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Edward Joseph Wietecha

07/13/1945
09/14/2022

Edward Joseph Wietecha, 77, of East Grand Rapids, MI, died September 14, 2022, at Butterworth Hospital from a massive heart attack while in the loving company of his wife of 55 years Dr. Peggy Burke, and their three sons Daniel B. Wietecha (Hastings, MN), Edward T. Wietecha (Denver, CO), and Andrew B. Wietecha (East Grand Rapids, MI). Ed was born in Pottsville, PA, in July 1945, the second child of Edward J. Wietecha and Ann (Peron) Wietecha.  Ed grew up an optimist, despite an at-times tumultuous and economically depressed childhood. He worked his way through college and first earned a Bachelor degree from the University of Illinois at U-C. He graduated and was commissioned an officer in the United States Marine Corps in June 1967, and he wed the love of his life Peggy J. Burke in August 1967. He went to Vietnam in April 1968. While in Vietnam, he served in an artillery firing battery as a forward observer with an infantry line company and as a platoon commander of a reconnaissance platoon. When a helicopter landed on a mine and exploded, in spite of being wounded and burned, Ed and another officer repeatedly went into the burning helicopter to rescue every Marine, living or dead. While on a reconnaissance mission he was shot by a sniper. Though wounded, he called in a helicopter to extract his platoon and he was the last out. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat V for his heroism and selfless actions. When he returned from Vietnam, Ed was assigned to the US Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, OK. He worked as an instructor, instrumental in revising US Field Artillery procedures. He was the technical advisor for the US Army training film “The Artillery Battery in the Defense,” which ushered in the widespread reuse of pattern painting and camouflage that is seen everywhere today! He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. Most importantly, he and Peggy started their family; Dan was born in 1971. Ed and Peg were active lay ministers in their parish and led the religious education program for teens. In 1972, Ed resigned his commission and returned to the University of Illinois at U-C. He completed his Master’s and did post-Master’s study in educational psychology while working as a Research Associate for University of Illinois College of Medicine at U-C. While at the university, he and Peggy had two more sons: Ted and Andy. In 1978, Ed and his family moved to East Grand Rapids, MI. He served in a variety of human resource management positions such as Training Manager for St. Mary’s Hospital, Senior HR Representative, HR Manager, Human Resources Systems Manager, and Safety Coordinator for different companies. While working he also volunteered teaching adult literacy, teaching Vietnamese immigrants to read in English, worked with veterans and others dealing with PTSD, helped numerous disadvantaged people to better their lives, was active in saving a wetland, and was a member of Leadership Grand Rapids. Throughout his career he spent a tremendous amount of time training, advising, coaching and counseling. In 2004, he returned to school to obtain a Master of Social Work degree from Western Michigan University. He wanted the remainder of his career to be full-time counselor and not have counseling be only one of his job duties. He pursued his degree while working full time and having two major operations for wounds received in Vietnam. In 2007, Ed began his counseling career at Encompass Employee Assistance Program. In 2013, after surviving many years with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and years on a transplant waiting list, he received a double lung transplant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Later that year he suffered three kinds of rejection simultaneously and survived but resulted in the need for supplemental oxygen during his final years. Most recently he was completing intensive training in clinical hypnosis so he could use those skills to aid veterans with PTSD. Ed was a voracious reader and loved studying philosophy and religion, reading a good thriller, serving others, playing with his dogs, and most of all, spending time with his family. Undeterred by many health setbacks, he continued to help others as long as he was able and never gave up in the face of obstacles. He will be remembered for his caring nature, his desire for a better tomorrow, and the love for his family. He lived a rich, full life and will live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew him. He was a devoted and beloved husband, father, and grandfather known as Papa Bear. Ed was preceded in death by his parents Edward and Ann Wietecha and his sister Carol Spiller. He is survived by his wife of 55 years Dr. Peggy Burke; their sons Dan, Ted and Andy; grandchildren Sophia and Samuel; daughter-in-law Nicole; his brother John M. Wietecha (Deerfield, IL); and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.

 

Visitation will be at 10:00 am -12:00 pm on October 15 at O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Funeral Home at 3980 Cascade Road, SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546, followed by a celebration of life with lunch for family and friends at 12:30 – 3:00 pm at Pietro’s at 2780 Birchcrest Drive, SE.

 

The family wishes to thank relatives, friends, and neighbors who have helped to sustain Ed through 9+ years of post-transplant; the transplant team at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI; the transplant team at Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, MI, who took over his care for the last number of years; special thanks to Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen of Family Medicine Specialists, P.C., Grand Rapids, MI; and special recognition to the generous young man who donated his lungs that allowed Ed to live another 9+ years and have the chance to see grandkids.

 

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Ed’s honor may be made to In The Image, 4255 Kalamazoo Avenue, SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508, or the Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program at Spectrum Health Foundation mailed to: Spectrum Health Foundation, 25 Michigan Street, NE, Suite 4100, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

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6 Responses

  1. Dear Peggy, John, and Family,
    My heartfelt sympathy on the passing of my cousin Ed. He certainly lived a full life in the time he was on this earth. I am so glad that I got to see him, speak with him, and have photos of the Peron cousins taken the last times we were together. May God grant Ed eternal rest and may you find comfort in your memories.

  2. After reading this obituary I have more respect for Ed than before He truly was an outstanding man who spent his life working to improve things for himself and his family as he battled his own physical problems May he Rest In Peace

  3. I will always remember Ed as a kind and gentle man with an infectious smile and upbeat attitude, as well as his delight in my wife’s hand-made chocolate cherries every Christmas. He will be missed by all who knew him. Praying for his family as they grieve and adjust to life without this very special man.

  4. Cousin John, I am so sorry to hear of cousin Ed’s passing. Although I have lived out of state for many years before moving back to Pennsylvania, and haven’t kept in touch with so many relatives, I do have a deep prayer life, and pray for all family members each and every day. I remember all the happy times down at the farm when you all would come to visit each year so long ago. Ed had a full life and reached out to help so many people along the way. My deepest condolences to you and family. Love and blessings to all.
    cousin, Lorraine (Rak) Fromholz

  5. Dear Peggy and family,
    I’m so sorry for you loss. Please know you are in my prayers.
    Love you cousin Cece

  6. Dear Peggy and family- We remember Ed with love, respect and admiration for his many ongoing demonstrations of caring and support to so many people in so many ways throughout his life – even despite his health challenges in later years. Those of us who were “present at the start”, in 1965/66 at the University of Illinois, remember Peggy’s increasingly enthusiastic descriptions of the cute and thoughtful new fellow in her religion class as the year progressed, Ed’s inscription, in big red letters on a construction fence in spring 1967 that said “Ed loves Peg”, and their euphorically happy marriage in Virginia in Aug. 1967. It was the start of a great partnership and blending of compatible souls that continued for your long years together. We know Ed’s caring and spirit live on through all of you.

    Love Linda and Trevor

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