Henry “Hank” Lawerence Smolarz, age 85, passed away peacefully at home on August 23, 2023, from cancer.
Hank was born on May 19, 1938, in Gaylord, to Ignatius and Hedwig (Dzwik) Smolarz. He attended Vanderbilt Rural Agricultural School through the 9th grade. After completing 9th grade, he worked full-time on the family farm. In 1957, he started with H & H Tube in Vanderbilt, where he spent 44 years as a maintenance supervisor before retiring. In 1996, Hank received certificates from North Central Michigan College in Electrical Principles, Electrical Wiring, and Motors & Controls. In 1997, he received certificates in Electrical Assembly and Hydraulics.
In 1962, Henry met the love of his life, Marie Kurth. The two married on October 23, 1965. They raised two children: Becky and Dwayne. Hank’s pride and joy were his grandchildren: Jessica, Arran, and Alex. He always said that he wanted to live long enough to see his grandchildren graduate, which he did. Hank enjoyed hearing about the exciting things his grandkids were up to and always believed they could do whatever they set their minds to. He was able to fly to New York City at age 80 to watch his granddaughter graduate from her master’s program. He hoped his grandkids would move to all different places, just so he had a reason to travel.
It is hard to put into words who Hank was as a person and how much he meant to his family in such a short space. First and foremost, he was a loving and caring man. He would help anyone in need and would do it with a smile on his face. He was quiet, often preferring to sit and listen to the conversations around him. When he did talk, it was usually a joke. He was just a joy to be around.
Hank enjoyed being outside whenever he could. If he wasn’t in his garden in the spring and summer, chances are you could find him sitting in front of the pole barn in a lawn chair just watching traffic. He often would tinker around his pole barn, fixing things that probably didn’t need fixing or making things that no one would think of, like a stand to hold the garden hose nozzle or grill top with removable legs to fit over the state park fire pits. He was proud of the unique things he could make. He wouldn’t get rid of anything because he knew he could use it to make something else.
In the fall and early winter, Hank would go hunting, starting with bow camp in October and finishing with muzzleloader season in December. Camping and fishing were a favorite activity of Hanks, especially with his kids and grandkids. Even when the camper or boat was overloaded with people, he was happy to be with family.
When Hank wasn’t outside, he was probably napping in his recliner with his Westerns on the television. He enjoyed playing his handheld solitaire game and doing his “books,” crosswords, sudoku, and fill-ins. He would save the nicer books, not wanting to mess them up too soon. Hank was a member of the Double Ringer Horseshoe Club for over 30 years. He also enjoyed collecting sap and making maple syrup with the Sap Suckers. Hank was a loyal Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers fan, even through the losing seasons.
Hank was proud of his Polish heritage. He enjoyed listening to Polka music and would stay up late on Saturday nights to watch the Mollie B. Polka Party. If you were at a party where polka was played, you probably saw him on the dance floor. He did teach his grandchildren a few things in Polish, which he was proud of.
Hank had a sweet tooth. He especially liked ice cream, which he would hardly turn down if offered. In his last weeks, the only thing that sounded appetizing was personal pies or Becky’s poke cake.
Hank was a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, The Knights of Columbus, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
He is survived by his wife, Marie; children, Becky (Marvin) Ohlrich, and Dwayne; grandchildren, Jessica, Arran, and Alex; brothers, Martin (Ruth) and Richard (Dee); and sister, Blanche Franckowiak. He is also survived by many brothers- and sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews.
Henry was preceded in death by his father, Ignatius; mother, Hedwig; and sister, Regina Renkiewicz.
While we are heartbroken by his passing, we are grateful he is no longer in pain and is finally at rest. We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Hospice of Michigan, who allowed us to bring Hank home for his final weeks. You are truly angels on earth, and we cannot thank you enough for the compassion you showed Hank.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Tuesday, August 29, 2023, at 11 a.m. at St. Mary Cathedral with a visitation beginning at 10 a.m.
Visitation at the Nelson Funeral Home will be held Monday, August 28, 2023, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. with a Rosary being offered by Knights of Columbus at the funeral home at 6 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice of Michigan – Gaylord Region, online at hom.org/donate/.
Arrangements were entrusted to the Nelson Funeral Home & Cremation Service, PO Box 1548 Gaylord, MI 49734.