Michael's Story

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Michael "Mike" Herbert Gelbke, 74, of Traverse City, passed away where wanted to, at home, on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
Mike was born on July 19, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, to the late Herbert and Marie (Kapche) Gelbke. He married Joan G. Kroll on Dec. 17, 1962 in Alpena.
Mike considered himself, and was by many of his friends, a successful entrepreneur in real estate, snowmobiles, boats, motels, restaurants, aviation and oil. Some of his favorite endeavors were his ownership as an Arctic Cat distributor and owning Traverse Bay Marine on West Bay, which eventually moved to Cass Road in Traverse City. Mike owned TBM Leasing, known as the National Rental Car, at the Cherry Capital Airport. He also owned several motels and restaurants in the St. Ignace and in Albany, Georgia, areas. Mike also was an excellent pilot and started G & E Aviation at the airport. Throughout the years his employees commented that they liked to work for Mike and if they left, most of them would eventually return wanting to work for Mike again. Mike was a self-made hardworking millionaire by his mid 20s and retired at the age of 36.
Mike and Joan had several homes throughout the country and Canada. For the last 45 years during the summer they traveled to the Manituoulan Island in Ontario, Canada. After they sold the family farm in Traverse City, which is now known as the Woodland School, they wintered in Marathon, Florida. However, they always kept Traverse City as their home base full of family, friends and their doctors.
Mike enjoyed his travels, which included going to the Great Bear Lake fishing and hunting in Alaska with his best friend, Dr. John Spencer. Those two had many special memories and stories to last a lifetime.
In his spare time Mike enjoyed the outdoors and antiquing. In particular, boating, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and bird watching were activities he enjoyed. He was proud of his great collection of antique cars, boats, snowmobiles and various other things. However, he really took pride in the fact that at one time he had the largest tin advertising collections in the world. During the evenings Mike liked to read and keep up with current events.
During the later years, Mike and Joan traveled all throughout the United States and concluded with their bucket list of traveling by train across country. Although they wished they had done the journey during the younger years, they still proudly accomplished their list.
Mike had a great sense of humor and will be remembered for his incredible work ethic.
Surviving Mike are his wife of 56 years, Joan; sons, Steven and John (Janice Goodlick) Gelbke; stepchildren, Pam Sanders and Lane (Sandra) Burdick; grandchildren, Jason and Katie Young, Leah and Taylor Sanders and Delaney Burdick; and great-granddaughter, Jewel Young.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents; stepdaughter, Laurie Young; and beloved friend, Dr. John Spencer.
Visitation for Mike will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 11 a.m., with visitation beginning at 10 a.m., also at the funeral home. Burial will take place at the Bingham Township Cemetery following the services.
Memorial contributions may be directed to Ducks Unlimited or to the Cherryland Humane Society.
Kindly share thoughts your thoughts and memories with Mike's family at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com.
Published on July 30, 2017
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