All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Thursday, April 26, 2018

John C. Carlyle, 1938-2018

Back in the days when the media in Grand Haven were locally owned, we paid genuine tribute to a pillar in the community when that person died. It’s not that way anymore.

An out-of-town implant came to Grand Haven in the 60s and quietly began moving mountains, playing a key role in the building of a new YMCA, the formation of North Ottawa Community Hospice and the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, just to name a few.

Front page stuff.

And yet, when John Carlyle died the other day, hardly a word in our media, now owned by people who don’t live here, don’t work here, and don’t seem to know much about our history.

Well, I no longer have the voice to thank him on behalf of our town, but I can and shall pay tribute to one of the finest people I’ve met in my lifetime.

I’m an implant here as well. When I came to Grand Haven as the new owner of WGHN, I was not only the General Manager but also the News Director. As a reporter, I remember being summoned to a news conference, conducted by this new attorney in town, who impressed me so much that I retained him as our company legal counsel.

Thus began a friendship that ended only a few days ago.

Long after I left radio, John Carlyle became keenly interested in my efforts to free Maurice Carter, an innocent man in prison.

Then I informed him that I was about to embark on a third career. After years of radio broadcasting, followed by years of church organ sales, I was heading into uncharted territory: prisoner advocacy. My attorney/friend was there with me. All the way! John personally undertook the effort to get our non-profit status. As a gift!

This was no simple task as there was no blueprint. No one had ever tried to form an agency like this before. It wasn’t like we were developing another program to save puppies and kittens. And so this savvy legal eagle, with degrees in both law and public accounting, personally worked with the IRS until all of the documents were satisfactorily prepared and submitted. To no one’s surprise, our application was approved!

Doug Tjapkes is who and where he is today, and HFP is the highly successful agency that it is today, in no small part due to the personal involvement of John C. Carlyle.

I know. Mention his name, and you’ll hear all kinds of descriptions: crabby, crusty, brusque, intense…but those of us who knew him also heard his laugh, spotted his tears, and sensed his love for family, his loyalty to friends, and his compassion for those less fortunate.

The list of people who made a difference in my life is one name shorter today, and it saddens me. A lot.

RIP, my dear friend.


Cindy Anderson said...

Beautiful, Doug. I wish I had known John better.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Mr. Tjapkes! You captured my dad in the best way possible with your description of him as crabby and crusty, loving, loyal and compassionate. As his daughter I experienced it all but far more of the good! Thank you for your thoughtful words and providing my dad with a cause that he was truly interested in and passionate about!