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Pier walk wish granted

Alexander Sinn • Aug 17, 2018 at 10:00 AM

A day before it was to be opened to the public, 87-year-old Chuck Ek got to be the first to check out the reconstructed south pier. 

The waves and breeze were a wish for the Emmanuel Hospice patient. 

Chuck and his wife of 64 years, Marlene, visited the pier with two of their six children Thursday morning. Their son, Dan, drives a cement truck for Consumers Concrete, and his parents wanted to see the work he had done.

Chuck said little while taking in the waves of Lake Michigan from his wheelchair, but a big smile showed his love of water. 

“He was more in the water than out of it,” said his daughter, Carolyn Ek Schneider, who joined her parents for the walk.

The Eks lived on a lake in Florida for 36 years, and Chuck made it his mission to clean up the shoreline and replace invasive species with natural flora, Carolyn said.

Born in Detroit, Chuck worked in the sheet metal trade after retiring from the Army. When he and Marlene moved to Florida, he helped build Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, including the iconic Epcot Ball.

At home and off the job, he could fix anything, Marlene said, including building a seawall on their lakefront property.

“Everybody thought we were crazy because you don’t build a seawall in Florida, but you do to keep the alligators out,” she said.

The Eks used to live in the Grand Haven area, and she shared a memory of smelt fishing on the south pier one night in the 1970s. They hadn’t visited the city in quite some time, she said, but Chuck was in good enough health to make the trip. 

Marriage isn’t always easy, Marlene said, but love has kept the couple, and their family, together. 

“If you love somebody, you can overcome about anything,” she added.

Chuck has been a quiet man for much of his life, his family said. Carolyn described him as “the real deal.”

“He can have the worst day he’s ever had and you can say, ‘How you doing, Dad?’ and he’ll say, ‘Good,’” she said.

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