Mary Elizabeth Japinga
May 2, 1940 – March 23, 2020
It is with great sadness that the family of Mary Brower Japinga announces her death from complications of Alzheimer’s on March 23, 2020. Mary was a life-long Michigander who was born on May 2, 1940 and was raised in Grandville, Michigan. Mary married her high school sweetheart, Doug Japinga. According to family legend, Mary first heard about Doug in the girl’s bathroom in high school. One of the girls commented that she heard Doug Japinga kissed like a movie star. When asked about the accuracy of that statement years later by her daughters, Mary coyly said, “I don’t know, I’ve never kissed a movie star.” Doug and Mary were married for 58 years. The couple moved to St. Johns, Michigan, and raised two children. Mary was known for many things, but her kindness stands out. Much to the dismay of her girls, her excellent pies never seemed destined for the family, but were baked for people in need. Mary also was an enthusiastic fund raiser for the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society. As a stay at home mom, she volunteered to care for the sick kids of her friends who were teachers, rescued kids from the nearby elementary school when unexpected snow days cropped up so they could wait in the warmth (with hot chocolate!) until their parents could pick them up and participated in the helping hands program where a sign with a hand placed in the window let kids know that the house was a safe place to go in case of an emergency. Mary loved words, whether they were on a Scrabble board, in books or the dictionary. She was hands down the best speller in the family. Doug recounted a time early in their marriage when they had few nickels to rub together, but some of those went to a fabulous dictionary. Yes, the same dictionary Mary frequently had her daughters take off the bookshelf and “look it up” rather than spell the word for them. Mary shared her love of reading with her children and frequently could be persuaded to extend bedtime for “one more story.” She also enjoyed playing cards. Although she never admitted it, she and her close friend, Jo Ann Rosengren, were accused of rigging games by developing a scheme to somehow alert each other of what card to play through the house vents. Of course, this story was spread by Frank Rosengren and Doug, who frequently lost card games to their female partners. After her kids were older, Mary and Doug started a business, Sports Imprint and soon after opened a store, the Sports Section. Mary grew the business with her husband. She managed the store and loved being around the kids and teens who frequented the store. Mary and Doug retired to Kewadin, Michigan. While there, they reunited with friends from St. Johns and made new friends in the area. Mary, always one for celebrating and enjoying a party, loved the monthly gathering of her friends. They were also able to spend many evenings enjoying the sunsets over Lake Michigan from their dream house. Mary is survived by her husband Doug, her daughters Dawn (Japinga) Wilson and Kim Japinga (Carl Hartmann), her grandchildren, Sarah and Scott Wilson (Jessica Myers), her brother Howard Brower, her sister and brother-in-law Dave and Terre (Japinga) Balkema and many wonderful nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Clarence and Gertrude Brower, sister Ruth (Brower) Frazine and her brothers Earl and Arthur Brower. Due to COVID 19, the family has decided that gatherings are not safe and thus will not be holding a funeral at this time. In lieu of flowers, donations to the March of Dimes or the American Cancer Society would be appreciated. Arrangements are in the care of Covell Funeral Home, Elk Rapids, Michigan.
Mary Elizabeth Japinga
July 8, 2020
Dear Coach Japinga: I was so sorry to hear about your loss. I remember you with thanksgiving and gratitude in my heart. I pray that the Lord bless and keep you and your family. God bless.
Dr. Bryan R. Salminen
March 26, 2020
I miss my friend Mary so much. We met 58 years ago in St. John’s. She was such a wonderful friend. We laughed and giggled together, we made apple pies and cream puffs together. Our big outing for the week was to go to the laundromat so Mary could wash diapers. She was even brave enough to go with me (I had just gotten my driver’s license) to my niece’s wedding in Royal Oak! Mary was a one-of-a-kind friend to me. Frank and I were so happy when she and Doug moved up North. We sat with them on lawn chairs in their unfinished house on the Bay and had wine and snacks. We had a fun tradition of having grasshoppers after dinner out. We are so thankful for the great memories!
Our hearts go out to Mary’s family, Doug, Kim and Karl and Dawn and Scott and Sarah.
Frank and Joanne Rosengren
March 25, 2020
Dear Doug and Family
Jeanne and I are deeply sorry for your loss of Mary.
Jerry (Grandville class of 57), Jeanne (Kridler) Grandville class of 59.
May your many memories of your Mary help to sustain you at this most difficult time