caught the eye of Barbara “Barb” Lamerton, and the feeling was mutual. Barb was from Detroit and was in Ironwood visiting her cousins for a week, but after meeting Bill, her time there turned into a month. Their first date was shared roller skating, and after she returned home, the two began writing to one another, forming a lasting bond.
Bill eventually moved to Grand Rapids where better jobs could be found. Two of his siblings had already moved there, and Grand Rapids was much closer to Detroit than Ironwood. At least every other weekend, Bill traveled the distance to visit his beloved, Barb. With a deep, abiding love, Bill and Barb were happily married in Detroit on June 24, 1950. A time of new beginnings, Bill had recently started a new job so they waited a week before enjoying a memorable honeymoon to Pennsylvania.
That job in Bill’s early years eventually turned into his lifelong career. While he remained working in the same building, the company he worked for changed hands several times before he retired from the Packaging Corporation of America. To support his new bride, be began his more than 40-year career there where he worked first as a press operator before becoming a sheet operator. A likable fellow, Bill made a few close friends at work through the years.
Bill and Barb made their home on Crescent Street NE where for 22 years they lived and raised their family. Blessed with two wonderful daughters, Carol and Deborah were the delight of Bill’s life. As a father he was a strict disciplinarian. His girls knew his rules and the consequences if broken, but in all ways, he was there whenever they needed him. As a family, vacations were often spent visiting Barb’s cousin and Bill’s friends in Ironwood or Barb’s family in Detroit where great times were enjoyed. As the girls got older many vacations were spent at Houghton Lake . Even though Bill had a quiet nature, he was more talkative around family. He laughed more, and in fun he easily teased others. Bill’s love for roller skating remained and it became a regular Saturday activity he and his girls enjoyed when they were young. In later year he even took his grandkids skating.
When they moved to their home on Cranbrook, many in the neighborhood came to know Bill as the guy who was always washing his car. Bill took care of the things he owned. After work there was nothing he enjoyed more than working in this yard tending to his beautiful flowers. Always considerate, in the winter Bill not only cleared the snow from in front of their house, but also his neighbors. Since Barb also worked, Bill learned to cook as he got home earlier. It started with Barb giving him specific directions, but he soon developed his own skills. Bill wasn't afraid to try new things, and Barb was never sure what he would have ready when she returned home from work. Bill especially loved pasties, an old British dietary staple, even though they were a lot of work to make.
Bill loved the big band sounds of his youth and the organ. Barb played the organ which became an integral part of their lives as they met many good friends over the years through organ workshops. Bill always went along with Barb and so enjoyed listening to them play. In retirement, Bill even tried his hand at playing a little but never in the presence of others. Their "organ group" was important to them, not only for the music but also for their friendships and traveling companions. They enjoyed traveling to exciting destinations such as the Panama Canal, Alaska, Hawaii and several Caribbean cruises.
Bill and Barb also traveled to see their grandchildren since they lived away. They didn’t get the chance to see them often, and when they did get together it was a special time for everyone. Bill was always playful with the grandkids, and they have fond memories of him chasing them around the house, joking, playing catch, and his teasing.
After 65 years of marriage, Bill and Barb were looking forward to celebrating 66 years. They were the best of companions, and great helpmates. Through highs and lows, their “secret” of a good and loving marriage was found in settling any disputes before heading to bed for the night.
Showing signs of jaundice, Bill went to the doctor on March 8 and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer. Despite his prognosis, Bill remained the ever calm and steady man everyone knew him to be. Always a man who could be counted on, Bill leaves much to be remembered in the hearts of those who loved him.
William "Bill" J. Dunstan Jr, age 89 of Grand Rapids, passed away April 13, 2016. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Barbara; their children, Carol (Dale) Breen and Deborah (John) Moyer; grandchildren, Jeff (Aleisha) Breen, Mike Breen, Laura (Jimmy) Horton, Chris (Katie Varnadoe) Garrison, Sarah (Tyler) Black; five great-grandchildren; brother, Don (Sandy Herrington) Dunstan; sister, Myrtle Shurmack; several nieces and nephews.
The service to remember and celebrate Bill's life will be held on Monday, April 18, 1:00 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home-Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE where friends may visit with his family on Sunday from 2-4 and 7-9 PM. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Faith Hospice. To read more about Bill's life, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, please visit www.lifestorynet.com.