John Richard Kromminga, a gentle giant, little brother to me and my sister, Kathy. Wonderful loved uncle to our children and great uncle to our grandchildren. John Richard struggled with difficulties all of his life, but he never complained, never said a bad word about anybody and was almost always pleasant. He taught us much about living with a disability and how to treat those that suffered with dignity and respect.
John Richard graduated from Calvin with a math degree, and went on to computer programming at Purdue. He was offered a job with Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis but was never able to accept the position. It was just too difficult for him to move away from family and to live completely on his own without a support network. So he worked on the factory line at Amway, then for Gordon Manufacturing. Then he got a job in the Library at Calvin College on November 3, 1986. What a blessing that was for him! The personnel treated him with kindness and he was happy there.
Neland Avenue Church has always been his church home and time does not allow enumeration of all the blessings this church has been to John Richard and our family. The rides given to doctor appointments, to his railroad club meetings, rides to church when we weren’t home to do that, being taken out to movies and for dinner and all without putting the burden on our family of having to do those things all the time. The potlucks he attended when he wasn’t coming to our home for Sunday dinner and the Wednesday evening dinners when we used to have those. Asking him to play his trumpet in worship services. How he loved that and he was good at it too! Faithfully Annetta or Dawn would mail him the music the week before and faithfully each week he would NOT open the package to look at the music! He would rehearse with the organist on Sunday morning, make a few flubs the first run through and then he had it! No more practice needed. The Bible study groups. The Hofmans cutting his hair and having him over for pizza, and let me tell you, cutting John Richard’s hair was no small feat! I could go on, but it was wonderful!
Food . . . the motivator in his life. He loved to eat. But there is one occasion that I will never forget. For John Richard’s 40th birthday, Lowell and I took him down to Three Rivers to take a ride on a train with a steam engine pulling. He loved almost nothing better than trains of any kind. We got down to Three Rivers with quite a bit of time to spare and hadn’t had lunch. We passed a Burger King and Lowell asked John if he wanted to get some lunch. HE SAID NO!!! He was SO excited about getting to the train and exploring it that he passed on eating lunch. We will never forget our shock!
Every summer, John Richard would take a week’s vacation at our cousin Mary Rhee’s home in the Detroit area. How he loved those vacations. They would go to baseball games and movies and bowling and he could eat all he wanted because big sister Connie wasn’t there monitoring how much he ate. That was one of the best weeks of his year!
John Richard loved math and did quantum physics problems for relaxation. I don’t even know what quantum physics is! He did, however, get stuck on a problem in the last book that he bought. So somewhere in his apartment are several unused Schulers Books gift cards because he would not buy a new book until he finished the one he had!
Years ago, John Richard did a Faith in Life speech when we were doing those in the evening services at Neland. He got up and talked about his disease and what a selfish disease it was, that he tended to think only about himself. I don’t remember too much else about the speech, but that particular statement stuck with me and also just the fact that he had the courage to get up there in front of everyone and talk about it. Those of you who know him well can understand what a challenge that must have been. I think I cracked a couple of bones in Lowell’s hand during that speech, I was squeezing it so hard!
He lived a very regimented life, that was the only way he could handle life. Everything needed to be in patterns so that he didn’t get confused. At the seminary, the staff all takes a morning break in the front lobby that has lots of windows, around 10AM. At 10:15 every day John Richard would get off the bus at Burton, walk to the seminary and go through the seminary to the college for his job at the library. We would joke, “Well, there’s John Richard . . . time for break to be over!”
In closing, our family again wants to thank everyone, but in particular this wonderful Neland faith family and his wonderful work family at Calvin College. I was just told the other day that two young Calvin girls who work in the library were so saddened by his death and talked about how helpful he was to them in learning their jobs at the library. So many wonderful stories from friends and family about his steadiness, quiet wit and his strong faith. He touched so many lives and you all reciprocated with love for him.