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Life Story / Obituary
Highly successful and dedicated through his many ambitions, Dave Spyker’s devotion to his family was unmatched. A man with whom they could depend, as a husband, father, and grandfather, Dave counted himself blessed. Be it working on a new venture, closing a deal, mentoring a young worker, or encouraging one of his children, Dave’s drive to succeed was evident in all he did. A man of faith, Dave’s integrity was just one of his greatest attributes. Although dearly missed, the memory of Dave will be fondly remembered by all who came to know and love him.
The year 1944 was certainly a time to remember. World War II raged overseas, rationing took place on the home front, and women entered the workforce in droves. News of the day included headlines of war which made for worrisome hearts back home, yet the entertainment world, along with America’s love for baseball was a welcome relief during these tumultuous times. For Albert and Agnes Spyker of Rochester, New York, it was indeed a time to remember.
After trying for some time to have children of their own, the Spyker’s were thrilled to adopt young Dave, welcoming him into their loving home shortly following his birth on December 6, 1944 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father worked as a teacher and, later as the principal of Rochester Christian School. His parents fostered a deep, Christian faith in Dave that remained for the rest of his days. His parents also instilled a hard work ethic within him. His father, an avid woodworker, taught Dave how to build things, repair household items, and care for tools, and Dave carried these learning experiences with him into adulthood. As a young boy he had his own newspaper route and his parents taught him how to carefully budget his earnings, and to always give back to the Lord through tithing. Dave was always active in church, attending Sunday school at Rochester Christian Reformed Church where they made their church home.
To Dave, being an only child had both advantages and disadvantages. His parents were able to devote their time and energy into raising him, but it also enabled them to keep close tabs on his many escapades, like the time he blew the door off an outhouse with a small model cannon! Family pets were a large part of Dave’s life as a child. In fact, he even had two white rats that liked sitting on his shoulders. Dave and his family enjoyed many camping trips where Dave learned how to swim. He absolutely loved the water his whole life through, and having begun to swim at an early age, Dave earned his Red Cross Water Safety Instructor certificate at the age of 17. His love for baseball also began in his earlier years and he continued to play baseball into high school, achieving his varsity letter. In addition, he also played the clarinet in the school band. Since he was a small child, Dave enjoyed anything with wheels and he took great pride in his first car. As his love for automobiles remained, he enjoyed rebuilding and working on cars . . . as well as drag racing with friends. Throughout his life, Dave owned a variety of cars, often drawn to those with powerful engines and sleek lines.
During Dave’s teen years he met his childhood sweetheart, Mary Battaglia. The two began dating and were nearly inseparable. Dave graduated from East High School in Rochester, New York with the Class of 1962. He went on to further his education, attending Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a year and a half. While Dave was away at college and even though they were separated by distance, Dave and Mary continued their relationship. She had her senior year of high school to complete, and Dave was busy with his studies. Before they were 20, Dave and Mary were happily married on September 5, 1964. They chose to marry on Labor Day weekend because neither could afford to take time off from work. They began their life together in a small house trailer, with Mary working two jobs while Dave completed his apprenticeship on the night shift, truly treasuring their weekends together.
The couple was blessed with the birth of their first child, David in 1968, and Gina completed their family in 1971. Although Dave worked long hours, he always made time for his children. He attending as many of their school activities as possible, and he made it a point to spend one-on-one time with them. With David he enjoyed building a model train set, and he often took Gina on Saturday outings to his office where she enjoyed the perks of being “the big cheese” for the day.
Dave was a man of integrity and his ambitious nature led him on the path to succeed. He began his professional life at Alliance Tool Corporation in Rochester, New York in 1964, completing a four-year apprentice program to become a journeyman toolmaker. In 1969, he was elected partner, and was chosen to head up sales and service for a new division of the company that designed and manufactured custom molding equipment. Dave’s extensive global travels began in 1972 when he took over the sales and marketing endeavors for the company, which began a special emphasis on global business development. In 1979, the company was sold to a publicly traded company, which provided Dave with the opportunity to offer his family a better lifestyle, as well as proximity to the shores of Lake Michigan. He began researching small companies that offered an opportunity for growth, and moved his family to Kalamazoo, Michigan. From 1980 to 1985 he was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Plastic Engineering Corporation in Kalamazoo, also acting as Vice President/General Manager for the Kalamazoo operations in 1984. He led the company’s business development initiative, and was instrumental in growing the company until it was sold.
Since the children were small, Dave and his family enjoyed yearly summer vacations at a cottage owned by friends near Montague, Michigan where wonderful memories were shared and enjoyed, and Dave wanted his family to have the ability to drive to Lake Michigan at any time. When Dave’s career took him from Kalamazoo to Holland in 1986, he chose to continue living in Kalamazoo until his daughter, Gina graduated from high school. He made the hour-long commute daily for over two years, never once considering it a sacrifice so his daughter could remain at school with her friends.
After joining JWI Inc. in Holland in 1986 as President, Dave went on to bring the company to a global level in 1989 by establishing offshore headquarters in Germany and Singapore. Dave grew the business until a California company became interested and made an offer in 1997 with the agreement that Dave would remain for a contract period. From 1997-2000, U.S. Filter owned the company, and Dave was given the responsibility of six additional operations. Once again, he continued to grow the company until it attracted the attention of a large French company, and in 2000, U.S. Filter was sold to Vivendi.
Dave continued on in his leadership role as Executive Vice President. By 2004, the industrial water treatment portion of the business was sold to a large German company, Siemens AG, later known as Siemens Water Technologies Corporation, and Dave ran the industrial segment. He made six more global acquisitions, bringing the number of operations he oversaw to 17. Dave served as Executive Vice President for the Parent Corporation and President for each of his seventeen subsidiaries. He also served on the Board of Directors for all entities. Finally, in 2010, Dave decided it was time to retire and enjoy the rewards of his years of hard work.
Many of Dave’s former colleagues have described him as a man of great integrity, compassion, and dedication. His drive to do the right thing, do it well, and grow successful businesses in the process was hallmarks of his career. Known for his extreme organization and ability to work through almost anything, Dave worked on airplanes, held meetings in airports, and kept going no matter how long the day. He was able to give directions to help others navigate through airports around the world, and he was recognized by TSA staff globally due to the frequency of his travels. By the time he retired, Dave had accumulated six million airline miles. His experiences were far and wide. He was traveling in Germany as the Berlin Wall was being torn down, and he was in China at the time of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Close to home, Dave was in the air flying on September 11 when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred. For a time, Dave even carried a card to enable an emergency evacuation team to extract him in the event of a dangerous situation. Dave never allowed the fear of world politics or globally tense situations to deter him from pursuing his ultimate goal. Dave’s Vice President, Rich Wileczek was always inspired by a carved stone plaque Dave had on his desk that read, "You cannot build a reputation on what you're going to do. Do it now" which was so characteristic of Dave.
Even when Dave was away from work, he continued to keep busy. He enjoyed building things and working with his hands. For a number of years, he and Mary had a home on Lake Michigan in which Dave took on the task of building a boardwalk, bluff deck, and stairs leading down to the beach all on his own. It also included electric lights complete with a mini fridge built-in beneath a bench on a second deck. Talented in many respects, Dave was always working on projects or involved in some type of activity, and it wasn’t uncommon to find him steadily working on a project from morning until night.
Dave’s love for the water continued. His children have fond memories of Dave sailing his little yellow Sunfish sailboat, and occasionally sailing with him. Great times were always enjoyed on his power boat. He especially enjoyed working in the yard or around the house on weekends and in his retirement. When Dave ran out of projects at his own house, he worked on his daughter’s home. As grandchildren came along, Dave was in his element. When they were young, he built an entire wooden train set, complete with tracks, buildings, tunnels, and lifelike decorations for their Thomas the Tank Engine trains.
It was in 1991 when Dave and Mary became grandparents with the birth of their grandson, Marcus. After finding out his first grandchild was going to be a boy, Dave actually left work early to go shopping for the upcoming addition to their family. When their granddaughter, Brittany was born in 1992, Dave again relished the opportunity to buy pretty little dresses, just as he did for his daughter. Dave and Mary’s house was like a second home for their grandchildren. The couple was blessed with two more grandsons, Joshua in 1997, and Jacob in 1999. Never known formally as “grandfather” or even “grandpa”, Dave cherished the title of “grampa.” He spent countless hours teaching his grandchildren everything from bocce ball to mowing the lawn, and how to manage their budgets. As with his own children, Dave lived by way of example and he taught the children in his life well. More importantly, Dave taught his grandkids that they could always count on him for love, guidance, and support. Together with Mary, Dave helped create family traditions that built memories his children and grandchildren will treasure including Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July picnics, and family Christmas gatherings. Dave was proud to have passed on his interest in tool and die making and his aptitude for engineering to his grandson, Marcus who chose to follow in Dave’s footsteps when he completed his own apprenticeship to become a skilled journeyman.
Following 46 years of marriage beginning as young sweethearts, Dave’s beloved Mary sadly passed away on March 28, 2011. Always a very driven man, Dave in time was able to carry on with the love and support from family and friends. His faith saw him through, and it always played an important role in his life. Dave continued to be active in his Kalamazoo church, having served as a youth group leader and deacon. In Holland, he was a member of Christ Memorial Church for over 25 years. Dave led his family in prayer and modeled worship through his actions. His faith led him to give back to his community, and through the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation, he and Mary had formed the Mary and David Spyker Family Fund to help those less fortunate.
Dave was fortunate to have found love again when he met Robin Manetta in 2011. The couple quickly formed a connection and in September of 2012 they were married. Dave gained a stepson, Mike, from this union and delighted in adding to his family. Dave and Robin enjoyed entertaining at their homes in Michigan and Florida. They belonged to a bocce league in Venice, Florida, and joined other activities in their community there. They enjoyed quiet time at home, relaxing with a glass of wine, dining out, and traveling.
Along with his mischievous, dry sense of humor, Dave was just as competitive. He was ruthless enough even when playing a game of Monopoly, and his level of organization was one most simply dream of. Even his trust advisor and funeral director marveled over the details he had in writing. No nonsense when it came to his co-workers, yet Dave loved pulling pranks on them. At times he came across as stern, but when it came to his family, Dave was just a big softie. He loved to make his kids and grandkids laugh, no matter what it took. If it meant imitating a chimpanzee, making funny faces, or purposely giving someone a hard time to conjure a smile, Dave did it. He had the patience and creativity to make up incredible bedtime stories, rub legs that had charley horses, and he could comfort a broken-hearted teenager with ways only his own. Dave was protective of his family and he always saw to it that they were well taken care of.
A friend of many and a stranger to none, Dave Spyker filled the lives of all who knew him with tremendous dedication serving as a mentor. Drive and tireless, he was the consummate professional, and his ambitions knew no bounds. Dave was a man of faith whose compassion was exemplified in numerous and creative ways. In his family he found the greatest joy as he lovingly nurtured and guided those entrusted to his care with utmost dependability. He leaves a lasting legacy always to be remembered, and deeply missed, he will continue to be treasured in the hearts of all.
David Spyker, age 71, of Holland, passed away Saturday, June 11, 2016. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary in 2011. He is survived by his current wife, Robin Manetta Spyker; his children, Gina Lynn Groover and David Jay Spyker, and spouse Trish; his grandchildren, Marcus and Brittany Giddings, Joshua and Jacob Groover. He is also survived by his cousins, Dirk (Therese) Spyker and Ray (Mary Ellen) Spyker; his half-brothers and sisters, Sally Vukits (Jeff) of Muskegon, Kim Bailey (Joshua) of Texas, Dave Goodyke (Barb) of Indiana, Dan Goodyke of Plainwell, Paul Goodyke of Kalamazoo, Jeff Goodyke of Allegan, and Jan Vorick of Arizona.
Visitation will be from 4-6 and 7-9 p.m. Friday, June 17, 2016, at the Mulder Chapel-Dykstra Funeral Home, 188 W. 32nd Street, Holland, MI 49423. A funeral service remembering Dave’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, June 18, 2016, at Christ Memorial Church, 595 Graafschap Road, Holland, 49423. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation-The Mary and David Spyker Family Fund. To share a favorite memory or photo of Dave and to sign his online guest book, please visit www.lifestorynet.com.