POPKE, Emil Julius, Jr.
of Kalamazoo, Michigan
Emil Julius "Bud" Popke, Jr. 86, died peacefully at home on May 24, 2012. Mr. Popke was born June 23, 1925 in Danbury, CT, the son of Emil Julius, Sr. and Florence (Ritton) Popke. 'Buddy' was the youngest of 5 children, and was preceded in death by his four older sisters, Beatrice, Marie, Arlene, and Ruth. After attending high school in Danbury, Bud attended Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1949 with a degree in geology. During his college years, Bud met his first wife, Joan Stephans, served briefly in the Naval Air Corps, and served as general manager of the campus radio station, the start of a 30-year career in broadcasting. Bud and Joan moved to Michigan in 1951 and had two children, Donna Popke of Sutton's Bay Michigan and Bruce Howard Popke of Deerfield Beach, FL.
In 1953, Mr. Popke moved to Kalamazoo, where he lived for more than 60 years, building a successful career in radio and advertising. In the early 1960s, Bud became general manager of WKMI radio station, where he also met his second wife, Nancy Jean Gruizenga. Bud married Nancy on May 22, 1964, and remained a devoted husband during her affliction and eventual death from Alzheimer's disease in 2007. Bud and Nancy had two sons, Emil Jeffrey Popke of Greenville, NC and Eric Jon Popke of Ridgewood, NJ.
In 1963, Bud acquired ownership of WYYY radio, AM 1470, which in the 1970s became the highest rated rock station in Kalamazoo. During this time, he also became involved in additional business ventures, owning the Dutch Treat Bakery, Wayside Lanes bowling alley, and The Colony Room nightclub. In the 1980s, Bud left the radio business and become proprietor of the Superbook coupon franchise, which he managed together with Nancy for nearly 15 years in more than half a dozen cities in Michigan and Indiana.
Bud was an avid gardener, enjoyed golf, and was a lifelong admirer and collector of antique automobiles. He was active for many years in the Portage Suburban Kiwanis Club, serving as President of Portage Kiwanis from 1978-1980, and as Lt. Governor of Division 13 of the Michigan District in 1990-91. Toward the end of his life, Bud, along with his sister Ruth, established the Popke Family Otsego High School Scholarship Fund, which will provide college scholarships for graduates of Otsego High School, from which his sons, Jeff and Jon, graduated.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 on Thursday, June 14 at St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church, 2010 Nichols Road. The family will receive friends from 10 am to 11 at the church prior to the service. Memorial gifts may be made to the Kiwanis of Michigan Foundation or the Alzheimer's Association. The family would like to express our sincere appreciation to Bud's long-time caregiver Hope, for providing friendship and comfort during Bud's later years. Additional appreciation is extended to the staff of Heartland Hospice, particularly Amy and Beth, for their devoted care at the end of a life well-lived.
Read Emil Popke's Obituary and Guestbook on www.langelands.com.