Joseph M. Houf

Died May 8, 2018

Posted

Joseph Mitchell Houf, 64, of West Branch died while fishing in Saginaw Bay May 8, 2018. He was taken into the water by a wave with a walleye hooked upon his line. He died a fisherman, but lived as a great man. Joe has left behind too many people who loved him.

We will begin with his wife, described as “the catch of his life,” Karen Houf. Karen and Joe were best known together, keeping life lively and loving through 43 years of marriage. They had two daughters, Nichole and Jessica (better known by their dad as Lumption and Jazz Kazz). As a family of four, they were the perfect size for playing a good game of euchre after a long week of hard work, telling stories around a campfire, creating a home-based American Idol before it was cool and keeping enough lines in the water while fishing on Lake St. Clair. The home they made was full of humor, singing, learning and love.

Like a school of fish, Joe was surrounded by many strong women from whom his kind nature developed. Most importantly, his mother Barbara Beatrice Ringle. She saw the big heart in her son, calling him “her Joey.” Joe in turn gave nothing but love for this great woman. He also had sisters, Valerie Phelan, Deborah Blake and Michelle Goerlich. For each sister Joe had a nickname and stories of playful ribbing, but together they were what made him whole. He found his singing voice with this family. He was a great man because he was loved by these women and their amazing families.

However, when life surrounded by women became too much, he could always count on Mike Hamblin (aka Big Mike), his best friend for life. Mike and Joe were inseparable fishing, hunting, camping and cooking all over Michigan and parts of South Dakota. We learned what friendship was through their relationship. They had a rag-tag group of pals who would join in their outdoor adventures: Joe Fettue, Steve Goerlich, Nick James, along with Big Mike’s sons aptly named Joey and Mikey, and so many others.

Like many families, Joe's family grew with the addition of his two sons-in-law, Wayne Harrington and Robert Gehl. Wayne and Rob were both happy to learn and be mentored by Joe in the ways of fishing and living well. Joe modeled this life in the annual herring fishing trip that brought together so many friends and family for a “smackin’, snackin’, spankin’, smokin’” adventure.

Eventually, his two daughters gave him two beautiful grandchildren, Theodor Joseph Gehl (Jessica and Rob’s son) and Iris Olivia Harrington (Nichole and Wayne’s daughter). Teddy is now 9 years old, and his favorite thing to do is going to “fish camp with Grandpa Dobe” every summer. Iris will be 1 this July, but even as the newest addition she was the sparkle in Joe’s eye from the moment she was born.

Joe was a hard worker, but his work was not his life. His life was lived on the water with family, and it was the water that took him. But, it will be his family that carries his memories and traits in the stories we tell, the food we cook, the songs we sing and the way we jiggle the line to hook a fish.

Family and friends will gather Saturday, May 12, to honor the life of Joseph Mitchell Houf, born in Detroit on April 11, 1954. There will be a service open to the public at Steuernol & McLaren Funeral Home in West Branch, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Following the service, family and friends will gather at Joe’s house for food and music.

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