With a journey that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Kenneth Chester Kolberg lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He worked hard, but he took the time to enjoy life along the way. It was easy to see that Ken was married to the love of his life, and together they witnessed their family tree blossom to include the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren he treasured more than life itself. Guided by an unwavering faith, he was an inspiration to many. Deeply loved, Ken will be forever missed.
Life in America during the year 1918 was drastically different than the life we know in America today. We struggled with issues such as unsafe working conditions and a lack of child labor laws, but there was much to celebrate when America and our allies declared victory in WWI in November that year. It was in April that year when Henry and Augusta (Klempel) Kolberg announced the birth of the baby boy they named Kenneth Chester on April 4th, in Grand Haven, Michigan. The youngest of eight, he was joined in his family by his brothers, Henry, Harold, Ernest, and Arnold, and his sisters, Frances, Florence, and Emily. Ken's father was a carpenter while his mother focused her time and attention at home. The Kolberg family came from hardy German roots as his brothers Ernest and Arnold lived into their 90s, and his sister, Florence, was 100.
Raised in the family home on Pennoyer in Grand Haven, Ken experienced an upbringing that was typical for the youth of his generation. He had fun playing neighborhood sports, but he ended up missing a year of school while receiving care after having been hit by a car. Ken had a job delivering the Grand Haven Tribune, and he also helped his father build houses and cottages during the summers when he was a teen. In addition to holding down his studies in high school, he was also on the basketball team. After graduating from high school, Ken enrolled at Western Michigan University to study architecture. While on summer break one year, he and two of his college buddies canoed in an outrigger canoe all the way from Grand Haven to the Upper Peninsula.
New and exciting changes were in store for Ken when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Clara Jensen, and it didn't take them long to fall in love. Their relationship soon became a long distance one as Ken was drafted into the Army Air Corps during his junior year. With the desire to spend the rest of their lives together Ken and Clara were married on March 4, 1943. That same year, they welcomed their daughter, Kristine, into their hearts and home. While in the military, Ken was stationed in India and Chanute Air Force Base, Champaign, IL, he worked as an illustrator for training manuals. Once his military duties were fulfilled, Ken returned to Western Michigan where he earned his teaching degree. Soon after, he took a position as an industrial arts and drafting teacher at Muskegon High School. He continued to teach numerous students for over 20 years before getting a master's degree and finishing his career as a counselor. In 1983, Ken retired after 37 years.
There was never anything of greater importance in Ken's life than his family. Their family grew to include four more children, Kim, Kirk, Kevin, and Kathleen, and they settled into a home on Diversey in Norton Shores that Ken built with his father. This was the place Ken called home for the rest of his life. The Kolbergs were faithful members of St Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church where Ken served as a trustee and board member. He also took care of many woodworking projects around the church. Sunday was "family day" when they would spend the afternoons at the Teachers Club on Lake Michigan, swimming and playing. Ken regularly took the kids to open pool nights at the junior high schools, and as his kids created their own lives he was so proud that they all became teachers. Ken and Clara had a marriage that many only dream of. They loved going dancing at the Vikings and other social clubs around Muskegon, and for 12 years they were members of the "Y" Squares. During their retirement years they traveled around the country in their custom Ford camper. They also took trips to Europe and Hawaii.
Ken was always a hard worker and liked keeping busy. He particularly loved woodworking and building projects. During the summers he took different jobs through the years including construction and teaching furniture upholstery among others. Over the years Ken built furniture, picnic tables, and birdhouses for his children and grandchildren. He also took his family on several memorable vacations around the country. Ken and his wife would load up the station wagon and head out, often stopping at universities along the way so Ken could get some information for his counseling students. Within his community he was a member of the Vikings Lodge, was the past president of the Muskegon City Teachers Clubhouse, and also a past president of the Lincoln School Board. Around home Ken loved working in the garden. He and his wife canned many fruits and vegetables. He was also known to make beautiful Christmas wreaths for his family.
When Clara died in 2011 Ken continued living on his own in the house he built. He kept busy with projects and the garden.He continued driving until he was 95 years old. Although his body started slowing down a bit, Ken's mind remained sharp.
All who knew Kenneth Kolberg would agree that he was extraordinary in every way. He lived life to the fullest each day, counting each day he was given as a gift. Ken was deeply devoted to his family, and there was nothing he treasured more than being surrounded by their love. He will never be forgotten.
Mr Kenneth C. Kolberg, age 101, passed away Sunday, September 15, 2019. Ken's family includes his children, Kristine (Cesareo) Vasquez of AZ, daughter-in-law, Carole Kolberg, Kirk (Laura) Kolberg of Muskegon, Kevin (Sherlene) Kolberg of Muskegon, Kathleen (Gary) Schottke of Muskegon; 17 grandchildren, Todd Thedorff, Luisa Mugridge, Laura Kimberling, Trevor Thedorff, Linda Vasquez, Troy Thedorff, Nathan Denman, Kari Kolberg, Piper Denman, Brad Schottke, Matthew Kolberg, Megan Kolberg, Ryan Kolberg, Keith Kolberg. Kendra Beckstrom, Kory Kolberg, Jesse Kolberg; 20 great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews, dear friends and caregivers, Norma Sherwood, Alice Doxey and Kari Kolberg whom he went down memory lane with. Ken was preceded in death by his wife Clara (90); son, Kim in 2018 (70); 4 brothers, Harold (1), Henry (11), Ernest (98) & Arnold (93); 3 sisters, Emily Nietring (43) Frances Carlson (85), & Florence Hamm (100). Services will be held on Thursday, September 19, 2019, 11:00 a.m. at St. Mark Lutheran Church with Rev. Mark Gilson and Vicar Scott Faith officiating. Internment in Norton Cemetery. Visitation will be held on Wednesday, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at Clock Funeral Home - Muskegon. Memorials can be made to Ken & Clara Scholarship Fund at the Muskegon County Community Foundation. Please visit www.clockfuneralhome.com to leave a memory or sign the online guestbook. Clock Funeral Home - Muskegon
Sending Sympathy and Prayers to the Kolberg Familty.