On Saturday afternoon, October 1st 2022, Larry got an urgent message from his sweetheart, Marilee, asking to meet at the River Jordan to go fishing! Larry left the football game on the TV, and headed for the Pearly Gates. Left behind, were his son, Kevin, (Tricia McDaniel) Steward and grandchildren, Dylan (Kenzie Williams) and Jolena of Grand Ledge. Larry’s daughter, Karin (Cheryl Gaskill) Steward-Raymond and granddaughter Ashleigh Raymond of Sunfield, his brother, Bill Steward, of Potterville, his sister, Nancy Jo Steward-Terry, of Kalamazoo, and his sister-in-law, Shelley Townsend-Steward of Lake Odessa, all had to stay home and did not get to witness that joyful reunion.
Larry Edward Steward was born to Dorothy (Coppess) and (Orval) Dale Steward in Lake Odessa, MI, on Christmas Day in 1937. Dot and Dale brought their handsome blue-eyed boy home to Grandma Jenney’s house in Sunfield. The family soon expanded with two more sons, Wendal and Bill. Larry’s FAVORITE sister, Nancy Jo, was born next, followed by youngest brother Jeff.
The whole bunch was soon helping their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, George and Mae Coppess, with farm chores. Fishing, riding ponies, taking buggy rides, hunting mice and sparrows for a bounty collected from Welches’ Hardware, or collecting burlap sacks full of Milkweed pods for the war effort were common pastimes.
At Sunfield School, Larry got a reputation for being a talented athlete. He not only played, but lettered in several sports: baseball, track, basketball, and football. He always said, “If everyone didn’t play everything, there weren’t enough of us for a team.” The whole family was excited to see the Homecoming King and Queen graduate from Sunfield High School in 1957.
Larry got the opportunity to be the first one in his family to attend college when he was recruited by Olivet College to play football. After one year, and one lost tooth, Larry decided to transfer to Huntington College where his sweetheart Marilee was attending.
At the Huntington YMCA, Larry met his other love for the first time… WRESTLING! In the summer of 1961, Larry and Marilee were married and headed out WEST on a grand tour. When he graduated from HC in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, Larry and Marilee were both hired over the phone, sight unseen, by Cement City, MI schools.
In 1963 the newlyweds moved back to Sunfield to work at Ionia Public Schools, where Larry began teaching Biology, and coaching multiple sports. In the spring of 1964, he started a brand new wrestling program at IHS. Soon after the birth of Bulldog Wrestling, they had two children, Kevin and Karin.
Marilee, Kevin and Karin enjoyed helping Larry with his Wrestlers; they hosted team burrito parties, washed uniforms, and Marilee even wrote a team newspaper, the “Grappler's Gazette”. Mrs. Stew was often cheering in the stands for her many "wrestling sons”, and shot hours of super 8 films to gift to each senior, while Larry yelled himself hoarse by the mat.
Summers were for wrestling camp, gardening, and then camping trips to Canada to fish for Walleye. Sometimes the family would meet for a picnic lunch at the prison where Larry taught summer school. He earned the respect of the inmates, and even assisted in foiling an escape attempt! Another of his summer jobs was Driver’s Education. Larry’s favorite instruction to give the new drivers was, “turn left, right here!”
By 1973, Larry had coached his Bulldogs to the Class B State runner up trophy! Larry spent 31 years as head wrestling coach at Ionia before stepping down to retire. In 2002 his fellow coaches elected him into the Michigan Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame.
Retired life saw Larry caring for family, heading out for as many fishing trips as he could pack in, as well as, Bluegrass concerts, Jaw harp festivals, and driving the Alcan (Alaska-Canada) Highway three times pulling a trailer. Together they volunteered several times to be the cooks for multiple mission trips to Kentucky. They saw all 50 states at least once. Marilee also dragged Larry off to China where they climbed the Great Wall together, and then to Germany to see the Black Forest.
To help out in the kitchen at first, he learned to enjoy cooking. Larry’s special treats often brightened the day of someone he cared for. Delicious homemade rolls and apple butter from the family copper kettle, fluffy waffles from an antique waffle iron with real maple syrup that he and Kevin made, bags of delicious “Crystal Corn” from the whirly popper, German Lebkuchen cookies: 50 dozen nestled in a giant tub, and his famous “Tail end of the Garden” Vegetable Beef Soup. All were carefully crafted and then gifted. After Marilee’s death in 2018, Larry cooked a complete dinner for 10 every Monday night for the family.
At the age of 83, Larry was given a challenging diagnosis of leukemia, but he fought hard and won nearly an entire year before he was called home at the age of 84 years and 9 months.
Visitation will be held in the Sanctuary of Sunfield United Brethren Church on Thursday October 6th from 2pm - 4 pm and 6pm – 8pm. Sunfield United Brethren church will also host a Celebration of Larry's Life on Friday October 7th at 11:00 am. Directly following the service will be a luncheon and fellowship time in the church parlors. The Committal Service will be held at Lakeside Cemetery in Lake Odessa at around 2pm.
Instead of flowers, please consider a Memorial Donation to be sent to Laurel Mission in Big Laurel, Kentucky.
Please visit a special page created for Larry to light a candle or leave a condolence for the family: www.RosierFuneralHome.com The family has entrusted the arrangements to the Independent Family-Owned Funeral Home in Sunfield: Rosier Burial & Cremation Services.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Larry Edward Steward, please visit our floral store.
77 Cedar Chapel Rd., Big Laurel KY 40808