Obituary: Donald Vandling, 58, of Ludington

February 13, 2024

Donny Vandling

Obituary: Donald Vandling, 58, of Ludington

In the quiet repose of Grand Rapids’ winter embrace, Donald Joseph Vandling, at the age of 58, left the earthly stage on Friday, February 10, 2024. Born under a winter sky in Hart, on December 26, 1965, Donny, as he was affectionately known, was a troubadour of the everyday, a man whose life was an ode to the beauty found in the simple, the pure, and the true.

Donny was a minstrel of the heart, his soul a melody woven through the fabric of his passions—sports, music, poetry. His guitar, a loyal companion, knew the tender touch of a self-taught artist. The chords he struck were more than vibrations; they were echoes of a spirit that pulsed with the rhythm of giving, of compassion unbound. His verses, penned in moments of quiet reflection, were tributes to the divine and the human condition.

His life was a testament to selflessness; a man without adversaries, for his heart held no room for enmity. In the theater of life, Donny played the role of the gracious, a beacon of equity and fairness, championing the underdog with fervor and grace. He carried the torch of love, not just for his kin but for all souls fortunate to cross his path.

On the courts, he was both warrior and sage, competing in the famed Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournaments and later, as a Gus Buster, he officiated with fairness and joy. His love for the game transcended the court as he guided young athletes with wisdom and encouragement, an assistant coach for the Ludington Orioles, alongside his dear comrade, Thad Shank.

Cross-country skiing became his solace in later years, the whisper of skis on snow a symphony of tranquility and vitality, a dance with nature in its most serene state.

Donny’s professional journey mirrored his personal ethos, a steady climb from truck loader to supervisor at UPS in Grand Rapids, to a respected team leader at Prince Corporation in Holland, Mich. His work, much like his life, was marked by leadership, vision, and the unwavering support of his team.

The family tree, now missing a sturdy branch, continues to stand tall, nourished by the memories of Donny. His mother, Flo Purchase; his siblings, Pattie Vandling and Johnny (Carrie) Vandling; and his step-siblings, Cindy and Tom, remain the guardians of his legacy. His nieces, Desiree Cook  and Clairenda (Jeremiah) Peterson, and great-niece, Carrie Mae, are blossoms of his affection. Aunts Irma and Linda, and a constellation of cousins, reflect his light.

Donny’s journey through the halls of Mason County Central High School and the grounds of Grand Valley State College were but chapters in a book filled with wisdom and learning, a narrative rich with experience and growth.

He joins a celestial family reunion, greeted by grandparents Camiel and Odene, step-father Buck, step-brother Michael, nephew Justin, uncles Fred, Mike, and Thomas, and aunt Meridith and cousin Thomas, all of whom had set the path before him.

Donald Joseph Vandling, the man who lived poetry, who breathed music, and who played life with the exuberance of a symphony, leaves behind a legacy as enduring as the words of Auden, as stirring as the verses of Plath. He lives on in the hearts he touched, a song that never ends, a poem that forever speaks the language of love.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Friday, February 16, 2024, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Custer with Father Dan DePew presiding.  Visitation will be held Thursday, from 4 to 6 p.m., at Beacon Cremation & Funeral Service, Pere Marquette Chapel, Ludington, where the Rosary will be prayed at 6 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to a local school’s sports team of one’s choice.

Beacon Cremation & Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.

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