by Greg Olgers
Norman "Bunko" Japinga, who retired from the Hope College staff in 1995 after 27 years that included serving as athletic equipment manager and transportation director, died on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. He was 88.
He joined the staff in 1968 as Hope's first official equipment manager, with custodial duties in the old Carnegie-Schouten Gymnasium and responsibility for the college's fledgling transportation department (a couple VW buses) added in. In 1974 he became full-time equipment manager, a position he held until 1988. He was assistant equipment manager and head bus driver from 1988 to 1992, and in 1992 stopped working in the equipment room and became a part-time driver. He also served in other ways through the years, including by keeping score during athletic contests, and even twice filling in when the coaches of the women's basketball and wrestling teams were ill.
The college's Alumni H-Club celebrated him with a one-of-a-kind "Bunko Blast" program in 1990, and he was grand marshal of the Homecoming Parade in 1993. The Hope College Alumni Association presented him with a Meritorious Service Award (MSA) during the college's Winter Happening in January 1997.
The citation for the MSA noted that he was "an outstanding role model for our students and alumni alike. He set high standards for himself and for the students — emphasizing the importance of doing your best — no matter what… And, for many students, he was an adopted dad away from home — always willing to talk, to laugh and joke, to listen and to help out. Although he is known as a great kidder, he is known even more for his caring and his warmth."
He was actively involved with the community as well. He was a charter member of Christ Memorial Church, where he served multiple terms as a deacon. He officiated football in the Michigan High School Athletic Association and was the first softball director for the city of Holland. In 1989, the Michigan High School Athletic Association honored him for 30-plus years of service in officiating in football, basketball, baseball, and softball.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Shirley Japinga; by his children, Jodi (Marv) Syens of Holland; Jeff (Jennifer) Japinga of Chaska, Minnesota; and Julie (Kevin) Van Oordt of Jenison; by grandchildren Mark Japinga and Annie (Jordan) Carrigan and their mother, Lynn Japinga; Rachel Syens; Erin (Austin) Collier and Kara (Kelly) Lepley; by step-grandchildren Paige and Brett Erickson; and by the thousands of memories and stories so many hold of him. He was preceded in death by his parents and by his brother, Robert Japinga.
Friends may meet the family on Sunday, November 4, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. and 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Dykstra Funeral Homes Mulder Chapel, 188 West 32nd Street, Holland. A service of remembrance and of hope will be held Monday, November 5, at 11:00 a.m. at Third Reformed Church, 111 West 13th Street, Holland, Michigan, with a lunch to follow. The Revs. James Neevel and Andy Fierro will officiate. Private interment will be in Graafschap Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Hospice of Holland or to a charity of your choice.