Life Story / Obituary
Norman "Bunko" Jay Japinga, 88, of Holland, died peacefully at Holland Hospital on Thursday, November 1, surrounded by the love and care of his family.
Norm was born February 26, 1930, in Holland, the second child of Martin and Marguerite (De Fouw) Japinga. Sometime in junior high, Norm acquired a new name. Bunko. No one is quite clear about its origin or meaning. Only that it stuck.
Bunko graduated from Holland High School in 1948, an average student and athlete whose first (of many) knee surgeries pushed him into refereeing. On September 8, 1950, he married Shirley Jean Koning of Holland. They had three children, Jodi, Jeff, and Julie, the latter born while Bunko was officiating an MIAA football game in Alma.
Bunko was a typesetter for the Holland Evening Sentinel during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1968, he joined the staff of Hope College as its first athletic equipment manager and bus driver. He would serve Hope College for more than 40 years, into retirement and beyond. He was a man for all seasons—as in football, basketball, and baseball. He drove Hope College sports teams (including a defensive tackle who would become a grandson-in-law) hundreds of thousands of miles in all manner of buses. He washed dirty uniforms, fixed broken equipment, lined the outdoor athletic fields, sat at the scorers’ table, did the p.a. announcing for baseball games (including a relief pitcher who would become a grandson-in-law). Most importantly, he genuinely cared for those he met. The enduring image of Bunko is with his arm around the shoulder of some athlete, a smile on his face. It never mattered whether that athlete had just scored the winning touchdown or never saw the field—Bunko was a trusted, gracious, encouraging supporter of all. Bunko embodied the meaning of sportsmanship.
In 1990, the Hope College Alumni H-Club recognized him for “being a positive influence in the lives of Hope College student-athletes.” He was grand marshal of the 1993 homecoming parade. In 1997, he received the Meritorious Service Award from the Hope College Alumni Club. In 2002, the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan inducted him to their Hall of Honor. The pressbox at Hope’s Boeve Stadium is named after him.
He was a man of deep faith, a long-time member and deacon at Christ Memorial Reformed Church and more recently a member of Third Reformed Church
He was a beloved son, a husband, a father, a grandfather. He taught us all what family meant. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Shirley Japinga; by his children, Jodi (Marv) Syens of Holland; Jeff (Jennifer) Japinga of Chaska, Minnesota; and Julie (Kevin) Van Oordt of Jenison; by grandchildren Mark Japinga and Annie (Jordan) Carrigan and their mother, Lynn Japinga; Rachel Syens; Erin (Austin) Coallier and Kara (Kelly) Lepley; by step-grandchildren Paige and Brett Erickson; and by the thousands of memories and stories so many hold of him. He was preceded in death by his parents and by his brother, Robert Japinga.
Friends may meet the family on Sunday, November 4, from 1:00-3:00 and 5:00-7:00 at Dykstra Funeral Homes Mulder Chapel, 188 West 32nd Street, Holland. A service of remembrance and of hope will be held Monday, November 5, at 11:00am at Third Reformed Church, 111 West 13th Street, Holland, Michigan, with a lunch to follow. The Revs. James Neevel and Andy Fierro will officiate. Private interment will be in Graafschap Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Hospice of Holland or to a charity of your choice.