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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Donald Schanz, it is easy to see that he was all about the people he loved. He lived a life of purpose while making a positive impact in the lives of so many others. A longtime resident of the community he called home for the majority of his life, Don’s greatest source of pride and joy was found in the family he shared with the love of his life. He saw so many of the best places around the world, but what made these experiences so special was sharing them with the ones he loved. When trials came his way, Don faced them with both strength and courage that were such an inspiration to others. Dearly loved, he will be forever missed.
The 1920s were a vibrant and exciting time in America. Often recalled as the Roaring Twenties, innovation was changing the way we lived our daily lives as things like washing machines, refrigerators, and radios became part of our homes. Jazz music was hot, Broadway was hopping, and Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth became unforgettable legends in the game of baseball. Amidst this exciting time was the year 1926 when Kenneth and Bernice Schanz were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Donald K. on September 18th, in Chelsea, Michigan. He was the only child in his family and the apple of his parents’ eye. Don was raised in the family home in a small town where he attended local schools.
In many ways, Don experienced an upbringing that was fairly typical for the youth of his generation. As a young man he worked hard on a paper route, and his strong work ethic remained with him throughout his life. Don went into the bank on his own to seek a loan for a bike. He was pleased not only to get the loan but also to pay it off quickly with earnings from his paper route. After attending St. Mary’s, Don’s high school years found him at Chelsea High School where he was a strong athlete and participated in school activities. He was forever proud to be a “Chelsea Bulldog.” Don graduated from high school and also from mortuary school. He received his license in mortuary science and practiced for a short time. Also as a young man Don joined the Navy when he was only 17. These were the days of WWII, but he was able to remain stateside, working on chemical warfare in California. Interestingly, Don may have been the only sailor in the Navy’s history who they could not teach to swim1
New and exciting changes were in store for Don when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Gloria Chicky, and they met when he was working on an ambulance out of Grand Haven, and she was a nurse. They were both called to tend to a patient who needed to be transported cross-country, and the rest is history as they say. Don was always quick to tell his children and grandchildren how he swept Gloria off her feet. Deeply loved, the sweethearts were married. Together they welcomed four children including Don, Mary, Robert, and Jane into their hearts and home. In everything he did Don’s family was always first and foremost, and they lived on the West side of Grand Rapids. He worked as a pharmaceutical salesman, and he also regularly gave back to his community. Don was an active part of his children’s lives, and he was an affectionate husband and father. Pets also played an important role in the Schanz home as they were like additional members of the family. Don’s most recent dog, Sammy, was his treasured companion and his best buddy.
Over the years Don maintained an active lifestyle. He and Gloria traveled extensively, and the precious memories they made while visiting places like Russia, Japan, Egypt, and Greece were showcased in photos decorating their living room on Ranch Drive. Around home Don enjoyed working on various projects and could often be found visiting with neighbors. In 2003, he was deeply saddened with the death of his beloved wife, but he continued to delight in every moment he was able to spend with his growing family.
All who knew Donald Schanz would agree that he was a blessing in every sense of the word. He lived up to the quote that was written about him in his yearbook, “to be wherever I am, a gentleman,” as there was no one who was more caring, compassionate, and genuine than Don was. He was deeply devoted to his family, and he was an enthusiastic cheerleader for his children and grandchildren. Don had a quiet demeanor, which is perhaps what made him the best listener, and his advice was always deeply rooted in timeless wisdom. Life will never be the same without Don here, but he leaves behind a shining legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on.
Schanz, Donald K. of Grand Rapids, Michigan, passed away the morning of Sept. 25. “It’s a beautiful morning to go to heaven,” those around him said. Schanz was born in Chelsea, Michigan to Bernice and Kenneth Schanz. An only child, Schanz proudly served in the Navy as a young man during WWII. After his service, he worked for an ambulance company in Grand Haven. A call to make a cross-country transport would change his life in more ways than one; a young nurse, Gloria Chicky, would accompany him. Don loved telling the story of how he swept Gloria off her feet to his kids and grandkids. Donald and Gloria raised four children on the west side of Grand Rapids. Donald Charles (Nancy) Schanz, Mary Pollock (Fred Host), Robert “Duffy” (Joanne) Schanz, and Jane (Marcus) Thornton. After raising his family and working as a pharmaceutical salesman, Schanz saw the world with the love of his life, Gloria. Photos from great trips to Russia, Japan, Egypt, and Greece decorated their living room on Ranch Drive. Schanz is preceded in death by his eldest son, Donald Charles, and by the love of his life, his wife Gloria Mary. A grandfather to ten and a great grandfather to two, Donald lived the life he always wanted; filled with people who loved him. Relatives and friends may meet his family at Alt & Shawmut Chapel – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW on Tuesday from 5:00 – 8:00 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday at 11:00 AM at St. Anthony of Padua – 2510 Richmond St. NW. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to St. John’s Home of Grand Rapids, Mi. Please visit Donald's personal web page to leave a memory or share a condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.