Guy Estep, 80, finished his work in this life on Friday, January 10, 2020, surrounded by those he loved, in the home he built with his own hands 54 years ago.
He was a Marine, craftsman, artist, public health expert, outdoorsman, pinochle player and avid, though often frustrated, golfer. Above all, he was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle. His greatest accomplishments and labors of love were on behalf of his beloved wife of 56 years, Patricia.
Guy was born Dec. 25, 1939, in Bellwood, Pa., to Berniece and Donald Estep, a Christmas gift to big sister Ruth. He spent his early years finding mischief in the mountain streams and small towns of central Pennsylvania before the family moved to Grand Rapids, where he resumed his boyhood adventures.
In his early teen years, the family moved to a farm in Caledonia, where Guy learned to stretch barbed wire, stack hay and ride horses. He became a skilled horseman and was a rodeo rider – although he always pointed out he had the good sense to avoid bull riding.
After graduating from Caledonia High School, he joined the Marines, attaining the rank of lance corporal. He was stationed at Adak, Alaska, a Cold War outpost on a remote Aleutian island.
Upon finishing service to his country, he attended Ferris State University. While still a student, he met his future wife, Patricia, who at first refused to give him a second look because he wore white socks with dress slacks. His persistence paid off, and they were married shortly after he graduated with a degree in environmental health.
Guy went to work for the Kent County Health Department, where he developed lifelong friendships and professional relationships. After finishing work each day, he would change his clothes and get to work building the home – based on an architectural plan they chose from The Grand Rapids Press – where he and Patricia would raise three children.
He later found what he described as his professional home at Meijer. He spent decades ensuring food safety, environmental health and cleanliness for the growing retail chain, retiring in 1999 as Director of Sanitation. (The next time you use a restroom at Meijer and are able to exit hands-free by pushing the door open instead of grabbing the handle, thank Guy.) He served many years with the Michigan Environmental Health Association and in 1990 received the LaRue L. Miller Lifetime Achievement Award. He also served as president of the board of directors for the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Guy is survived by his wife, Patricia; children Darin (Cami) Estep of Grand Rapids, Stephanie (David) Kempisty of Caledonia and Colleen “Weens” Marchese of Berkley; grandchildren Luke (Lacey) Kempisty, Isabel (Tyler) Hinton, Clair and Lilli Kempisty, Veronica and Charlotte Marchese, and Donovan and Ella Estep; sister, Ruth “Keaner” Ward of Grand Rapids; sister-in-law Judy Sanders of Grand Rapids; and many nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Donald and Berniece Estep, and many family members through marriage whom he missed dearly.
Guy embraced life. He was seldom idle and could always be found engaged in a home improvement or repair project. He was utterly devoted to Patricia. Only when time allowed and all jobs were finished would he indulge in his other passion, playing golf. He was a member of the Great Lakes Seniors Golf Association and enjoyed many friendships made on courses in Michigan and in Florida, where he and his wife spent winter months during retirement. He also was a proud member of American Legion Memorial Post 305 in Caledonia.
The family wants to express its thanks to friends and family who provided selfless support, kindness and love that enabled him to return home to Michigan for final farewells after his sudden illness in Florida. Even in death, his contributions to the world did not end, thanks to his enrollment in the Gift of Life registry.
Visitation will be Thursday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf, 616 E. Main St., Caledonia. Funeral services will be Friday at 11 a.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, 9669 Kraft Ave. SE, Caledonia.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or In the Image in Grand Rapids.