Cover photo for James Melvin Kolka's Obituary
James Melvin Kolka Profile Photo

James Melvin Kolka

January 29, 1926 — June 29, 2016

James Melvin Kolka was born on January 28, 1926 to Joseph and Cleo (Purvis) Kolka of Grayling, Mich., the third of 10 children. He was just the second generation of Kolkas to be born in the United States after his grandfather Frank Kulka of Poznon, Poland settled near Waters in the late 1800s. He was dedicated to his family from his early days and helped whoever needed it. During the Great Depression, as a boy, he caddied at the golf course and sold fish he caught to others to help earn money for his family. He enjoyed sports and was an avid reader of "Flash Gordon" and "King of the Royal Mounted" in newspapers. Another favorite pastime in his later childhood was hitching a ride on the rails to visit other communities. After the sudden death of his mother, JIm enlisted in the Navy, at barely 17, lying to serve his country. He was on the ships which gave supplies to the armed forces on D-Day. After the war, he completed his high school diploma and spent a short time sailing the Great Lakes. Jim was fighter and no one fought harder for what they believed in. He spent some time boxing in the Golden Gloves and became a champion here in Michigan. Besides that, Jim had a strong sense to fairness and justice. Throughout his life, he fought for the underdog and situations where people were treated unfairly. In 1951, he married Joyce M. Hoerl, who survives. They had three children: Lynn (Bill) Richmond; Nancy (Jim) Hatfield; and Kurt (Diane) Kolka, who also survive him. He loved to spend time with his children, especially in the outdoors, hunting and fishing. He also became a member of Mount Hope Lutheran Church in Grayling in which he volunteered as an elder. He was very involved in the Grayling Lions Club and headed their programs to help the blind and those unable to afford glasses. Jim spent many years working for Cadillac Overall (now Arrow), industrial laundry company. During this time he served on the Grayling school board. His tenure oversaw the construction of the present high school and he was instrumental in the construction of the baseball diamond there. Later he was elected to the COOR Intermediate School Board where he continued to fight for children and their education. After the local Cadillac Overall branch closed, Jim went to work for Camp Grayling. There he spent his last years as a working man, doing maintenance and security work. He also loved to golf and watch sports, especially the Detroit Tigers and Lions. Upon retirement, Jim and Joyce spent winters in Punta Gorda, Fla. and the rest of their time enjoying their five grandkids, Heather, Annette, Travis, Jacob and Rebekah; and later their two great grandkids Sophia and Emma while in Grayling. He passed away at Crawford Continuing Care Center on June 28, 2016 at the age of 90. Also surviving him are his siblings Shirley Devine, Jack (Janet) Kolka, Puff (Don) Denton and Loly (Gary) Leslie. To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Melvin Kolka, please visit our flower store.


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