American Veteran 01


John "Bill" Postema

August 13, 1927 ~ August 24, 2019 (age 92)

Gun Lake, Michigan

John William Postema, otherwise known as “Wild Bill” or “Boatman”, used-car salesman, phenomenal car mechanic, fisherman, race car driver, Harley-guy, entrepreneur before it was a thing, life of the party, died at the age of 92 on Saturday, August 24, 2019 in his Gun Lake home. 

Bill’s story started in Cutlerville, Michigan, on August 13, 1927.  He was the third-born to Martin and Sena Postema (both deceased) in a family of five, consisting of three girls and two boys.  Bill’s father worked hard to support his family, but employment was difficult in the 30’s and they struggled. Bill’s mother had a beautiful garden, a cow, and chickens - which she beheaded herself to feed her family.  The family lived in an underground cellar for years until Martin could afford a proper home.

Bill completed seven years of school (which only went to 8th grade at that time); he failed miserably in a controlled environment – which he defied at every opportunity – so his mother pulled him out of school prior to completion.  This was the start of Bill’s life-time career as a “car-guy”, buying and selling cars, and fixing engines.  Bill was, as it turns out, a prodigy when it came to engines.  His true passion and enjoyment was making things go as FAST as they could possibly go.  He hated to lose any race!  In fact, if he lost a boat race over the weekend, that boat came out of the water Sunday night and went into the shop Monday morning, where he and his brother-in-law, Marv (DeVrou), worked diligently to make that boat a winner in the next race.

Bill joined the military during WWII, serving his country in the Navy.  The war ended, which also ended his military career, and in his mid-20’s, he settled and married his main squeeze, Helen.  They escaped family ridicule (Helen’s mother thought Bill was too wild and would never amount to anything) and eloped in South Bend, Indiana, in November of 1952.  They spent the next 67 years raising two children, Kim and Lisa. Bill taught them to water ski, ride motorcycles, work on engines, and back trailers up efficiently (not easy!), among many other life necessities.  Bill and Helen worked hard, bickered even harder, saw numerous jobs come and go, traveled to Florida regularly, boated on Gun Lake, loved spending time with family and friends…and…bickered more.

Bill walked his life path with numerous people he loved dearly.  He looked up to his older sister, Elouise (“El”) and used her babysitting services many times while he and Helen escaped.  He was protector of his younger sister, Maxine, guarding over her as any older brother should.  He was like a father to his nephew, Gary (Pecor), who lost his mother at a very young age.  He loved his grandchildren with conviction – Zach, Kyle, and Madi.  For many years, and even after falling ill, he made the early morning trek to the local McDonald’s where he met with all the all-male crew (no women, please) and solved all the world’s problems by 7 a.m., 7 days a week.  He had a home on Gun Lake for nearly 60 years and knew people from every side of the lake, greeting them at local restaurants, the grocery store, or welcoming them over for a beer.  Bill and Helen threw crazy-ass parties at their Park Drive home, which included boats, booze, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings songs, and a helluva lot of fun.  He enjoyed 20-plus years in Mount Dora, Florida during the winter, staying at Woods ‘N Water RV Park where he was very well known and loved, greeting all the residents from his porch where he spent many relaxing hours.  He sold cars on South Division (Grand Rapids) for over 50 years and became close friends with all the local dealers. He earned the engine repair business of the big dealers due to his cheap rates and honest service.

Bill raised hell for more than eight decades.  He loved country music, beautiful women, anything fast (including women), dogs (Horton being his latest favorite), drag boats, Harley’s, fishing on his Sea Ray, BBQ on his deck with his family on Sunday, butter pecan ice cream and  meringue pie.  He never turned down a cold Bud Light.  He laughed often.  He was the life of the party.  He had a heart as big as Gun Lake and was generous when it came to sharing his humor, as well as a great story.  Bill had charisma.  Bill had a wonderful soul. Here’s to you, Bill the Boatman … may you rest in peace.

Bill will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 67 years, Helen; children Kim (Ja-Lene) Postema, and Lisa (Bob) Freeman-Seitz; grandchildren Zach Postema, Kyle Postema, and Madison VanderPloeg; siblings Maxine DeVrou, Elouise DeBoer, and Martin Jr. Postema; and several nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Martin and Sena Postema, and his sister, Shirley Boven.

Funeral Service will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2019 at Bay Pointe Inn, 11456 Marsh Rd, Shelbyville, MI, 49344 with visitation one hour prior to service beginning at 3 p.m. Please feel free to dress very casual - come as you are, come on your boat, come in shorts, jeans, t-shirt, whatever. After military honors, a buffet dinner will be served. We will then have a procession to Robbins Cemetery for burial.

In honor of Bill, contributions may be made to Paws with a Cause, Wayland, or The Leukemia Society, Grand Rapids.  The family welcomes memories and messages in their guest book online at

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