Joseph P. `Joe' Lada
Joseph Perry Lada, 86, passed away peacefully on April 19, 2019. Joe was born Jan. 25, 1933, into the family of third-generation Bohemian-Americans, to the late Joseph and Eva (Clark) Lada. He was always proud of his Bohemian heritage and grew up on a farm in Buckley. The family later moved to Traverse City's Slabtown neighborhood in 1946. As the decades passed, in response to the developments of the digital age, from color TV to video calls, Joe and his siblings would often joke, "It wasn't like this on the farm."
The first of six children, Joe had a great smile and a fun-loving personality that was irresistible. His siblings affectionately called him "Josie-boy," a nickname that eventually caught on with his nieces and nephews.
Joe graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 1951. During his teen years, his happy-go-lucky personality attracted a girl who lived just a five-minute walk up the road, Jean (Lewis) Lada. She turned out to be his bride of 62 years. Joe and Jean married on June 16, 1956, and they resided in Slabtown throughout their married life. Joe could often be spotted grooming his impeccable lawn, not to mention decorating his yard with American flags, patriotic messaging, and a nativity scene every Christmas. He was a tinkerer-always polishing, re-painting, or repairing something to make what was old "like new" again.
He proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War from 1951 to 1954. He served aboard the U.S.S. Newman K. Perry (DD-883) with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. After he was discharged, Joe returned to a job at Baxter's Plumbing and Heating. He eventually became a master plumber and worked at the Traverse City State Hospital, then became a plumbing inspector for the State of Michigan, retiring in 1995. He was a lifetime member of UA Local 85. Though fun-loving, he took his job very seriously and would not hesitate to "red tag" a job that wasn't up to code. Not one to boast, he would often half-jokingly say, "plumbers protect the health of the nation."
One of Joe and Jean's favorite pastimes was attending local yard sales, and for years, they were regulars at the Copemish Flea Market (long before Ebay ever existed), where Joe added to his vast collection of antique lanterns, tools, and clocks.
Joe was a collector of all things, including memories. He was a Traverse City historian who, even well after the advent of the internet (which he never bothered with), would pull out bound directories from his "shop" - the combination office and tool shed in his basement - to source commercial and residential information. He was also a documentarian who brought a camera and a video camera (from Super 8 to camcorder) to nearly every family gathering, ceremony, performance, and parade he attended. Joe would make countless copies of family photos old and new at Target's self-serve picture kiosks to preserve memories.
Together Joe and Jeannie (as he'd call his wife) had a girl, Cyndi, and a boy, Joe. Never one to take sides and wanting to show equal affection, Joe always said Cyndi was his "favorite daughter" and Joe was his "favorite son."
Because of his childlike sense of adventure, Joe also made the perfect grandfather. He taught Lydia and Clark how to ride bikes on the TART trail, built Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs with them, and provided paper, crayons, and watercolor paints for them in his "shop." They often played the card game "UNO," and every time, Joe tried to cheat by putting down two cards at once. It was quite obvious he had just as much or more fun than the kids did. He also attended all their school functions with a video camera in tow. "They're the only kids that were ever born," he would brag.
After formal retirement, Joe continued to "put the pedal to the metal," as he would say, driving local veterans to downstate VA clinics, logging more than 200,000 miles total from 1995 to 2012. He was a member of the Immaculate Conception Church Men's Club, served on the funeral luncheon committee, and was a church usher. Joe was also a life member of the VFW Cherryland Post 2780, American Legion Post 35, and the Korean War Veterans Association. He was dedicated to area veterans and their families, from serving on the Honor Guard to selling poppies for the VFW and Christmas trees for the American Legion. Seldom a week went by that Joe didn't lend his time for these activities, sometimes volunteering for two or three engagements on the same day. In recognition of his devoted volunteer service, he received the 2000 VFW Veteran of the Year Award, the 2005 Cherry Festival Distinguished Senior Award, and the 2011 Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award, (among many others).
Joe will be greatly missed by his family and friends, but they are so grateful to have known him, and they know the world is a better place because of his presence and the kind way in which he lived his life.
He is survived by his wife, Jean; children, Cyndi (Phillip) Belanger and Joe (Gary Cozette); grandchildren, Lydia and Clark Belanger; four sisters, Marlene Coglianese, Donna (Tony) Coglianese, Loretta (Larry) Ludka, and Karyl (Tom) Kroupa; brother, Don (Dee) Lada; and sister-in-law, Dorothy Fehrenbach.
He was preceded in death by his brothers-in-law, Frank Coglianese, Willard Fehrenbach, Chuck Lewis, and Donald Lewis.
Visitation for family and friends will be at Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home on Wednesday, April 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. with the rosary prayed at 7:30 p.m.
On Thursday, April 25, there will be a viewing from 10 to 11 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. The Rev. Fr. James Hayden will celebrate the Mass. A luncheon will be held immediately following the Mass at the family center at the church. The burial, with Military Honors, will take place at Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens after the luncheon.
In remembrance, memorials may be directed to VFW Cherryland Post 2780, 3400 Veterans Drive, Traverse City, 49684, the American Legion Post 35, 1231 Hastings St., Traverse City, 49686 or to the Immaculate Conception Food Pantry, 308 N. Cedar St., Traverse City, 49684.
Kindly share your condolences and memories with the family in their online guestbook at
The family is being cared for by Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
Published on April 23, 2019


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