Russell Henry TerBeek, Jr., a life-long resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan, died unexpectedly on January 6, 2021, at the age of 72, due to complications from Covid-19. Born on July 2, 1948, Russ, or, Rusty, as his family and friends knew him, was the oldest of six children. His parents, Deawn Ruth TerBeek, (nee Albaugh) and his father, Russell Henry TerBeek, Sr., preceded him in death.
Russ excelled in cross country at both Lee High School and Grand Rapids Junior College, lettering in both. He graduated with honors from Grand Valley State College with a degree in microbiology and worked for years at the Amway Corporation. He also served with honor during the Vietnam War in the United States Army.
Russ relished riding motorcycles and enjoyed some periods of volunteering at the scene shop at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre and attending performances there. Russ loved animals, in particular, he loved cats and dogs. He also enthusiastically engaged in conversations about science and politics.
Russ is survived by his fellow siblings: Robert TerBeek (Cathy Cunningham), John TerBeek (Ashley), Barbara (nee TerBeek) Bainbridge (Gene), James TerBeek, Marc TerBeek (Jasmine); his nephew and godson, Russell TerBeek III (Hollie); nephew, Nick TerBeek; and his nieces: Elizabeth Shattler (Ron), Michelle Saylor (Dave), Christine Versluis (Rob), Tasha TerBeek, and Hannah TerBeek; as well as many great-nephews and great-nieces.
A celebration of Russ’ life will be held at a later date due to the pandemic of Covid-19. Condolences may be sent online at www.mkdfuneralhome.com.
In the meantime, Russ’ family has a few memories and tributes to Rusty that they wanted to share:
From Russ’ brother, Rob:
I suppose that my earliest recollection of Russ is his Star Shows in the basement of 1902 Alba. My parents had procured a small planetarium for my brother. Russ learned the constellations and also the Main Sequence of Stellar development (look it up). Russ was nine (9) years old. Russ charged a penny a show, as I recall.
Russ introduced me to wrestling when I was thirteen. We wrestled on the basement carpet, no pad. I vividly remember these sessions.
Russ spent his adult life adventuring as much as possible. He whitewater rafted the Colorado River, climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48, and scaled Mt. Shasta with me in tow. He owned and flew airplanes and rode Harleys.
I will miss his academic knowledge and understanding of all the natural world. Our discussions (and there were many) would cover myriad topics, from science to politics to sports.
Russ was the kindest, gentlest person I have ever met.
I miss Russ greatly. I always will.
Russ, I’ll see you in the Supernatural!
From Russ’ brother, John:
Rusty was my oldest brother and my friend, who, upon my entering into 8th grade tried to teach me how to conduct myself in high school. Those lessons fell upon deaf ears. I remember when we had scheduled a vacation to Mammoth Caves, Kentucky, we had to wait for Rusty to run his cross country race against Kelloggsville High School, which, as one of the stars of our high school, helped win the race. I remember, Coach Arthur Kraai, at the All Sports Banquet joked that Rusty had to finish the race before we went off and left him.
A poem from Russ’ brother, Jim:
Russ was my brother, taken too soon
By the negligent acts of an orange baboon.
He loved all his critters, no arguing that,
You could tell by the way that he treated his cats.
He played the piano and strummed the guitar,
His musical skills being well above par.
He will be missed by those he knew well,
Some destined for heaven, and others for hell.
From Russ’ sister, Barb:
My brother, Rusty, was a kind man. Funny and smart, but most of all, kind. When I notified my good friend about Russ’s passing, the first thing she said is that he never would have hurt anybody. Especially in these times, that is a great thing to be remembered for.
Another friend took a college class years ago with Rusty. She chuckled as she told me only two people knew what was going on in that class: Rusty and the professor.
Also, I remember, we had a live band at my wedding, and during one of their breaks, Rusty played the piano. People were impressed with his talent, and still mention this. He could play piano pieces by ear.
Rusty loved animals. Stray animals, and sometimes humans, gravitated to him. He took them all in and cared for them whether or not he could afford to.
Russ took pride in living in the house that our grandfather built so many years ago, and that our Dad was born in. I am so glad that it is still in the family; Rusty would appreciate that so much.
From Russ’ youngest brother, Marc:
Rusty, the eldest of a family where I was the youngest, held a mysterious air for me as a kid. He was an adult from my earliest memories of him, and then seemed removed from my kid world. That changed in 1971 when he came back from a stint in the Army with media like Zap Comix, the Furry Freak Brothers, and albums like Big Bambu and Child’s Garden of Grass. As I grew into adulthood, I came to know him as an affable, super smart guy who was always willing to be the host of a good party, and always welcoming to me and my friends and later, wives and kids. No matter what set back he faced, he remained upbeat and positive, bringing good vibes and warmth to his interactions.
My best recent memories of him are from when he travelled with my family to Union Pier and Kirk Park in 2012. It was the last time my kids both saw him. He was struggling with his disability, but gamely made his way to the beach with us. I will miss him.
From Russ III - Rusty’s nephew and godson:
I have several memories of Russell TerBeek, Jr., from early life, including some patient conversations between an elder educated in science and his eager eight-year-old godson and nephew concerning black holes. However, I am most indebted to him for his help readying me for the ACT when I was twelve, required for advanced math courses I would soon take, thus setting me on a solid path towards a career in
science. I have benefited from his generosity and am grateful for the impact he had on my life.
- Mark S. Green
- Peggy (Heyboer) Sander
- Lisa Buchanan
- Tom Nauta