Grand Haven

Joan Marie Japenga

Joan Marie Japenga, age 92, of Grand Haven passed away Saturday, March 16, 2019, at North Ottawa Care Center. She was born March 12, 1927, in Grand Haven to Joseph and Marion (Witherell) Susterich.
As a teenager, she loved tap dancing and writing for the school newspaper. One of her stories was published in a national magazine. She attended Grand Haven High School, where she played clarinet in the band, was a drum majorette and graduated in 1945. Joan married Bob Japenga on March 28, 1950, raised four children, and worked for the Grand Haven school lunch program. She and Bob moved to their house on Taylor Street in 1956, where Joan lived at the time of her death.
Joan was devoted to her family. She often said, “I raised four kids all the same, and they all came out different.” She loved to host family gatherings, and as the family grew with sons- and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she just put another leaf in the table and cooked a bigger turkey.
Joan and Bob traveled with their family every summer, including trips to California by train, automobile and airplane to visit her sister and his brother. One especially memorable trip entailed driving from Grand Haven to Los Angeles along Route 66 in the days before the interstate highway system. How she kept the peace in the car with four kids for four days is still a mystery. She and Bob continued to travel after the children grew up, to Hawaii and California to visit their brothers and sisters, to Florida and Alabama for the winter, and to visit their children in Colorado and Connecticut.
After Bob passed away in 2008, Joan continued to live in their family home on Taylor Street. Although she considered moving to a smaller place, she always came back to the fact that that’s where all her memories lived, and that’s where she wanted to stay. Her final wish was granted.
She is lovingly remembered by three daughters: Mary Jo (Steve) Lange, Gayle Tighe and Patricia (Sam Broyles) Japenga; her son, Robert J. (Barbara) Japenga; six grandchildren: Jennifer (Dan) Cantrell, Brian (Courtney) Tighe, Kevin (Laurie) Lange, Abby (Steve) Egan, Amy (Kenny) Raynes and Scott (Shelby) Lange; nine great-grandchildren; two sisters, Frances Buikema and Carole Blecksmith; her brother-in-law, Harold Japenga; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her brother, George Susterich; sister, Fanny Maggiore; and son-in-law, John Tighe.
A private family graveside service will be held. Interment will be in Historic Cemetery. Memorial contributions to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation or The Alzheimer’s Association are appreciated. The family is being served by Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services – The VanZantwick Chapel. Share memories with the family at their online guest book at

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