Richard Hoonhorst loved to tell jokes. If you didn't catch the punchline the first time around (or even if you did), he'd enthusiastically tell it again...and again...and again. Just ask his friends at Sandy's Donuts on Grand Rapids' West Side—the place where Richard spent countless mornings drinking his coffee, enjoying a donut and cracking jokes. Most of them will groan, laugh and share their favorite of his one-liners by memory. That's what happens when you hear something for the second, fifth, tenth, hundredth time.
So when it came time to decide what to serve guests for dessert at Richard's memorial service on Friday morning at West Leonard Christian Reformed Church, the answer was obvious—Sandy's Donuts, of course! How else would you celebrate the eighty-seven-year-old's jovial spirit and love of fun, family and friends? In addition to the sweet treats, guests were treated to a lunch "appropriate for a personality like Richard's."
Skip the ham buns and potato chips, we knew they weren't going to cut it for a celebration of a life like his. Instead, there was a hot catered meal of cabbage rolls, meatballs, kielbasa, sauerkraut, smashed potatoes, green beans and okay, some ham buns. There were so many stories to share about Richard that we instructed guests ahead of time, "If you leave and you don't feel like maybe you've eaten just a little too much, then you haven't shared enough stories or stayed long enough."
Richard's family and friends gathered a few hours before the memorial service to visit, reflect and peruse a lifetime of pictures and special keepsakes displayed around the room—Richard's favorite coffee mug, his Bible, some of his concrete tools from years past, a comfort quilt adorned with the names of his loved ones, even a blanket that Richard made on his very own loom. It was no surprise that the room was packed full of people laughing, hugging and poring over the mementos. Richard loved people well and wanted nothing more than the best for each and every person he met, from strangers to those who knew him best. The crowded space communicated loud and clear—no one stayed a stranger to Richard for long.
Following his wishes, Richard was cremated. His wife of more than sixty years, Lois, carried his remains from the visiting room to the front of the sanctuary as the service started. The couple's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren followed. Rather than ordering extra floral arrangements for the front of the church—Richard was an avid gardener and loved flowers—the grandchildren brought individual potted flowers to place around his urn and later take home as a reminder of their beloved grandpa.
We are always looking for opportunities for family and friends to participate in the service, to take an active role in honoring the life of their loved one.
Since Richard was a veteran of the United States Air Force—he served for three years in Panama—the Kent County Veteran's Honor Guard performed the three-volley salute, played “Taps” and presented the American flag to Lois. Richard's youngest brother Fred and one of his granddaughters shared some of their favorite memories; and those gathered listened to a message of hope and sang some of Richard's favorite hymns. He and Lois were members at West Leonard CRC throughout their entire marriage. The church and Richard's relationship to Jesus were deeply important to him. Richard was never afraid to share his faith with others. Rather than preach, he instead lived each day honestly, patiently, sincerely and with lots of love. And that was obvious from start to finish at the service on Friday.
"You really got to know him," Richard's brother Fred shared with us while expressing his gratitude for how the whole morning, from the visitation to the service to the luncheon, so perfectly captured his oldest brother's character and spirit.
You can read more about Richards life and even share a memory of your own on his personal memory page.