Norman “Bunko” Japinga

Norman “Bunko” Japinga,
who retired in 1995 after 27
years that included serving as
athletic equipment manager and
transportation director, died on
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, at age 88.
He joined the staff in 1968 as Hope’s
first official equipment manager,
along with custodial duties in the
old Carnegie-Schouten Gymnasium
and responsibility for the fledgling transportation department. He
was the full-time equipment manager from 1974 to 1988, assistant
equipment manager and head bus driver from 1988 to 1992, and
after that a part-time driver.
Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Shirley; his children, Jodi
Japinga ’75 (Marv ’75) Syens, Jeff (Jennifer) Japinga, and Julie
Japinga ’85 (Kevin ’84) Van Oordt; grandchildren, Mark Japinga
and Annie Japinga ’15 (Jordan ’14) Carrigan and their mother
Lynn Winkels ’81 Japinga, Rachel Syens, Erin Van Oordt ’10
(Austin) Coallier, and Kara Van Oordt ’13 (Kelly ’13) Lepley; and
step-grandchildren, Paige and Brett Erickson.

Holland Sentinel’s Obituary

Norman Jay Japinga, 88, of Holland, died peacefully at Holland Hospital on Thursday, November 1, surrounded by the love and care of his family.

Norm was born February 26, 1930, in Holland, the second child of Martin and Marguerite ( De Fouw) Japinga.

Sometime in junior high, Norm acquired a new name. Bunko. No one is quite clear about its origin or meaning. Only that it stuck.

Bunko graduated from Holland High School in 1948, an average student and athlete whose first ( of many) knee surgeries pushed him into refereeing. On September 8, 1950, he married Shirley Jean Koning of Holland.

They had three children, Jodi, Jeff, and Julie, the latter born while Bunko was officiating an MIAA football game in Alma.

Bunko was a typesetter for the Holland Evening Sentinel during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1968, he joined the staff of Hope College as its first athletic equipment manager and bus driver. He would serve Hope College for more than 40 years, into retirement and beyond.

He was a man for all seasons — as in football, basketball, and baseball.

He drove Hope College sports teams ( including a defensive tackle who would become a grandson- in- law) hundreds of thousands of miles in all manner of buses. He washed dirty uniforms, fixed broken equipment, lined the outdoor athletic fields, sat at the scorers’ table, did the p. a. announcing for baseball games ( including a relief pitcher who would become a grandson- in- law). Most importantly, he genuinely cared for those he met.

The enduring image of Bunko is with his arm around the shoulder of some athlete, a smile on his face. It never mattered whether that athlete had just scored the winning touchdown or never saw the field — Bunko was a trusted, gracious, encouraging supporter of all. Bunko embodied the meaning of sportsmanship.

In 1990, the Hope College Alumni H- Club recognized him for “ being a positive influence in the lives of Hope College student- athletes.” He was grand marshal of the 1993 homecoming parade.

In 1997, he received the Meritorious Service Award from the Hope College Alumni Club.

In 2002, the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan inducted him to their Hall of Honor. The pressbox at Hope’s Boeve Stadium is named after him.

He was a man of deep faith, a long- time member and deacon at Christ Memorial Reformed Church and more recently a member of Third Reformed Church He was a beloved son, a husband, a father, a grandfather. He taught us all what family meant. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Shirley Japinga; by his children, Jodi ( Marv) Syens of Holland; Jeff ( Jennifer) Japinga of Chaska, Minnesota; and Julie ( Kevin) Van Oordt of Jenison; by grandchildren Mark Japinga and Annie ( Jordan) Carrigan and their mother, Lynn Japinga; Rachel Syens; Erin ( Austin) Coallier and Kara ( Kelly) Lepley; by step- grandchildren Paige and Brett Erickson; and by the thousands of memories and stories so many hold of him. He was preceded in death by his parents and by his brother, Robert Japinga.

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