At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Comstock School Foundation
3010 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Patient and hardworking Robert “Bob” F. Heckema, Sr. lived a life rich in family and with a deep commitment to serving others. A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, Bob centered each of his days upon his desire to be his very best. Kind and talented, Bob was revered by many and will long be missed by those who were blessed to know him.
Despite the obvious gloom of the growing conflict in Europe, 1939 held much to celebrate, including the end of the Great Depression, the premieres of the classic film Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, regular television begin to broadcast nationwide, and The World’s Fair in New York. As the US actively armed for war, families continued to center their lives in love and hope for a brighter future. Nowhere was that hope more evident than in Kalamazoo, Michigan as Albert and Josephine (Ramza) Heckema welcomed their son Bob into their hearts and home on August 5th.
From his earliest years, Bob built his life on an unshakeable foundation of integrity and hard work. Bob learned these values from his parents who provided for him and his older brother Albert through their own labors. While Bob’s father was an aluminum siding contractor who owned his own business, Al Heckema and Sons, his mother managed the family home. She also spent a significant amount of time volunteering at their church.
As a youth, Bob had many interests. He especially enjoyed shooting guns with his dad, playing football, and motorcycles. Bob played right tackle in football for Comstock High School. Earning All-State honors, he was offered a scholarship to a Michigan College, but with a preference for all things mechanical, he declined. Bob’s passion was motorcycling, and he soon discovered the thrill of racing. He, his brother, and his father could often be found drag racing down their street, most often competing against someone who knew of their skills and had driven by their home in hopes of inspiring just such a race.
After graduating from high school in 1958, Bob grew his racing. He raced in several hillclimb events and many drag races. He also enjoyed watching flat track races. A Harley-Davidson man, Bob owned a Harley most of his life.
On New Year’s Eve, 1959 Bob had the good fortune of taking Judy Stanley on a first date to Chicken Charlie’s. It didn’t take long for the young couple to realize they were destined to share life’s journey with one another. They married in 1962 and were blessed to welcome three children into their family: Robert Jr., Veralyn, and Saralyn.
In 1966 Bob began his career at General Motors. During his 38 years of service to the company, he never missed a single day of work. General Motors honored Bob's work ethic once by naming him "Employee of the Year", at the Grand Rapids plant. Bob was well known for his keen eye and commitment to excellence. Never one to be satisfied with mediocrity, Bob’s attention to detail was impeccable. Whether at his job, restoring furniture, or building a project, Bob gave his all to everything he took on.
After retiring in 2004, Bob spent more time enjoying the things he loved most--spending time with family and friends and being outdoors. Without a doubt, Bob’s greatest joy came from his family. As his son and daughters became adults, Bob relished in sharing their journeys and the growing of their own families. Being a grandfather to his six grandchildren was truly his heart’s delight. As he watched Michael, Alicia, Benjamin, Amanda, Ashley, and Carson grow, Bob could easily see the spark of his legacy and his greatest hopes for the future in each of their eyes. Getting to welcome his great-granddaughters, Karissa and Hailey, into the world proved an even more delightful joy.
As a man who understood that the greatest gifts in life are most often found in the simple things, Bob found enjoyment in the classic tunes of Johnny Cash, Clint Eastwood movies, riding his beloved Harley, and going to breakfast with his buddies. On Saturdays, Bob shared his kitchen skills making great breakfasts that included his unrivaled pancakes and French toast. One of his favorite ways to spend time was working outdoors. Shoveling his long driveway by hand, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, tending his gardens, and maintaining the trails in the woods were all labors of love for Bob. He also enjoyed the good company of Dickens, the dog that was supposed to be Judy’s and who undeniably favored Bob. With his favorite travel partner, Judy, at his side, Bob spent many an hour exploring by kayak, riding quads, and traveling by motorcycle. They even enjoyed an epic trip to Alaska and family trips to Silver Lake.
Clearly, the world is less certain without Bob’s steadfast presence. May it afford deep comfort to know that each time we explore the outdoors, feel our heartbeat increase upon hearing the roar of a Harley, enjoy a delicious breakfast, or spend time with family we will be celebrating the best of Bob's legacy in our own lives. It is in moments such as these that we will feel most present to how his spirit lives on in our hearts and continues to inspire each of our days.
Robert F. Heckema, Sr. of Comstock passed away on Friday, October 20, 2017, at the age of 78. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Judith; three children: Robert Heckema, Jr., of Hastings; Veralyn (Todd) Cline, of Vicksburg; Saralyn (Todd) Brown, of Comstock; five grandchildren: Alicia, Benjamin, Amanda, Ashley and Carson and two great-grandchildren: Karissa and Hailey. He is preceded in death by his brother Albert, parents and one grandson, Michael.
A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, October 25th at 1 pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, 5975 Lovers Lane, Portage, MI (269-344-5600). The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service starting at 12noon. Burial will follow at Riverside Cemetery in Kalamazoo.
Please visit Bob’s webpage at www.lifestorynet.com where you can read the life story, sign the guestbook, and leave a memory. Those who wish may make contributions to The National Kidney Foundation and/or Comstock School Foundation.