Karl Roger Haisma of Montague, born January 11, 1951, in Grand Rapids MI, passed peacefully to be with his Lord on September 21, 2022. He was twelve of thirteen children. Karl is survived by his wife of 49 years, Gina (Labozzetta); his brothers, Dave and Larry; sisters, Barb Modzeleski, Dorothy Bushman and Bev Loyd; in-laws Lucian and Vince Labozzetta; and a host of beloved nieces and nephews. Deceased are his parents, Harry and Shirley; sisters, Marion Misner and Shirley Jonker; brothers, Harry, Don, Ken, Jerry and Marv; in-laws, Louise and Joe Labozzetta and Christine Hollingsworth.
Karl’s early years were spent on the family and neighboring farms where he learned to pursue what he wanted by working for it. He loved horses, farm life and the out-of-doors.
He purchased his retirement home when just 32 years old. Here, he established his own farm where he grew organic peaches, raised chickens, made pasture and trails for his horses, and hosted many gatherings for family and friends. Campfires, sunsets, starry nights, a sandy beach, and trail rides framed the life of this beautifully big-hearted man.
As a young man, Karl worked at MI Plating & Stamping, then moved on to start up and run his own businesses. He invested in real estate, fixed-up houses and buildings, owned and operated Riverside Ice Cream, managed properties, and ultimately accepted a job working for Kent County as a facilities manager, from where he ultimately retired.
Many years after providing employment, Karl received a letter from one of his employees stating how his mentorship and trust had changed her life. Coming from a dysfunctional family, she had never experienced the trust and guidance that he gave. Now, she had a family, a home, a career and she attributed it all to Karl. Her letter of profound appreciation was an example of how he impacted the lives of so many.
Karl was a generous man, fearless and courageous, and was often called upon to help others. His ability and willingness to face challenging situations head-on brought resolution to many in need. He gave of himself quietly, never seeking or accepting reward or recognition. He was trustworthy and kept quiet what he observed while in service to others.
Karl was adventurous and curious. He traveled first by tent or camper, then mini-motorhome and flights throughout Michigan, the USA and internationally. With Gina and sometimes her mom, Louise, they traveled where he saw the world as it once was. He discovered his and Gina’s family roots, met living relatives and navigated the back roads of Europe by rental car. No tour guide for Karl, he toured the narrow winding roads and villages his way, daring to go not only the roads less traveled, but often the roads untraveled. Amazing eye-opening adventures filled with laughter, love, and good times.
Off the beaten track he found his way to be ‘lost’ in the most wondrous ways; sight-seeing at the Canterbury Cathedral and caught in a requiem mass, on the Ijsseldijk enroute to the tiny village of Ee where his father was born, turning onto a narrow road in Italy and discovering it a stairway, then having to back up the steps because it was blocked at the bottom, pulled over by polizia at dusk and gently asked to leave the unsafe neighborhood, camped at the base of a waterfall awakened by torrential rain and mud sliding on the steep and narrow escape road, or arising to deep snow in the Rocky mountains after retreating to a tent on a clear night.
Karl had an uncanny way of making wrong turns right. When a horse fell through deep water ice on a Grand River tributary, he rescued the horse, and unable to cross the road or the river, he entered the exit ramp of US131, galloping home along the edge, head to toe his clothes frozen stiff from the wintry cold weather. His companions, making their way back from the other side, were in awe.
He could breeze right through customs with a heavily scented 45-pound wheel of cheese, others searched and fined for an overlooked beef stick. Or wheel his suitcase right through, full of rocks. Big rocks that stopped the conveyer. And, somehow, he was labeled a geologist and sent on his way.
But all adventure was not unplanned. He reserved a gondola, shared the wine he’d ordered with the gondolier, and set the scene for Louise’s resonant voice to echo in the canals of Venice singing Italian folk songs. Others stopped their own tours to capture in awe the mesmerizing music.
Karl was a trailblazer. Not afraid to venture from the status-quo, he was an inspiration for others to follow his path in order to find their own. He was a natural leader, not by choice. He never sought credit or recognition, others just followed his lead, tried his ideas, mimicked his ways. He made a difference in so many lives and leaves the world better for having been here.
Satisfied with having lived a full and rich life, Karl chose a quiet retirement, retreating to his homestead for comfort. He is missed deeply by those who knew and loved him, and his legacy will carry forward forever.
In memory of Karl, be authentic. Give quietly.
Memorial contributions may be made to any stranger you may encounter.
- Gail Smith
- Tanya Todd