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Lynn Middlebrook

• Dec 6, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Lynn Middlebrook of Spring Lake, Michigan, (Sept. 29, 1940 to Dec. 1, 2018) was a renaissance man — beloved husband, father, uncle, friend, educator, musician, volunteer, race car driver — who excelled at everything on which he turned his attention. Lynn had the rare ability of not only mastering many pursuits, but also in mentoring, teaching and bringing out the best in his students and colleagues — by expecting excellence, then celebrating it. Lynn touched hundreds of lives with his caring discipline and energetic optimism. Those who were fortunate to know Lynn would agree: he knew no strangers, only friends he had not yet met.

Music was the thread woven throughout the fabric of Lynn’s life. Widely recognized as the finest trumpet player in West Michigan (and beyond), Lynn’s musical career began in 1950, when his grandfather unearthed an old trumpet to see if Lynn would enjoy playing it. He did. Lynn studied music at the University of Michigan for two years, then earned his undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University, where he discovered an innovative approach to band directing. At CMU, he was principal trumpet in the wind and jazz ensembles and orchestra. Lynn completed graduate work at Michigan State University. He began teaching at Montague Schools, followed by a career at Spring Lake Schools as band director, chair of the music program and director of musicals. Upon retirement, Lynn was active as a professional musician, with roles such as a conductor and soloist, and also a member of what is now West Michigan Concert Winds and the Muskegon Symphony.

In the late 1960s, an impressed Doc Severinsen heard Lynn play, offering to mentor him in New York. Fortunately, Lynn chose to remain in Michigan, where in 1972 he married Nancy, the love of his life, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven. Friends introduced them while Lynn was conducting a summer band at Muskegon’s McGraft Park. Lynn invited Nancy on a date to watch him drive at Grattan Raceway. On that sunny day in 1971, Nancy joined Lynn in his post-race victory lap. Lynn was a loving — and beloved — husband for 46 years.

A caring, involved father, Lynn was a Cub Scouts leader, running the Pinewood Derby. With his daughter, Ellen, he participated in “Indian Princesses”; his moniker was “Big Buffalo.” During many years of summer camping in the Manistee National Forest, Lynn mastered the art of grilling turkey on his Weber, hosting large groups of family and friends.

No one knows exactly the number of motorcycles and cars Lynn owned during his lifetime. His Genie (a fast CanAm race car) was most treasured; Road America in Wisconsin and Grattan were his favorite tracks. Nancy and Lynn enjoyed boating with their children and friends, especially on their 36-foot Sea Ray.

A longtime member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Lynn served as choir director, vestry member, as a youth leader and usher. He also founded St. John’s Brass Ensemble.

Destin, Florida, became Lynn and Nancy’s “home away from home” in 1995. They established many cherished friendships through St. Andrew’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, and other involvements. Lynn volunteered with junior and senior high school music programs, taught private lessons, and enjoyed watching students compete in music festivals and competitions. Lynn was an integral volunteer in St. Andrew’s bicycle ministry, rebuilding and providing bikes for the homeless and individuals in need. He especially enjoyed playing the trumpet in St. Andrew’s “Boogie Beach Band.”

Lynn is survived by his loving wife, Nancy. Also by his son, Jeffrey (Christy) Middlebrook; grandson, Joshua; sister-in-law, Sandra Warnock; sister-in-law, Barbara Brink; and many cherished nieces, nephews and cousins, especially his great-great-nephews, Reid and Ryder. Lynn was predeceased in 2012 by his daughter, Ellen Middlebrook. Also by his brother-in-law William Warnock and sister-in-law Patricia Griffin.

Memorials may be directed to: Hospice of North Ottawa Community, Grand Haven; St. John’s Episcopal Food Pantry, Grand Haven; American Cancer Society. (No flowers, please.)

Visitation will take place Friday, June 14, 2019, from 5-8 p.m. at The Spring Lake Chapel (213 E. Savidge). On Saturday, June 15, 2019, at 11:30 a.m., a memorial and celebration of Lynn’s life will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Grand Haven. Please sign the family’s online guestbook at www.sytsemafh.com.

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