A father's sacrifice

With John Shumaker's last seconds, he saved his daughter's life.
Krystle Wagner
Jun 18, 2012

Shumaker and his family were on their way home from a rained-out softball game in a two-car caravan when a driver - who police say was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol – hit Shumaker’s car in a head-on crash.

Family members said the 37-year-old Grand Haven man threw his body in front of his daughter when the truck careened toward them during a rain storm near Fruitport. Shumaker’s body took most of the impact of the crash, cushioning his daughter Madison.

He died at the scene, and 10-year-old Madison escaped with scrapes and bruises. Emergency workers took her to a Muskegon-area hospital, where she was treated and released.

Shumaker’s wife, Amanda, had been following him in another vehicle with the couple’s youngest daughter, Kaitlynn, when the fatal collision occurred.

Just before the crash, at 4:19 p.m. Saturday, a picture of a downpour as shown through the windshield of a car was posted on Amanda’s Facebook page by 7-year-old Kaitlynn. Below it was written, “Holy raining in Ravanna.”

Amanda said one moment her daughter had posted on Facebook, and the next she saw the crash occur. She said what her husband did was incredible.

“He saved her life,” she said, breaking down into tears.

Muskegon County Sheriff’s deputies rushed to Heights-Ravenna Road near Ensley Road in Sullivan Township at about 4:20 p.m. Authorities said the driver of a pickup truck, identified as Steven Paul Spencer, 24, tried to pass another vehicle, but lost control and hit the 2007 Ford Focus driven by Shumaker.

Spencer was treated at an area hospital, booked into the Muskegon County Jail and then scheduled to be arraigned this morning. The charge: a felony count of driving while intoxicated resulting in death.

But friends and family members of John Shumaker chose to speak about his life rather than his death on Sunday as they gathered to support Amanda and the girls.

“He was great because of his love,” said Jason Whitaker, Shumaker’s cousin.

Family members described Shumaker as a wonderful man who always put his wife of 11 years and daughters first. Whether it was helping his daughters with school projects or coaching at softball games, the engineer always made it a priority to be present.

Shumaker met his wife at Ferris State University, where the two had mutual friends. In June of 2001, Amanda married her best friend, the man she describes as a phenomenal husband and fantastic father.

“You only get a soulmate once,” she said. “He was mine.”

The family enjoyed softball, going to the beach and camping. Shumaker particularly loved marshmallows cooked over a campfire. Burning marshmallows to a crisp was Kaitlynn’s job, Amanda said.

Shumaker learned to like NASCAR, said his brother-in-law Scott VanAelst, and even traveled to states such as North Carolina and Florida with him.

VanAelst said John was an all-around wonderful man.

“He would do anything he could for anyone,” he said.

The love Shumaker had for his family stands out the most to Amanda’s uncle, Mike Wrzesinski.

“He didn’t deserve to go,” Wrzesinski said.

Shumaker’s infectious smile lit up a room whenever he discussed his wife and children. It’s one of the things his cousin Sally Nash Boyd remembers the most about him.

“He was very quiet, but he was more than happy to tell you about something his daughters had done at school,” she said.

In the end, Shumaker acted on that love, echoed his cousin Jason.

“His last second on Earth, he did the ultimate,” he said.




Thank you for writing such a respectful and touching story about John. He was a wonderful man whose family always came first...right down to his very last minute. I feel blessed to know I could call him a friend. He will be missed by many.


I am so impressed that in the last seconds.. he loved his daughter enough to give his life for her. He is amazing.

Scott Harris

I had the honor of working with John on several Mercedes projects. He was unflapable. He was always upbeat and never let the issues, large or small, overwhelm him. He laughed easily and seemed to care greatly. He was a very good engineer, he was a better Dad. John gave his life to save his daughter, how many of us would have the courage to do the same. I am sure that his only thought was to protect his little girl. He did. Thank you John for being a Great Dad, thank you for showing the rest of us how fragile life actually is and that the only things in life that reall have meaning are your family and friends. I pray that Johns family has the strength to celibrate his life.
The individual that caused this tragedy must live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he took away a Daddy, destroyed a family and changed the lives of hundreds of people forever. When I get home tonight from work I plan to hold each of my 2 daughters very tightly and tell them how much I love them. I plan to hold my wife and do the same. Then I will tell them the story about John and how he gave his life to save his little girl.
Thank you John, you are a True Hero.

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