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St. James Lutheran Church
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Donald Cullen was a strong, steadfast, and hardworking man of honor. He was someone who was content in all things, and his devotion to the people and causes he believed in was easy to see. Blessed to share the majority of his life’s journey with his true love, Don’s greatest source of pride and joy was found in the generations who follow him. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
It was great to be an American during the decade that we commonly recall as the Roaring Twenties. Innovation led the way to things like radios, washing machines, and cars that were mass produced on assembly lines. Prosperity was largely felt nationwide, and America was leading the way to new and exciting days. Amidst this eventful time was the year 1925 that was filled with great joy for Joseph and Alice (Voy) Cullen as they welcomed the birth of the baby boy they named Donald Alfred on May 2, 1925, in Detroit, Michigan. He was the fourth of five children as he was raised alongside his brothers, Gordon and Jack, and his sisters, Marg and “Jo.”
In many ways, Don was a typical young boy of his generation. Born and raised in Detroit, he was a true Tigers and Red Wings fan through and through. Don’s father worked as a milkman while his mother was a busy homemaker. He was a student at John Grace Elementary School, but he left school after the eighth grade to help earn money for the family. This was fairly commonplace as these were the days of the Great Depression when nearly every American family felt the harsh realities of the time. Don learned to play golf at an early age and used to take the bus or hitchhike with his brother to Meadowbrook Golf Course where he worked as a caddie.
As young man of 18, Don was drafted in 1943. He had hoped to follow his brother Gord into the Army, however, when he tried their quota had already been met for the day. The recruiter said, “Congratulations son, you’re a Marine.” Don honorably served from 1943 through 1946 including in the battle at Iwo Jima. Upon returning, the chaplain stated that Corporal Don Cullen and others “Would never go to hell, as they had already been there.” Don spoke very little about serving, but he was rewarded for his service by participating in the Legends Flight to the WWII Memorial several years ago.
After the war, Don with his brother, Jack, worked for the Forestry Division of Parks and Recreation for the City of Detroit. Don worked hard throughout his life and was never without a job. In fact, one year he filed 13 different W-2 forms! Over the years, Don logged trees for Marion Hunt, pulled hides at the Tannery, painted for a commercial painting company in Muskegon with his work including the inside of the Consumers Power Plant and the William D. Munroe Gymnasium. In addition, he privately painted houses and was also employed at Howmet.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Don’s introduction to the woman of his dreams. Her name was Nina Roberts, and they met on the green at the White Lake Golf Course. Together they shared a passion for the game of golf, and when they met she had already won the women’s county golf championship. Nina went on to win it another seven times throughout her life with Don cheering her on. Their love grew, and with a desire to spend the rest of their lives together the sweethearts were married in August of 1951. Together they were blessed with the births of “five brats” including Cheryl, Donna, Thomas, John, and Christopher. Don enjoyed hunting with his boys as well as golfing and “hunting” for errantly hit golf balls as well. He proudly passed along his golf skills to his daughter, Donna. Over the years his family grew to include 13 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Don was so very proud of all of his kids and cherished being a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Although Don worked hard, he also knew how to play just as hard. When Don’s parents moved to Whitehall, he would often ride from Detroit on his motorcycle to visit, trying to never touch his brakes throughout the entire trip! With a passion for the game of golf, he perfected his skills throughout his life. Don held the White Lake Golf Course record for decades, shooting a 64. He was the club champion in both 1954 and 1956, and at the age of 69 he shot his age with a 67 at Old Channel Trail. In addition, Don holed three aces at three different courses, all on hole number 13. Also within his community, he was a lifetime member of the Montague VFW and was a communicant member of St. James Lutheran Church. Don genuinely enjoyed Pastor John Brooks’ visits, friendship, communion, and sharing the Word of God. He lived in Montague for 64 years until moving to White Lake Assisted Living last year after an eight month rehab at Heartland of Whitehall for a broken hip.
All who knew Donald Cullen would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was a man who giving, kindhearted, and believed in working hard both in work and while at play. Don was a man of faith and an active part of the community he called home throughout the majority of his life. Although he will be deeply missed, his family finds comfort in knowing that he has found perfect peace in his eternal home.
Donald Cullen, was greeted in Heaven on June 9, 2017, by Jesus, Nina, and Cheryl (we can all hear Cher saying “Hi Papa!, That’s my Dad!) along with other family members and friends, including Peanuts, Lady and Maggie. Don's family includes his daughter, Donna (William) Cullen-Benedict of Whitehall; 3 sons, Thomas (Kristine) Cullen of Twin Lake, John (Tanya) Cullen of North Muskegon, Christopher (Deanna) Cullen of Montague; 13 grandchildren, Jenna (Eric), Stephanie (Jeremy), David (Steph), Ryan, Stephanie, Samantha, Spencer, Jordan, Ashley (Anthony), Morgan, Amber, Tate & Stevie; 4 great-grandchildren, Cullen, Bodhi, Calista & Tristin. brother, Jack (Joan) Cullen of Detroit. Don was preceded in death by his wife, Nina in 2010, and daughter, Cheryl in 2016. Don’s Homecoming Service will be Thursday, June 15, 2017, 4:00 p.m. at Clock Chapel - Muskegon, 1469 Peck Street, with Visitation one hour prior to the service with Rev. John Brooks officiating. Interment in Oak Grove Cemetery Montague. Memorials can be made to St. James Lutheran Church.