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Life Story / Obituary
Thomas Fredrick Gromak Sr., 76, of Mattawan, died Tues., April 2, 2019, at his home after a home hospice fight with cancer and COPD.
His death ended a life in which he had been a successful high school swimmer, a longtime machinist and machine-shop supervisor, a webmaster, a loving husband, and a doting – if at times silly – father of four.
He was born Dec. 8, 1942 in Chicago, Ill., to Alex and Mary Gromak, and had two siblings, Marianne and Robert. All preceded him in death.
Tom and his family lived on the south side of Chicago, in the Roseland community. He attended Chicago Vocational High School, where he honed his skills as a machinist and was active on the school’s swim team, graduating in 1961. Among his earliest jobs was one as a City of Chicago lifeguard. It was on that job that he met Alice Davy, who would become his wife on April 4, 1964.
In October of that year, they welcomed their first child Tom Jr. They would later move to Blue Island, Ill., where they would have two more children, Gail and Heidi, before moving to Mattawan, Mich. While living in Mattawan, they had their fourth child, Donna.
In Michigan, Tom initially worked for a period of time as a machinist at National Waterlift Co. in Kalamazoo and later in a longtime career for Aero-Motive Mfg. (Aero-Motive People) in Kalamazoo. Beginning as a tool and die maker, he would progress becoming a production supervisor in the 1980s. Along the way, and before moving into management, he served multiple terms as president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2434. He retired from Aero-Motive in 2001.
At home, Tom supported his children in every way: On the chilly sidelines for six years’ of Tom Jr.’s Rocket Football practices and games, and assisting Alice during the seasons they coached and umpired their daughters’ youth softball teams. He kept up his love of swimming with visits to local lakes, and maintained his mechanical interests working endlessly in his garage at home, much of that time spent working on his kids’ cars.
In the late 1990s, he transitioned his mechanical skills to digital ones, launching a popular website, “Roseland Golden Years,” around which more than a thousand then-current and former residents of his southside Chicago neighborhood would gather virtually to view old images and video and communicate on the message boards. Maintaining the site was, for him, a great joy. The community later moved to a Facebook group, "Remembering Old Roseland," where it continues today.
Tom will always be remembered for his willingness to lend someone a hand, or lend them a laugh. His gregarious nature made him a joy to be around, even when he was making one of his many ‘dad jokes.’ And he had plenty. He also had plenty of admiration from his children’s friends, who would always visit with him when they got the chance, some saying he was like a second dad to them.
Tom is survived by his wife Alice, of Mattawan, his son Thomas Gromak Jr. (and wife Dana), of St. Clair Shores, daughters Gail Dawkins (and husband Christian) of Kissimmee, Fla.; Heidi Gromak, of Paw Paw, and Donna Beatty (and husband Brett) of Augusta, and by grandchildren Cross and Kaila Caputo, of Kissimmee, Fla., Christian and Tyler Dawkins, of Kissimmee, Fla., Alec, Conner, and Erik Beatty, of Augusta, and Kristin Walker, of Paw Paw.
No services are planned. Per Tom’s wishes, he will be cremated, and his immediate family will later celebrate his life in their way – in his way. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo, MI 49009, (269) 375-2900.