William "Bill" Harry Colyer

November 29, 1931December 28, 2020

On December 28, 2020, William Harry “Bill” Colyer, passed away peacefully at home, age 89. He was preceded in death by his parents Ernest and Martha Colyer, and his beloved half-sister Ellen Joyce Conklin. His memory will continue to be celebrated by the loving families of his children Michael Colyer, Lisa Choate, and Anne Wright, seven grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, seven nieces and nephews, his ex-wife and good friend Judith Anne Colyer, and his former companion and dear friend of the family, Geraldine Cawthra.

Born and educated in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bill graduated from Valparaiso Technical Institute before being drafted into the United States Army. He served in Korea for 13 months, bringing home a lucky shrapnel shard that landed inches from his body, leaving him unharmed, with a thirst for travel and a new-found zeal to live life to the fullest.

After the war, Bill took his parents on their first-ever cross-country vacation. He earned his degree from Ferris State, married Judith, and taught at Byron Center High School. He loved his job and was proud of his students, often giving them imaginative nicknames. He often spoke with pride after reading about his former students’ successes online.

While raising the three children, he taught high school and driver’s education, and photographed hundreds of former students’ weddings throughout the 1960s-1980s. His family were members of Plymouth United Church of Christ and have many fond memories of potlucks, holiday celebrations, Arts Festival food booths, and sharing fellowship with good friends from Plymouth. Every school break and summer found Bill taking his family on trips: to the Osh Kosh air shows in Wisconsin, fishing in Canada, relaxing on Lake Michigan, annual spring break trips to Hilton Head Island, and driving across the country in the motor home. Bill loved exploring. He eventually visited 49 states and toured Europe 12 times. In retirement, he taught driver’s education and volunteered at seven charities.

The G.I. whose life was altered by that lucky shrapnel led a fulfilling life. Bill will be remembered fondly by many family members, friends, and former students who were lucky to know his kind, generous heart. A memorial will be held after COVID restrictions are lifted and his remains will be laid to rest in Plymouth United Church of Christ’s memorial garden.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to please consider making a gift to the American Heart Association, 2469 Woodlake Circle, Suite 100, Okemos, MI 48864.


  • American Heart Association


William "Bill" Harry Colyer

have a memory or condolence to add?

Emmanuelle (Soulé) Christian

January 5, 2021

Bill was my "american father". As I came for the first time to spend one month as Anne's French exchange 1984, I met a wonderful family. Bill and Judith opened me so widely their home that I pretty soon fell part of the family. I have so wonderful memories from camping with the mobile home at the Michigan lake, discovering Michigan, visiting Carol in Atlanta, Lisa at the Michigan State University, Grand Ma's birthday, and so much more because every day was filled with Love and Joy and Sharing. A very nice friendship was born. And we had from then a wonderful time together. Later on through France, in Nürnberg, in Barcelona, at my Wedding, Anne's Wedding ... Bill would call me every year for my birthday and anniversary.
He was always positive, friendly, with a warm smile on the lips, wanting to pelase, generous of his time, interested in the live and preoccupations of others, curious of every thing.

I am profoundly grateful for having crossed Bill's live path.

Bill, you will stay in my heart for ever.

With all my love and compassion to the Colyer Family.

Barb ( wierenga) Harig

January 3, 2021

I had Mr. Colyer for a teacher and for drivers ed. The one thing l remember and thanked him for is my exam. My class was the last one for the day and he offered to let us stay longer so we could finish and because l did l got an A. I will never forget that. Also he made driving fun.

Anne (Colyer) Wright

January 3, 2021

Thank you so much to everyone who has written such kind things about my wonderful father. It has comforted me greatly to read how much you loved and admired him. I'm so glad you have such warm memories of him, he would have loved that.
For my part, I will always remember how happy his family made him. Dad loved family holidays, vacations, driving us everywhere (he sure loved driving, didn't he?), being there for every violin concert, dance recital, festival food booth, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve church service... all of it. He reveled in being helpful--whether at Byron Center, at church, for friends, for his kids, for his former students, and for the charities he supported after he retired. Dad would never have considered himself to be selfless, but he was. His joy was in helping other people, particularly his family, to be happy and fulfilled.
I was the last family member to see him and I will share what I told him as I left his room that night. I'd spent the afternoon with him. I played "Fiddler on the Roof" (he loved musicals) and talked to him, while tidying his room and moving photos of his family to where he might see them. I debated sleeping in the chair next to him, but he was responding to the nurses, so I thought he was strong enough to make it through the night. He turned his head towards me as I played him all the voicemails that were left on his phone by family and friends. Then, I rested my hand on his arm and said, "Dad, I've been with you all evening. Lisa was here this morning and I'm going to stay at her house tonight. I'll be back tomorrow, but you can go if you need to. You have been so strong for so long. You raised Mike, Lisa, and I to be strong. We're strong enough to go on without you. You did a great job raising us and nobody here has any regrets. You know we love you and we know you love us. I'll be back in the morning, but you can go if you need to. We'll be okay. We love you, Dad."

We will always love you, Dad.

Julie Braendle Zanutta

January 1, 2021

My deepest sympathies to all of you. Bill was always such a good friend to our entire family and especially to my parents, Karen and Larry Braendle. Mom and Dad were always happy to have him drop by. He was a supportive and loyal and generous friend. He always had a big hug and a ready laugh. I hope you find comfort in your memories and know that many others have fond memories too.

Alice Ahearn

January 1, 2021

Mr Colyer was such a nice man. He loved to laugh and he loved his family. I am privileged to be friends with his daughter Lisa and I can remember when he drove their motor home to and from a campsite so a bunch of us could have a fun camping weekend.
He also photographed my wedding 32 years ago!
My sincere condolences to the whole family. You can take solace in the wonderful memories you have of a great man.

Tracey Croskery (Roest)

January 1, 2021

My deepest sympathy to the family. As so many have already said, Mr. Colyer really was a great educator in the class room and in the car. I have so many found memories that I can’t think back to them without a smile on face. I feel blessed and honored to be among his long list students. Byron Center class of 1987.

Fred Bogema

December 31, 2020

I didn't know Bill real well, but when I was with him, I enjoyed his company very much. He was a very kind understanding man, with a good sense of humor. When Judith and I had gone to several weddings at their church, Bill would always be waiting for us in the lobby, so that we could sit together. He would make me feel like part of the family. He will be missed.
Fred Bogema

Bill Taylor

December 30, 2020

I'm very sorry to hear about Mr. Colyer's passing. I had him for one of my drivers training teachers in the mid 70's. Loved his sense of humor and the donut stops. He was a great addition to the fine teachers we all had at Byron Center High School. He was a positive influence in my life and I'm glad I got to experience time with him one on one during my classes. Nothing but good memories. My condolences to his family and friends.

Lucinda Homrich

December 30, 2020

Mr Colyer was he sweetest and kindest man I knew. He never called me Cindy just Homrich! He was a Drivers Ed teacher that didn't make anyone nervous. Bill would drop off the film from sports events taken at BCHS so I could take them to work for development at Werkema Studio downtown Grand Rapids. Bill found this job for me which I will never forget because I loved photography just as he did. God bless you Bill Colyer and my sympathy to your family.

Cindy Homrich
Class of 67'

Laurie Piersma

December 30, 2020

Bill was so consistent with helping with the food both at the Arts Festival. He was the “go to” guy. He had it down pat!! Thanx Bill