John R. VanOcker, age 64, of Kalkaska, formerly of Grand Rapids, passed away unexpectedly early Monday morning, Dec. 18, 2017. He was born on Oct. 26, 1953 in Grand Rapids to the late Gordon and Elizabeth (Gessler) VanOcker.
John was employed by Meijer of Grand Rapids for 33-plus years, starting at age 18 and working up the ladder to hard lines manager and filling in as store manager as needed. After Meijer, he worked for Suburban Inns Hotel and Be Line Haulers. He was a tireless, dependable worker and respected group leader.
John and Colleen retired to their new home on a lake in Kalkaska. John loved the outdoors, felling trees, like his father and grandpa, chopping and splitting wood, taking care of the yard, loved to deer hunt and make venison sausage and special soups. But his first love was farming - on his grandpa's farm down-state and then at the hay farm he bought in Kalkaska. Farming was a joy for him, never work. He was a top notch handyman and could fix or build just about anything.
John was a patient teacher to others who were learning to do basic home repairs. He loved to help others, offering to plow a field for a fellow farmer or lend someone a hand. He was a true and reliable friend.
He is survived by his loving wife of 15 years, Colleen (Heslinga) VanOcker; his daughter, Stephenie Battjes (Jason); three grandchildren, Evie, Alia and Corbin Battjes, of Fruitport; his sister, Mary Yates, of Rochester, New York; his brother, Ed VanOcker, of Lakeview; aunt, Donna VanOcker, of Traverse City; sisters-in-law, Ellen (Denny) Lindner and Sue (Steve) Willard; and several nieces, nephews, friends and coworkers.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Gordon and Betty VanOcker; and his best friend and "little brother," Jim VanOcker.
John will be missed greatly by his wife, who appreciated all the nice things he did for her, making her laugh and helping her feel safe and secure in his arms, his daughter, sister, brother, grandchildren, other friends and family members and special friend, Kevin Wells.
He was a big man with a big heart that left us way too early. Goodbye "Farmer John." Now you and Jim can continue to hunt together.
Cremation has taken place. A fond farewell for family and friends will be arranged sometime next year. Please watch for a future notice.
Please feel free to share thoughts and memories at www.kalkaskafuneralhome.com.
Arrangements were entrusted to Kalkaska Funeral Home.
Published on December 24, 2017