Life Story / Obituary
A fun-loving, spirited, and kindhearted man, James Vandenorth was a blessing in the lives of so many around him. Although he accomplished much of which to be proud, there was nothing that made him beam more than his family tree that grew to include children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. With the love of his life by his side for more than 40 years, James experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer while treasuring each moment he was given. A true patriot, devoted family man, and genuine friend to many, James will be deeply missed while his memories continue to be cherished by those he leaves behind.
The entire decade of the 1930s was cloaked in hardship due to the unrelenting grip of the Great Depression. Countless Americans were without jobs and willing to do whatever they could to find work, even if it meant moving clear across the country. Despite the trying times around them, a young couple from Chicago, Illinois, was filled with great joy to announce the birth of their new son on July 12, 1935. Baby James was the third of four children born to his parents, Peter and Dorothy (Lueker) Vandenorth, and was raised in the family home alongside his siblings, Peter, Adeline, and Daniel. His father worked as a salesman while his mother focused her attention on caring for her home and family.
During the school year the Vandenorths lived in Chicago, but during the summers they spent their time in Twin Lake, Michigan, which is where James developed his lifelong love of the water. Some of his favorite activities throughout his life were boating and swimming. When they were in Twin Lake, MI the family attended St. Mary of the Woods Catholic Church. Although nothing beat summer, James also enjoyed snow skiing during the winter. As a student he attended St. Ethelreda’s nearly all the way through high school where he played football. James went on to graduate from Chicago Vocational School in 1952. As a young man of seventeen he joined the Marine Corps and ended up serving time in the Korean Conflict.
New and exciting changes were in store for James when he agreed to a blind date on a canoeing trip in Muskegon as it was there that he met the young girl who stole his heart. Her name was Karen Long, and they soon began dating. With a desire to build a life together they were united in marriage on June 1, 1968, deeply in love. Together they were blessed with six children: Peter, Jeffrey, Barbara, James, Samuel, and Edward. Family time was always a priority in the Vandenorth home including game night, swimming, and yard work on Saturdays. James also enjoyed taking his family camping and boating, sightseeing, and on trips to Disney World and St. Huberts. Although they loved being with their children, James and Karen also enjoyed their time just as husband and wife so date night was a Saturday night tradition.
As a father James was able to take everything in stride. Imagine his surprise when he found that Barb, who was a teenager at the time, had been sleeping in the family van the night before and was still there when he began driving off for his Saturday morning haircut bright and early. It was quite the sight to see James jump nearly three feet off his seat when she popped her head up! Since returning to her bedroom would have been the better choice that Friday night, Barb ended up being grounded for a few weeks. Later in life James fully embraced his role as a grandfather. He loved taking his grandchildren camping, searching for shells, and deep sea fishing. James didn’t even mind all that much when his grandson, Jeffrey Jr., who was eight at the time asked him why he was wearing his underwear for swimming and hanging out at the beach as these were the days when speedo bathing suits were in style!
Throughout his life James worked hard in order to support his family. He was the owner and operator of a General Automotive warehouse and also worked as a semi-truck driver and marina dockmaster.
Over the years James enjoyed so many things that enriched his life. In fact, the things he treasured most really weren’t things, they were the people he loved. He established meaningful friendships with Jimmy Sullivan and Jim Olochran, Gary O’Rourke, Ray Borsema, Sonny Barnet, Jerry Truse, and Sonny Barnet, Jr. Every Saturday during the mid-morning James and Gary O’Rourke left their homes with plans of making a trip to the dump, although they usually made a stop at the tavern for “one quick cocktail.” However, most times they spent the majority of the day there sharing cocktails and shooting the breeze. Oftentimes they returned home long after they were expected with the garbage still in the back of the truck, never having made it to the dump at all! With his wife James enjoyed living in Hubertus, Wisconsin, and more recently in Fort Meyers, Florida. He loved the companionship of his two dogs, Troubles and Danger, and he also liked hunting and fishing.
There are so many things we will miss about James Vandenorth as he was truly extraordinary. We will miss his sense of humor, his spirit of adventure, and his unconditional support, but most of all we will miss his love. James was an honest businessman who worked until the day he died, providing us all with much to aspire for. The timeless legacy he leaves behind will be proudly carried on by those who follow him.
James F. Vandenorth died Monday, July 9, 2012, in Florida. James’s family includes his wife of 44 years, Karen of FL; children, Peter Vandenorth of FL, Jeffrey (Angela) Vandenorth of WI, Barbara (Christopher) Wandsnider of WI, James (Kelly) Vandenorth of WI, Samuel Vandenorth of FL; 13 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren; brother, Daniel Vandenorth of FL; sisters-in-law, Barbara, Donna & Susan. James was preceded in death by his parents; son, Edward; brother, Peter; sister, Adeline; brothers-in-law, Larry, Claude; sister-in-law, Marsha. Services will be held on Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 11:00 a.m. and visitation 1 hour prior to the service at the Clock Chapel - Muskegon with Fr. Norm Droski officiating. Interment at Twin Lake Cemetery. Memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a memory or sign the online guest book.