Traverse City Record-Eagle

Obituaries

February 19, 2011

Willard E. Wolfe, D.D.S.

FRANKFORT — Will Wolfe died Feb. 16, 2011, shortly before his 85th birthday, on March 8. As he often said, he felt blessed with a happy family, many close friends and an opportunity to serve his fellow citizens.

He leaves behind Joan Luedders Wolfe, partner and lover for 57 years of marriage and six years of courtship; and his beloved son, John Wolfe (Arnell Hinkle), of Berkeley, Calif. The only time he didn't feel blessed was when he lost his other beloved, youngest son, Peter, 27, killed while serving in the Peace Corps in Guatemala in 1984.

In addition to his immediate family, Will also leaves behind two dear "surrogate sons," John Levings and Scott Houseman.

In addition to his son, Peter, Will was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Livonia Wolfe; and his younger brother and only sibling, Warren Wolfe, M.D. Joan's sister, Sarah Dawson and her husband, Bob also preceded him. (Their daughter, Elizabeth Jacobs, put together a beautiful memorial scrap book for Will).

Besides his immediate family, he leaves behind his sister-in-law, Shirley Wolfe; nephews, Charles Wolfe (Leia) and Thomas Wolfe, M.D. (Debbie M.D.); and niece, Elizabeth Wolfe-Brusher (Gerald). In addition, he leaves Joan's twin brother, Dean Luedders (Pat), and their children, as well as many cherished friends.

Will grew up on Grosse Ile, an island in the Detroit River. An Eagle Scout, he graduated in a class of 16 the day after D-day and went into the Army. He was awarded the U.S. Soldiers' and Commendation Medals for saving lives during a grenade training exercise. Continually moved by the Army during the height of World War II, he served as a first lieutenant in the 1st Calvary Division in the Japanese occupation, returning home in 1947.

His parents had moved to Highland Park, four doors away from Joan's home. In the fall, he left for Dartmouth College, graduating in pre-med in 1951.

In 1953, in his first year of marriage, Will was a milkman with a horse and wagon for Wayne Creamery, co-founded by his father. He then worked in personnel at Ford Motor Company. However, his first love was medicine, so now with a wife and two sons, he chose to go into dentistry, graduating at age 34.

They moved to Grand Rapids, where he built a practice devoted to quality dentistry. In addition, Will taught in the dental auxiliary program at Grand Rapids Community College, served as the volunteer dentist for the Blodgett Hospital cleft palate team and was a president of the Kent County Dental Society.

The Inn at Watervale, and later the family cabin on the Pere Marquette River and the Watershed Club on the Manistee River, were his oases from a hectic life.

During his years of practice, he, like Joan, became very involved in conservation/environmental issues. Because of his passion for trout fishing, he became embroiled in protecting our cherished Michigan rivers and lakes. He chaired West Michigan Trout Unlimited, and organized and led a statewide committee that wrote what became the Inland Lakes and Streams Act. Later, he co-founded the Pere Marquette Watershed Council, initiated a statewide network of volunteer watershed councils, led the effort to restore the Watershaw Wetlands and served on the boards of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan and Grand Rapids Audubon Society. He received several awards for his conservation work.

In 1990, he retired after 30 years of practice. The Wolfes moved to Frankfort in 1997. He chaired the Benzie Conservation District and served on the board of the Michigan Land Use Institute. He also interviewed Dartmouth College applicants. Later he joined the Sunrise Rotary. New friends and their shared values of learning and service were very meaningful to him.

He and Joan moved into Michigan Shores Cooperative in 2007 and felt grateful to have found such a wonderful place for independent living in such a beautiful setting.

Besides his passion for fly fishing for trout, Will enjoyed bird watching, cross-country skiing, forestry, gardening, music, cooking, reading and thoughtful discussions. The members of his church meant much to him, and in his last days they dedicated the following affirmation to Will: "When you come to the end, how do you want to be remembered? Live with such integrity that every thought, word and action builds a legacy of love that will outlast you. Attract abundance into your life by living and giving without fear or scarcity. Above all, do it without regret and with your own unique flair."

Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Jowett Family Funeral Home, South Street, Benzonia. A memorial celebration will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at Watervale Inn.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested that reflect his many concerns for serving those less fortunate, promoting literacy or conserving Michigan's lakes and streams.

Please share memories with the family on Will's online guestbook at www.record-eagle.com/obituaries/.

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