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John Marie Bek

Male 1884 - 1949  (65 years)


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  • Name John Marie Bek 
    Born 16 September 1884  Clinge, Netherlands Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Occupation see below 
    Died 3 December 1949  Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Heart Attack
    Notes 

    • IMMIGRANT ANCESTOR
      John was born in Clinge, the Netherlands to Cornelia deWilligen, a 21 or 22-year-old single woman. The identity of his father is unknown; he was not named on John’s birth or baptism certificates. John was baptized 10 Oct 1884 at St. Henric’s Catholic Church in Clinge, Netherlands.
      Cornelia’s adoptive parents soon “married her off” to Laurus Bek, an older Dutch bachelor living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So Cornelia and her baby John Marie came to New York aboard the steamboat “Zeeland” from Antwerp on 15 Nov 1885, when John was 14 months old. They travelled on to Grand Rapids where Cornelia and Laurus were married on 17 Nov 1885. Laurus raised John as his own son; his biological father was never mentioned, although his siblings were aware of the fact. Cornelia’s adoptive parents, John and Mary Barbara “Tanta” Lippens Lignian, lived with the family.
      John attended a public school in Grand Rapids through the 6th grade. After various moves, the family settled at 165 Carrier N.E., right across the street from St. Alphonsus Church.
      Tanta took John on a trip to the Netherlands for a few years, from when he was about 14-17 years old. He developed many friendships there with Tanta’s nieces and nephews and others.
      When John returned to Grand Rapids in 1901 he attended Grand Rapids Business University, the forerunner of Davenport College/University for two years. He was hired by Robert W. Irwin Co. as a purchaser of lumber and so travalled to the sites in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, the upper peninsula and northern Wisconsin. They gave him a company car, a rare luxury at the time.
      A notice in the Grand Rapids Evening Press on June 13, 1903 reads: “Real Estate Transfer—Gerit Dupres and wife to John M. Bek, lots 11 & 12, $1450.” I think this is the land he later built his home on.
      Also according to the newspaper on August 3, 1906: “J.M. Bek and C. W. Richardson [his brother-in-law] will leave this evening for a two weeks’ business trip to Chicago.”
      When John married Mabel Tooher in 1910, the couple first lived next to John’s parents at 163 Carrier, but within two years were able to build a new home at 333 Carrier. That became their permanent home. As a matter of fact, when Mabel died in 1964 John and Mabel’s daughter Grace Bek Fortier and her family moved into the home. At Grace’s death one of her grandsons bought the house. In 2010, 98 years later, the house that John Bek built is still in the family.
      “Tanta,” Mary B. Lignian, died 13 Aug 1918, age 95 years and 6 days (b. 7 Aug 1823 in the Netherlands. A. B. O’Brien was the undertaker and she was buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Block 9, Lot 19, Grave 7, without headstone. She lived at 335 Carrier st. at the time.
      John Petitioned for Naturalization on 20 Mar 1920 in Grand Rapids and received his Certificate of Naturalization on 22 Jun 1920. The original record is held by Kent County, Vol. 9, No. 1411. At that time he was listed as 5’8” in height with brown hair and brown eyes.
      On a Sunday afternoon drive in 1921, John found Silver Lake, an inland lake just south of Rockford and 15 miles north of Grand Rapids. He bought two lots there and built a small cottage that would be added onto over the years. Each summer the family moved out to the cottage to enjoy swimming, sailing, boating, and fishing. Mabel had professional movers transport her refrigerator out to the cottage on the last day of school each year and they moved it back into town back on Labor Day.
      John and Mabel loved to travel. Beginning in the 1930s, they took a two-week vacation every summer, driving to Montreal, Niagara Falls, Washington DC, and New England. They attended the Chicago World’s Fair the year their daughter Ruth danced a Scottish dance number for the crowds. Mabel went two weeks early with Ruth for the necessary practices. In the ’40s John and Mabel took four-week trips to Cuba, Mexico and California.
      They liked playing cards and had a group of six or seven couples they got together with on weekends. Setback was a favorite game and Mabel was a wiz at cribbage.
      John was always busy. He loved to read, particularly travel and geography books. He was an intelligent man, mainly self-taught. He also loved to fish and do most anything around the cottage. Photography was another hobby. He took home movies of his grandchildren and purchased a metal storage safe to store them in in case of fire. He was a Boy Scout leader of Troop 44 at St. Al’s in 1938 (at least, probably longer).

      Occupations and Residences of John M. Bek, taken from Grand Rapids City Directories:

      1886: 350 Alpine NW
      1889: 468 Alpine NW
      1890: 278 Crosby NW
      1892: 324 McReynolds NW
      1893: 509 Alpine NW
      1894: 509 Alpine NW
      1895-98: 230 Carrier NE
      1900: Waters SE, 2 n of Victoria
      1901-02: 147 Carrier NE
      1903-04: 165 Carrier NE
      1905-06: 165 Carrier NE, Stenographer at Retting Furniture Co.
      1907-08: 165 Carrier NE, Bookkeepper at F. Letelliei & Co.
      1909: 165 Carrier NE, Clerk at Phoenix Furniture Co.
      1910-11: 163 Carrier NE, Clerk at Terrell's Equipment Co.
      1912-15: 333 Carrier NE, Clerk at Phoenix Furniture Co.
      1916-17: 333 Carrier NE, Purchasing Agent for GR Furniture Co.
      1918-19: 333 Carrier NE, Purchasing Agent for Phoenix Furniture Co.
      pre-1920: 333 Carrier NE, purchasing agent for Robert W. Irwin Co.
      1920-49: 333 Carrier NE, Purchasing Agent for Keeler Brass Co.

      March 20, 1920: John Marie Bek was officially declared naturalized [Vol. 9, p. 116 of "Petitions & Records" Book #B48.] This book is located in the vault of the City-County Bldg, Grand Rapids


      1920 US Federal Census
      Living at 333 Carrier NE, Grand Rapids:
      Beck, John M., heads, own hom free and clear, M, W, 35 yrs, married, can read and write, born in Michigan (not true), both parents born in Holland (not true of mom), salesman for a furniture co for wages (as opposed to salary)
      Beck, Mary I., wife, F, W, 32 yrs, married, can read and write, born in Michigan, dad born in Canada of Irish descent, mom born in Holland, no occupation
      Beck, Robert, son, M, W, 8 yrs, single, in school
      Beck, Marian, daughter, F, W, 6 yrs, in school
      Beck, Grace, daughter, F, W, 4.5 yrs

      1930 US Federal Census
      Living at 333 Carrier NE, Grand Rapids, MI:
      Bek, John M., head, owns the home worth $5000, M, W, 45 years old, married for 26 years, did not attend school in the past yr., can read and write, he was born in the Netherlands as were both of his parents, he spoke “Holland” befofre coming to U.S. in 1885, naturalized citizen, speaks English, is a Purchasing Agent in the Autos Asse? business, not a veteran
      Bek, Mary I., wife, F, W, 42 yrs, married for 26 years, hasn’t attended school in past yr, can read and write, she was born in Michigan, her father was born in Michigan and mother in Netherlands
      Bek, Robert Louis, son, M, W, 19, single, has attended school in past yr, can read and write, born in Michhigan
      Bek, Marion R., daughter, F, W, 16, single, at school, can read and write
      Bek, Grace B., daughter, F, W, 14 yrs, single, at school, can read and write
      Bek, Ruth M., daughter, F, W, 9, single, at school, can read and write
      Bek, John Jos., son, M, W, 3, single, not in school

      1940 US Federal Census
      Living at 333 Carrier, NE, Grand Rapids, MI;
      Bek, John, head, 55, owns home worth $3000, M, W, completed one year of high school, born in Michigan [incorrect], works as purchasing agent for a brass works, worked 52 weeks last year and made $5000.
      Bek, Mary, wife, 52, completed 8th grade
      Bek, John, son, 13, completed 7th grade last year
      Manning, William E., head, 20, completed one year of college, works as a machine setter for brass works
      Manning, Ruth, wife, 19, completed four years of high school [Ruth is John and Mary’s daughter]
      Manning, Mary Ellen, three months, “usual” occupation is stenographer

      John was very close with the priests at St. Alphonsus Church, which was a new parish just down the street from his house on Carrier NE. In fact, John and Mabel were the second couple to get married in the second, permanent church on 30 Jun 1910. (The first church served from 1888-1910.) When a huge marble baldachin was ordered from Italy for behind the altar, John stored it in his garage (c. 1947-1949) while workers removed part of a wall to get it into the church. Some of the floor was also taken up and later relaid to anchor the baldachin directly into the foundation due to its weight. John also purchased the statue of St. Alphonsus that is outside the church, directly above the main entrance doors. John was a member of the Holy Name Society (V-P in 1930 and ’31 and President in ‘32), on the finance committee (1919-1922), chairman of the church committee 1946-’49, and a member of the Knights of Columbus. As a member of the Holy Name Society, John was on the committee of the Thanksgiving Feather Party in 1927 and the Mother’s Breakfast in 1948, in addition, no doubt, to much other involvement.
      John had a heart attack about 1934, and quit smoking cigarettes. He had a second heart attack in November 1949 and died in December. He was scheduled to retire 3 Dec 1949.
      His obituary in The Grand Rapids Herald reads under the headline “Purchasing Agent of Heart Ailment”:
      “John M. Bek, 65, lifelong resident of the north end, died Saturday at Butterworth hospital, where he was taken nine days ago with a heart ailment. He resided at 333 Carrier St. N.E.
      “For the last 29 years he had been purchasing agent for the Keeler Brass Co. and before that was purchasing agent many years for Robert W. Irwin Co.
      “Mr. Bek was a member of St. Alphonsus church and the Holy Name Society of which he was president in 1932. He had been chairman of the church committee the last four years and was a member of the Knights of Columbus.
      “Surviving are his wife Mary, and two sons, Robert L. and John J., all of Grand Rapids; three daughters, Mrs. Thomas G. Roach and Mrs. Leo G. Fortier, both of Grand Rapids, and Mrs. William Manning of Spring Lake; two brothers, Herbert of Detroit and Fred of Grand Rapids; three sisters, Mrs. Harry Prior and Mrs. Clayton Richardson, both of Grand Rapids, and Mrs. Carroll Goosen of Houghton Lake, and nineteen grandchildren.
      “Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Alphonsus’ church. Burial will be at Mt. Calvary cemetery.” He and Mabel are in Lot 137 of Block C which is near the tall Redemptorist Priests monument.
    Person ID I104  Moore-Bek
    Last Modified 3 August 2017 

    Father JM Bek Biological Father 
    Mother Cornelia Rosalia DeWilligen,   b. 28 April 1862, Monterado, Borneo, Indonesia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 August 1935, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years) 
    Family ID F98  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family/Spouse Mary Isabel Tooher,   b. 4 July 1887, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 August 1964, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Married 30 June 1910  Grand Rapids, MI, St. Alphonsus Church Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
    +1. Robert Louis Bek,   b. 17 April 1911, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 August 1982, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years)
    +2. Marion Rosalie Bek,   b. 24 August 1913, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 December 1984, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years)
    +3. Grace Barbara Bek,   b. 8 July 1915, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 October 1994, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 79 years)
    +4. Ruth Margaret Bek,   b. 13 July 1920, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 December 2005, Rockford, MI Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 85 years)
    +5. John Joseph Bek,   b. 16 November 1926, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 May 2007, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years)
    Family ID F30  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart


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