This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 27th, 2002

In Memory


He died peacefully in his sleep at 1:30 the morning of May 25th, 2002, of congestive heart failure. Born July 12, 1915 in Rogers City, Michigan, he passed in the hospital in Frazer, Michigan. Except for a few years in Polson, Montana, Michigan was always his home. He did have a soft spot for Maui, where he and his first wife spent several winters.

As a young man, he lied about his age to get a license to operate a commercial fishing boat. I don't know what the legal age was then, but he was 16. He loved the water and boats. Rogers City, Michigan is the home of the world's largest limestone quarry, and it operates its own fleet of limestone carriers, The Bradley Transportation Line. In his early years, Steve was a pilot, (wheelsman) on several of those boats. The Munson, which was re-built and extended and sunk years later was his favorite. When she was lost in that storm he called, and asked if I had friends aboard. I did, we shared the grief.

He lost twin sons to an early infant disease, and raised his only child, a girl, born two years later, to share his love for the outdoors, boats, hunting, fishing, shotguns, books, music, bows and dogs. He raised, trained and field trialed English Setters. For most of his adult life he owned one boat or another.

In 1938 he completed General Motors Tech., Flint, Michigan, where he studied high-pressure welding. He worked winters for the DeFoe Ship Yard in Bay City, and fished the rest of the year. He was a commercial fisherman, fishing trap nets from Harbor Beach, Tawas and Ossineke, Michigan. Following the crash of the Great Lakes fishery, he ran the pipe shop at Dow Chemical, Midland, Michigan and finished his career working for Johnson Service (now Johnson Control) managing construction in Michigan for some thirty years. He retired from Johnson in the late 70's.

His first wife, Alva Clark (nickname Pudge) died in 1979 of cancer in Bay City, Michigan. He married Jean Zemsky, moved to Montana, and later divorced. He married again, to his high-school sweetheart, Marjorie McCallister Valle while in his 80's. She survives him. They resided in New Baltimore, Michigan.

He was a 32 degree Mason, a member of the Elks and a Shriner.

Steve was the oldest of three sons born to immigrant parents. His father Frank, from Germany, and his mother Mary Heimstra from Freisland, Netherlands. Steve's two younger brothers, Frank and Harold preceded him in death.

Also surviving are three granddaughters, Denice Stoops of Bolinas, CA, Kathy Lauer of Cedar Springs, MI, Lisa Dammann of Lynchburg, TN and three great-grandchildren.

No memorial is planned. Steve will be cremated - he requested his ashes be spread on Wild Fowl Bay, part of Lake Huron, Michigan.


  This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter, home from the hill.

Steven Repke 1915 - 2002


Farewell Dad. Thank You. ~ LadyFisher

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