Joseph Patrick Erhardt



Memorial Contributions:

Susan Mast ALS Foundation

2500 Waldorf Ct. NW Suite B., Grand Rapids, MI, 49544

Joseph Patrick Erhardt, age 64 of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully on April 3, 2024, comforted by his loving family after his courageous 6-year battle with ALS. He was preceded in death by his mother, Margaret (Hogan) Erhardt; sisters, Kristin Erhardt, Mary Erhardt; father-in-law, J. Robert Truitt; mother-in-law, Marian (Tervo) Truitt.  He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Dawn; children, Nicole Erhardt, Lauren (Timothy) Puffer, Benjamin Erhardt; grandchildren, Nora and Joey Puffer; father, Lawrence (Nancy) Erhardt Sr; sisters, Ann Erhardt, Maureen Erhardt; brother, Larry (Joyce Evans) Erhardt Jr; sisters-in-law, Diane (Don) Schmid, Denise (Ron) Borgman; brother-in-law, Dan (Susan) Truitt; and several nieces, nephews, and friends.

Joseph was born to Lawrence and Margaret Erhardt in Detroit, MI in 1959. They soon after moved to Grand Rapids where he spent his childhood and adolescence. He graduated 4th in his class from Forest Hills Northern in 1977. His classmates imagined his future ‘prophecy’ as so: “Joe Erhardt became a Supreme Court Judge so he could have the last word in every argument and always be right.” While he never studied law, his classmates weren’t far off. Some years later and under his leadership, the family business would adopt as its slogan “Right From the Start”. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech where he graduated with High Honors in 1981—as well as the moniker Four Point Joe. This is where he met the love of his life and wife of 40 years, Dawn Michele Truitt. Their first date was on Sweetest Day in 1980, and that was just the beginning.

Joe was a mere 16 years old when he started working in the field at his father’s general contracting company, Erhardt Construction. His career includes innovative engineering and business practices that can claim a humble amount of credit for some signature projects across West Michigan which include but are not limited to the Amway Grand Plaza, the Plaza Towers, the Van Andel Arena, the Van Andel Institute, and DeVos Place.

While holding his formal leadership and professional roles at Erhardt Construction where he furthered his father’s vision and local legacy in engineering and commercial general contracting, he was also involved in a number of extracurricular professional and leadership organizations: He became a registered professional engineer in 1986; “1994 Young Engineer of the Year” by the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers; served as Officer and President of The Builders Exchange; GR Chamber of Commerce – served on Board of Directors and later Chairperson; Family Business Alliance – served on Board of Directors.

Joe was a cherished and passionate son, brother, uncle, husband, father, and Papa. Joe and Dawn married in September of 1983 and settled in Grand Rapids, MI to start their own family. They welcomed three children—Nicole, Lauren, and Ben—thus establishing the family unit that they cultivated throughout the remainder of their marriage. They got to step into a new chapter of family life when they became grandparents with the arrival of Nora and Joey, who lovingly called him Papa and who brought such a big bright light into their world in the last few years.

He was an avid traveler, adventurer, and lover of music. Skiing, kayaking, bicycling, boating, hiking, golfing, scuba diving, and even mapping the journeys to do these activities were part of his repertoire of leisure when away from the desk. Grand Cayman, the North Channel, and Northern Michigan in general were places that he liked to spend his precious time. His passion for woodworking deserves its own caveat as it is the activity he was most passionate about, invested the largest amount of time in, and got the most pleasure out of—especially after retirement. Joe’s faith was an important tenet in his life. He was active in the Catholic community his entire life and was involved in the church choir for over 30 years.

When ALS, or more casually known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, knocked on his door, Joe answered it courageously, practically, and even stoically. If there was a way to engineer his way out of that disease, he would have found it. Rather, he engineered his way through it. He doctored the house to be as accessible as it could possibly be to support the most independent life he could, given his limited circumstances. He found every way he could to make life easier for himself—he was anticipating the growing list of his own needs around every corner. Anybody that was close to him knows what we’re saying, and anybody that ever met him can surely imagine. His response to ALS was no exception.

The family would like to extend their heartfelt appreciation to the Susan Mast ALS Foundation, the team at Faith Hospice, and namely the caregiver, Jennifer, who made his last year as comfortable as it could be. They say it takes a village, and when dealing with health issues to this degree that is no exaggeration. We thank everyone that extended their thoughts, prayers, meals, notes, and even jokes to Joe and his family throughout this journey.

He was thoughtful in every aspect of his life; this applies to looking inward as much as it does looking outward. Some have even referred to him as a catalyst — a positive force activating positive changes. Before and especially during the disease, Joe lived his life with a humble and unrelenting sense of purpose, generosity, tenderness, faith, gratitude, leadership, and perhaps most distinguishing and importantly—his sense of humor. In fact, one of the final sentiments that he left his darling wife Dawn with was that when he goes, she gets to tell her version of the story of how they met. Be sure to ask when you see her, and if you know his version, please share it with us.

The family will greet friends and relatives from 2-4pm and 6-8pm on Thursday, April 11, 2024, at O’Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Funeral Home, 3980 Cascade Road SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11am on Friday, April 12, 2024, at St. Robert of Newminster Catholic Church, 6477 Ada Dr SE, Ada, MI 49301. Rev. Tony Russo and Rev. Leonard Sudlik concelebrating. Interment Cascade Township Cemetery. Memorial contributions in Joe’s memory can be made to the Susan Mast ALS Foundation, 2500 Waldorf Ct. NW Suite B., Grand Rapids, MI, 49544.

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7 Responses

  1. Joe was my best friend and one the smartest persons I’ve personally known in my life time. He was the best man of my wedding and I was his best man at his wedding. My wife and enjoyed several trips with Joe and Dawn. My favorite trip was our trip wandering around the Virgin Islands on a motor boat that Joe captained.

  2. I graduated from FHN with Joe and he was a model student and always friendly smiling face. One of those fine, nice guys that were in our class. Prayers for his family and loved ones.

  3. Joe was a special man with a big heart especially for his beautiful family. I was blessed to know him and share our Mathcounts volunteer hours sharpening pencils and trying to show the State Mathcounts how they should run the competition the Western Chapter way. He will be missed. Hugs dear Dawn.

  4. Joe was one of my drafting students at FHN. I knew he’d be a great engineer someday by the way he did his work with such precision. I have followed his journey on FB which has kept me close to many of my former students. Joe was one of the best Northern ever graduated. We are lucky to have been a part of his life and our prayers are with him and his family as he enters the Hallowed halls of heaven. Love ya Joe.

  5. Joe was such a good friend, and good friends of this type and magnitude don’t come along often. Joe and I met in the dorm at college and quickly became friends (for 47 years). Several of us moved from the dorm to an off campus house, and became known as the Finn Street Gang (our off-campus house was on Finn Street). Of course, this was all in fun and for photos. I would have included our yearbook photo if I could, showing Joe looking like a force not to mess with in our made-up gang attire. And Joe was a truly great force in the adventures and business activities he took on through his life. My wife, Nancy, and I are honoring Joe by looking to the past, to review and think about all the great times we had together and celebrate his life. Oh how quickly it sped by. It was a good life, just too short. Dawn and family, our thoughts are with you. And here, Joe, is a toast to you.

  6. I only had a brief moment in meeting Joe. However, having hired Nicole and worked with her for the last 12 years, if she is any indication of how great a person Joe was, we are all blessed for them having touched our lives. May God be with you in this time of sorrow.

  7. Joe’s obituary beautifully captured my high school friend. He was so kind, smart and funny. We both graduated from FHN in ’77. It is amusing that his obituary mentioned that he graduated as number “4” in the class. I happened to be number “3.” Joe and I would joke about this fact and laugh about him getting a B in gym (as I recall) and me getting a B+. I am glad to know that Joe had his faith to lean on to manage through this horrific disease. My thoughts and prayers for healing and fond memories to Dawn and Joe’s entire family.

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