Tuesday, March 29, 2016
11:00 AM EDT
Christ Memorial Chapel
595 Graafschap Road
Holland, MI 49423
Please use entrance "D"
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, John Du Mez lived a life of purpose filled with the people and things he loved. He was a man of great honor and integrity who was a lifelong resident of the community he called home throughout his entire life. Although he was deeply devoted to serving those within the Holland area, John’s family was first and foremost in his life, and there was nothing he treasured more than being surrounded by their love. Always positive and hopeful, he was the sort of person everyone wanted to know. Life will never be the same without John here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
It was great to be an American during the 1920s - at least until the crash of the stock market in October of 1929 ushered in the dark days of the Great Depression. With a scarcity of jobs and a soaring unemployment rate, nearly all American families felt the strain throughout the entire decade of the 1930s and beyond. Despite the trials around them, Theodore and Anita Zuidewind Du Mez were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as summer held the city of Holland, Michigan, firmly in its grip in July of 1930. Their wait was over on July 28th when the baby boy they named John drew his first breath. He was one of two children in his family as he was raised in their home alongside his brother, Ted.
In many ways, John was a young boy of his generation who developed his lifelong passions as a boy. It has been said that the fire department was already in his blood as a child as the mocking bird whistle called to John when the old corner fire box alarms were pulled. He knew where each box was located and was immediately on his bike to assess the fire and the situation. If a siren was heard at Washington Elementary, John was out of his seat and at the window to check it out in a flash. As a student, he attended local schools where he played the clarinet in elementary school and also in the high school band. John was a Boy Scout who earned the highest rank of Eagle Scout, which is no easy feat. After graduating from Holland High School in 1948, he went on to graduate from Hope College with a business administration degree in 1952.
Throughout his life John was a hard and dedicated worker. While at Hope, he started his affiliation with the local fire department as he was a volunteer with the Holland Fire Department in addition to holding down his studies. Also in 1952, John was drafted into the United States Army. He was stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where he attended radar school. With his military duties fulfilled, John returned to the area. He worked in retail management, and became a full-time firefighter with the department in 1967. While there he became the deputy chief in 1973 and went on to serve as the fire chief from 1982 until retiring in 1988.
John was certainly known and respected through his work with the fire department, but there was nothing that was of greater significance to him than his role as a family man. He was a great father who raised his children in a Christian home and involved his family in his many hobbies and interests. John and his family vacationed in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, every year during spring break when his kids were growing up. John also took his family on many camping trips to Northern Michigan. He sang silly Boy Scout songs, which he taught to his children and grandchildren including “Mr. Johnny Verbeek” and “Bill Grogan’s Goat.” His grandchildren affectionately called him "Grandpa by the Lake,” and they looked forward to eating pizza with grandpa and grandma every Sunday evening. Together they also and participated in many activities such as fishing off the dock, kite flying, and boat rides. John ended every phone call with his children with, "Good night, which sounded a but more like gooooooooooooooood night.” This was a tradition that went all the way back to John’s phone calls with his mother.
Always one to be busy, John was a man of many interests. He loved things like boating, dancing, flying lessons, beekeeping, model trains, and was a part of ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out). John was very involved as a ham radio operator, assisting with communication through many local and national disasters. He loved all things Hope College, enjoyed big band music and Lawrence Welk, and he also put his musical skills to good use as part of the American Legion Band and Bonita Village Band. For years, John and Rae were snowbirds in Bonita Springs, Florida, during their retirement years, and he was later a snowbird in Arizona with Geri. He did a bit of traveling, too, including trips to Israel where he and Rae were re-baptized in the Jordan River and two European tours with visits to countries such as the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland.
All who knew John Du Mez would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was always optimistic no matter what came his way, and his spirit of generosity was truly unmatched. John was a loving family man who was always there for his family whenever he was needed. Deeply loved, he will never be forgotten.
John R. Du Mez, age 85, of Holland died Thursday, March 24, 2016 at Appledorn Assisted Living.
John was a member of Christ Memorial Church where he was involved in the orchestra. He graduated from Hope College in 1951. He was firefighter for most of his life, volunteering when he was attending college before becoming a fulltime firefighter in 1967 with the Holland city department. He became deputy fire chief in 1973 and fire chief in 1982, retiring in 1988. John was a veteran of the US Army serving during the Korean conflict. He was preceded in death by his first wife Rae Du Mez and his second wife Betty Du Mez.
He is survived by his wife Geraldine and children: Bill and Robin Du Mez of Holland, Sandi Artz of Bellevue, NB and David Du Mez of Orlando, FL; step-children: Jim and Patricia of Grand Rapids, Ruth and David Cooper of Austin, TX and Mary Sue and Tom Van Dyke of Hudsonville; several grandchildren and great grandchildren; brother: Ted and Anne Du Mez of Holland; many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service with military honors will be held at 11:00 am, Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at Christ Memorial Chapel, 595 Graafschap Rd. in Holland, please use entrance D. Reverend Robert Nykamp will be officiating. Cremation has taken place.
Visitation will be from 6-8 pm, Monday, March 28, 2016 at Dykstra Funeral Home – Downtown Chapel, 29 East Ninth Street in Holland. Memorial contributions may be given to Hospice of Michigan or Bethany Christian Services. To sign an on-line registry or leave a memory please visit www.dykstrafuneralhome.com