Judith Popiel, of Grand Rapids, MI, passed away peacefully on November 14th at the age of 75 after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s 11 years earlier. Judy was a loving mother of three, grandmother of eight, as well as a wife, sister, daughter, teacher, and friend. Judy could be described as energetic, empathetic, and supportive.
Judy graduated from Ottawa Hills HS in Grand Rapids and followed her passion to teach young children. At Central Michigan University, Judy earned a Bachelor of Education degree and met her husband of 37 years, Ernie Popiel, through her Alpha Chi Omega Sorority sisters. Ernie was truly the love of her life.
Judy and Ernie had a deep commitment to their family. Judy was the #1 cheerleader for her kids in every aspect of their lives. Through her volunteer and personal commitment Judy supported their athletic endeavors into high school and college. Summer days were special. The entire family spent time outdoors at the Forest Hills Park Association pool, boating on the “Teacher’s Pet”, golf tournaments, swim meets, basketball, and much more. Their annual family vacation to Hilton Head, a tradition that was started by her parents in 1982, as well as other vacations, created closeness and memories. Judy loved her family more than anything and knew the importance of time together.
Judy’s commitment to emerging readers and dedication to creatively teaching young children at Collins Elementary earned her the title “Teacher of the Year” for Forest Hills Public Schools in 2004. She was proud of this recognition, but even more proud of her students’ achievements at the end of each school year.
Judy made a positive impact on so many elementary students throughout her time as a teacher, but her favorite children to teach were her two daughters and son: Mindy, Jessica, and Jordan. As her children grew up, every day was a learning opportunity whether it was taking a walk, raking leaves, crafting, or reading. This tradition of teaching continued with her grandchildren who loved reading with her, coloring, walking on the beach or through parks, and playing games. Judy’s love of others extended into her neighborhood where she and Ernie built many lasting relationships, including a special bond with their Bridge Club.
Judy was loved by many, but the love she handed out was even greater. Experiencing Judy’s compassion and fierce dedication to her family and friends has filled many hearts. Judy had a song for every occasion and embraced holidays with those she loved and this tradition of kindness and will be shared with others for years to come.
Judy was preceded in death by her loving husband, Ernie Popiel, who passed away of cancer in 2006 and her parents, Emery and Ruth Freeman.
Judy will be greatly missed by her three children, Mindy (James) Seufert of Grand Rapids, Jessica (Wayne) Stone of Winter Garden, FL, and Jordan (Susan) Popiel of Grand Rapids as well as her eight grandchildren, Jack, Charlie and Henry Seufert, Madelynn, Emily and Dallas Stone, and Carter and Evelyn Popiel. She is survived by her sisters, Patsy (Leonard) Zeabart and Liz (Jack) Addington and brother Emery (Kim) Freeman along with numerous other Popiel in-laws, nieces, and nephews.
The family would like to offer a special thanks to Ruth Popiel and Joe Popiel for their endless love and support of Judy and her family.
The family will meet with friends and relatives on Sunday, November 27 from 3pm-6pm at Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Home, 4291 Cascade Rd. Funeral The Mass of Christian Burial will be Celebrated at St. Robert of Newminster Catholic Church with Msgr. Ernie Schneider presiding, on Monday, November 28 at 11am followed by a luncheon, 6477 Ada Drive Ada.
Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy please consider a donation to Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation, 600 Forest Hill Ave SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546, fhpsf.org or Forest Hills Park Association pool replacement fund, myfhpa.org/Save-the-pool/donations, 847 Greenbrier Dr SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546. *Kindly reference Judy Popiel with your donation as they intend to put a plaque up at the new pool with her name.
Forest Hills Public Schools Foundation
600 Forest Hill Ave. SE, Grand Rapids MI 49546
Forest Hills Park Association pool replacement fund
847 Greenbrier Dr SE, Grand Rapids MI 49546