Veteran donated funds to fix church bells before passing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thanks to a donation from a World War II veteran who recently passed away, the bells at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Grand Rapids toll once more.

The bells fell into disrepair about a year ago. That’s when Ray Sikanas gave $3,000 to his childhood church to fix them up. It was finished just in time for his send-off.

“He said, ‘I want them fixed so they will ring at my funeral,’” said Debra Sikanas, Ray’s firstborn child. “And my job is to make his wishes come true, so this is just a delight.”

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church at 520 Myrtle St NW, Grand Rapids.
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church at 520 Myrtle St NW, Grand Rapids.

Ray was 98 years old, maintaining his wit and sense of humor his whole life.

“Even to this day at 98, he would go back to times and tell these very detailed, wonderful stories,” she said. “He was a good storyteller, loved his jokes. He always came up with a new one, and I said, ‘Dad, I thought I heard all your jokes.’ (He would say) ‘Well, I’m saving some.’”

During World War II, he was a Marine that served in the Pacific theater from 1942 until the war’s end in 1945.

“He was a tough guy. He was very sharp, paid his own bills, did crossword puzzles, did little pushups on the floor,” said Debra. “He’s so cute; I’d come in sometimes and he’s on the floor — not pushups, sorry, dumbbells — and he did exercise every day. That’s my dad.”

Like so many others from the Greatest Generation, he was a hero to his family.

“He was just always there. He was always working, but he was there,” said Steve Sikanas, Ray’s oldest living son. “He put food on the table. He did what he needed to do, no matter how hard things were.”

Ray had eight children living on in the memory of the six he leaves behind.

“I’m going to miss him a lot,” he said. “He was just a strong, vibrant guy. For a short man, he could dawn a doorway. He was quite something, really. Everybody liked him.”

He now rests next to his first son, wife and parents.

“I was at his knee for years and years learning his story and he was preparing me for this the whole time,” Debra said. “But it’s no fun to be without your buddy.”

Memorial donations can be made to Sts. Peter and Paul Church located at 520 Myrtle St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.