Saying goodbye

As with most major events in the lives of the Shumaker family, it rained Thursday.
Krystle Wagner
Jun 22, 2012


Thursday was the day Amanda Shumaker said goodbye to the man who was her soulmate and friend, and the father to their two daughters.

John Shumaker and his family were driving home in a two car-caravan from a rained-out softball game on June 16 when a car — driven by a man who police said was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol — hit Shumaker’s car head-on.

Family said the Grand Haven Township resident threw his body over his daughter, saving her life. John didn’t survive the crash.

Through tears brimming in her eyes, Shumaker’s wife, Amanda, smiled when she thought about Thursday’s rain. She said it always seemed to rain on momentous occasions in their life together — wedding, births of their daughters, the day John died and then again at his funeral.

“It’s him,” she said, referring to the rain. “He loves us.”

More than 300 people gathered Thursday at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Grand Haven to remember the man described as “someone people should aspire to become.” They looked at collages of photos that captured memories John shared with his wife and daughters.

Two large picture frames held pictures of John and Amanda. In one frame were the words “soul mate” near the picture of John on one knee, proposing to Amanda.

The other two picture frames captured memories Kaitlynn and Madison shared with their dad. In one picture, John and Madison held a softball trophy and smiling proudly at the camera. Another frame displayed Kaitlynn’s blue handprints.

Among the pictures were colored drawings the girls made for their dad when they were younger.

As friends and family filtered into the church, North Ottawa Youth Softball Association and Sabercats softball players and coaches wore their jerseys as they sat together with their families. John was a coach for both organizations.

Throughout the service, three candles flickered at the front of the church where red, blue and white baseball helmets surrounded flower displays and John’s picture.

“John will not be forgotten,” said the Rev. William Langlois during services. “... Today, we celebrate the first 37 years of John’s life, but he lives on.”

NOYSA coaches John Hall and Don Poole had their team members fill out a questionnaire that included how they knew John cared, a funny memory and what they will miss the most about him. Tearfully, Hall and Poole shared the responses of their young team members.

One child wrote she would miss John giving high-fives at the dugout gate. Another wrote she would miss his smile and encouragement.

Hall said John would calm him down during particularly intense games. As he was overcome with emotion, Hall said, “One of my anchors is gone.”

Family provided Langlois with pages of special memories and ways they will remember John.

From John’s enjoyment of Jeff Dunham’s Blue Comedy Tour to his way of reciting quotes from “Forrest Gump,” laughter and tears filled the faces of those in the pews.

“When you see a coach, remember me,” Langlois read.

In what Amanda’s mother, Christine Kolanowski, said was a “spur of the moment idea,” Amanda and the NOYSA girls gathered at the front of the church during the service. With their arms wrapped around each other, they made a half-circle surrounding the helmets and John’s picture. Madison and three other girls locked arms from behind the table.

Their voices filled the church, proudly yelling, “Pump that Shumaker spirit up” — a slightly altered version of the team's traditional pre-game cheer.

Mollie Stevens, a close friend of John’s late mother, said her children played with John and his siblings when they were growing up. Stevens recalled John being a "people person" who could communicate with everyone. She said that was evident by all the people who attended Thursday's service.

“He touched a lot of lives,” Stevens said, smiling with tears in her eyes. “He was loved by a lot of people.”


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