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John Driscoll Wardrop, age 82, of Grand Rapids Township, also East Grand Rapids, Ada and Cascade, peacefully passed away into the comforting hands of his God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on June 21, 2019. He was preceded in death by his late parents, John and Catherine Driscoll Wardrop; and his in-laws Harold and Eleanor (Corsiglia) Gietzen.
John was survived by his loving and adoring wife of 53 years, Maribeth (Gietzen); proud sons, Scott C. Wardrop and Brett M. (and Jennifer) Wardrop. The highlight of his life were his grandsons: Connor M. Wardrop, John D. Wardrop, and Devin C. Wardrop. Also surviving are his brother, Steve and (Diane) Wardrop, and In- laws Jeanne (and David) Mairn, Tim (and Kathleen) Gietzen, Terri (and Jerry) Matthews, Jeff (and Georgia) Gietzen, Mark (and Jayne) Gietzen, and Craig (and Kristin) Gietzen.
John was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and moved to East Grand Rapids when he was in third grade. John graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1955. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College (BA/History 1959) and continued postgraduate studies at Aquinas College and Michigan State University.
In the early 60’s he taught and coached at Forest Hills High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan for 6 years. After leaving the teaching profession, he served on the Forest Hills Board of Education. John left teaching to pursue a career in business.
After spending almost 35 years with Sparks Belting Company, the last 22 years as its President, John retired in 2002. Prior to becoming President in 1980, he served Sparks Belting as its Eastern Regional Manager, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing. He also served as President of DAKE for ten years. Sparks Belting and DAKE were two of many operating divisions of JSJ Corporation in Grand Haven, Michigan. John was honored to work with his mentor and boss, F. Martin Johnson, who was President of JSJ Corporation.
Following his Sparks Belting career, he served as a Chair in the TEC Midwest organization, one of the oldest and largest CEO membership groups in the world. His local TEC group was comprised of owners, CEOs and leaders of non-competing businesses in distribution, manufacturing and service.
John was very active on a variety of boards before and after his retirement. He was Past President and an Honorary Member of the National Industrial Belting Association (NIBA). He served on the board of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The YMCA (South East Branch) and the Grand Rapids Employers Association. He was an active member and longtime member of both the Agency and the Foundation Boards of Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids. He also served Grand Valley State University in many ways. He was member and a supporter of the Grand Valley University Foundation. He served on the first Advisory Cabinet for the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and led the effort to establish a mentoring program for the Center’s Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy. The Mentor Program was a strong passion of his and he loved working with the Hauenstein Center’s Cook Leadership Academy Fellows.
John loved the “Improvement Association” and was so pleased and honored to be a part of those wonderful individuals, their luncheons, discussions, differences and especially the oatmeal raisin cookies.
John had many interests. He followed his sons’ school careers in tennis and basketball. He was their father, coach and their mentor. He loved his country clubs both, Kent Country Club, for more than 35 years, and Cascade Country Club, for more than 10 years. He enjoyed playing golf and eating at both clubs. John loved going out for fine dinners with both family and his many friends. He thoroughly enjoyed reading books. Sometimes reading up to 3 books a week. John was particular about his yard and spent many hours listening to the Detroit Tigers while doing yardwork. With his many passions, there was nothing he enjoyed more than watching the three grandsons compete in their favorite sports of tennis, track, swimming, basketball and golf.
John and the entire family were well supported by many wonderful individuals, nurses, and nurses aides from Clark Retirement Community on Keller Lake. Emmanuel Hospice provided comfort and support to John and his family at the end of his life. Maribeth was well supported by her many friends at Sara Care Alzheimers Support Group. We extend special thanks to all the above and the many friends and family who carried us through this very difficult time.
There will be a visitation on Thursday, June 27 from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm at Metcalf & Jonkhoff at 4291 Cascade Road SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. A funeral mass will take place on Friday, June 28 at 11:00 am at St. Robert of Newminster Parish, 6477 Ada Drive SE, Ada, MI 49301.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the following in John’s name:
1551 Franklin St SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
401 Hall St SW, Suite 263
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies
C/O Grand Valley University Foundation
P.O. Box 1945
Grand Rapids, MI 49501-1945
A gift can be made directly to John’s fellowship at Grand Valley State at www.gvsu.edu/giving/wardrop
2161 Leonard St. N.W., Grand Rapids MI 49504
Clark Retirement Community Foundation
1551 Franklin St. S.E., Grand Rapids MI 49506
Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies
c/o Grand Valley University Foundation, P.O. Box 1945, Grand Rapids MI 49501-1945