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Mr. Bert Hovenkamp passed from this life on March 17, 2023 after a long illness. A resident of Mattawan, Michigan, he was known as a successful businessman who was the former owner of Eagle Auto Parts based in Three Rivers, Michigan. Prior to that he owned Liberty Auto Parts based in Kalamazoo.
Bert was always involved in one project or another. They included owning a horse farm, developing a golf course, and owning snow removal equipment. Yet Eagle Auto Parts was his most successful endeavor.
He was born in the Netherlands on August 28, 1947 to Chris and Antonia Hovenkamp—two years after World War II, which devastated that country along with much of Europe.
Determined to make a new start his parents applied for immigration status to come to America, and in 1949, the family, including his sister Anna, received permission to come to the United States.
Bert and Anna, now two and four respectively, were not enamored with the huge English ship that they traveled on. Stuck in the nursery these Dutch children had no idea what those English grownups were saying. Therefore, Anna explained to Bert that they were going to crawl out of a porthole and then walk around the deck. They had no idea that this might be an issue for their frantic parents.
The family settled in Kalamazoo where they lived for a short time with an uncle until his parents could move to their own home.
His father’s dream, however, was to own a farm, and in 1955, his dream was realized when he was able to buy a chicken farm in Lawton, Michigan.
Bert, now eight-years-old and Anna ten-years-old attended a two-room country school, which was located about a mile away. About twelve students ranging from first to sixth grade went to this school. Bert and Anna arrived there before the teacher, and so they proceeded to build a fire in the old basement furnace. Bert of course had to chop wood. Both children shoveled in coal and then ran upstairs to warm up on the heat registers as the furnace belched out hot air.
Their family was not wealthy, but it came as a shock to Bert and Anna when one little girl, lacking winter shoes, came to school with her feet wrapped in old newspapers.
Every day their collie dog Duke came to meet them as they walked home from school.
From there they attended Decatur Public Schools until their parents sent them to Kalamazoo Christian School.
After graduation, Bert was drafted into the United States Army to fight in Vietnam. After his mother’s death in a tragic car accident, however, he received a Hardship Discharge. His father requested his help on the farm and his help in raising his brother Ken who was six at the time.
Declining his father’s request to take over the chicken farm, Bert began the work he was destined for----automobiles. His dream was to someday own a salvage yard and to sell auto parts.
He first worked for other auto parts businesses including Bob Stevens Auto Parts in Kalamazoo. When he walked into that shop, he realized that this was the kind of career he wanted to have. Yet it wasn’t until he worked at Rose Auto Parts in Kalamazoo, that he understood the importance of having the organizational skills needed to manage a successful business. With that in mind, he joined the Automotive Recyclers Organization of Michigan.
In 1974, he was able to begin realizing his dream when he bought Liberty Auto Parts. He built up his business from there and then built Eagle Auto Parts in Three Rivers, Michigan. He made it a “state of the art” salvage yard, that received many commendations from the Automotive Recyclers Association.
Facing health issues, he decided to retire and he sold his business. Until his health declined, he still stayed active investing in other projects including buying a golf course that he later sold. This worked for him because he was an avid golfer.
Along with his business acumen, he had a personality that drew many friends to him and he always enjoyed a good prank that he liked to play on others.
He leaves behind his wife Cheryl, sons Brian and Kevin Hovenkamp, and stepson, Andy Truitt and his wife Heidi. He also leaves behind his sister Anne McNulty and Brother Ken Hovenkamp. In addition, he leaves behind his beloved dog, Hachi.
His grandchildren include Elise and Mckenzie Hovenkamp, Mason, Landon and Gage Hovenkamp and Wyatt and Sawyer Truitt. He is also survived by some wonderful nieces and nephews.
Bert will have a Celebration of Life Service on Saturday, March 25, 2023 at 11am at The Bridge Church, 7200 Angling Road, Portage, MI. The family will receive friend on Thursday March 23rd from 4pm to 7pm at the Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, 5975 Lovers Lane, Portage.
To read Bert’s complete obituary please go to www.amsfuneralhomes.com where you can sign his guestbook, and/or share a memory with the family. In Lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Youth for Christ.
The Hovenkamp family is being cared for by the Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, 5975 Lovers Lane, Portage, MI 49002 (269) 344-5600.
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Starts at 11:00am (Eastern time)
The Bridge Church
Thursday, March 23, 2023
4:00 - 7:00pm (Eastern time)
Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home and Cremation Society, Portage
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