Deacon John Albert Moeggenberg's Funeral Mass to be celebrated on Thursday, June 13

Deacon John Albert Moeggenberg, 91, of Shepherd/Midland/Traverse City/Cedar/Lakeland, passed away on June 6, 2024.

Visitation for Deacon Moggenberg will be held at the St. Vincent DePaul Parish on Wednesday, June 12, from 3pm until 8 pm, with the Vigil Service beginning at 7pm.  Funeral Mass will be held Thursday, June 13 at 11am with Father Fred Kawka officiating. There will be visitation from 10am until time of Mass. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to any chapter of Right to Life. Arrangements have been entrusted to Berry Funeral Home of Shepherd.

Deacon Moeggenberg lived such a full, charismatic, accomplished life – simple words cannot contain nor fully encompass. While he will be missed, his legacy of helping to build the Kingdom of God remains.

Born mid-summer, 1932, he was the 9th of 13 children in the August and Gertrude Moeggenberg farm between Shepherd and Alma, Michigan.  Depression-era work ethic, farm-raised grit, and war-born frugality shaped his early years, and carried him throughout his life. By all accounts a gifted student, John was promoted 2 grades and graduated from Shepherd High School at 16, in 1949.  He followed his next-eldest brother, Raymond, to Seminary for two years, but left because, as he put it, “I liked girls too much!” (However, his deep faith and commitment to Catholicism would again drive his life in later years.)  He turned his attention to the family farm, raising crops and livestock. Then, in the fall of ’53, while picking corn, a tragic event would send his life in a direction he never imagined.  

The picker jammed, and as John tried to fix the problem, he slipped and caught his left hand in the machine. It was instantly mangled. A nearby neighbor heard his cries for help, and at the hospital, his injured hand was amputated. Recovery was long and painful, but he leaned on his Faith and Family for strength. However, he never returned to farming.  

Instead, he applied to Alma’s JC Penney, winning the job by tying the manager’s shoelaces with only his right hand and his new prosthetic hook on his left arm. He moved quickly up the ranks at his new vocation, but was turned down for a management position due to his “handicap”.  Leaving JC Penney, he bounced through several varied occupations, and one in particular – Truant Officer for Midland County – lead him to his most important and longest-lasting job: Husband. He met a teacher at Sanford schools and instantly fell in love with Marjorie Jean Norris. During their courtship, John’s “itch to retail” became too much, and he opened a small clothing store on The Circle in Midland: Moeggenberg’s Men’s & Boy’s Wear was born in 1959. John and Marge married on February 27, 1960, at St. Vincent DePaul Church in Shepherd.  As his store grew, so did his family – Timothy John, Daniel Joseph, Marc James, Carla Jean, and Ronald Jerome were all born between, December 1960 and December 1966.

Around 1968, with a successful store now in the capable hands of his younger brother, George, John turned his attention to other endeavors. He gained his private pilot license and bought his dad’s summer pasture land (with older brother Cletus) to build and operate a golf course. After moving his family to Shepherd, John’s long-suppressed vocation to serve God was given wings.  The Catholic Church gave “rebirth” to the dormant order of Permanent Deaconate. Throughout his life, John had served the Church any and every way he could: Teaching catechism, heading choirs, serving on one board after another. Now his calling had a path to follow, and he was ordained on March 12, 1978, at St. Vincent DePaul in Shepherd. But his path had already taken a northerly turn.

John had sold Valley View, the golf course he and Cletus built. On a subsequent vacation to Traverse City, John noticed a new mall being built.  He began construction of a second Moeggenberg’s Menswear in December of ’77, opened it March 15, 1978, and moved his family to TC in August.  With his faculties incarnated from Saginaw, “Deacon John” began to serve the young Diocese of Gaylord at it’s largest parish, St. Francis of Assisi, in Traverse City. Over the next 15 years, Deacon John was a favorite of parishioners at weddings, baptisms, vigils, and other milestones in parish life.  At home, his family began to grow exponentially – he and Marge added 4 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 13 grandchildren!  He and Marge began spending some of the winter months at their place in Lakeland Florida, surrounded by friends and family.

As John’s business career began to wind down, other changes began taking shape.  He and Marge moved back to Midland for a few years in order to be closer to the main store. He had opened 2 other locations – Cheboygan in 1983 to 1987, then Bay City in the early 90’s. Midland and Traverse City began to falter, closing in 1992 and 1996, respectively. John consolidated to the Bay City store and eventually retired, closing it in 1997. Then, the old saying, “When God closes one door, He opens another” couldn’t have been truer for John, as is was throughout his life.

The Gaylord Diocese was looking for a Pastoral Administrator to lead a beautiful old parish at the crossroad known as “Isadore” near Cedar. Deacon John’s lifelong dream of leading an entire parish community would become reality, as he and Marge moved into the rectory next to one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Michigan: Holy Rosary. For the next 9 years, John devoted his exceptional management and pastoral skills to the great parishioners of Holy Rosary. His time there was the “high water mark” of his ministry.

Retiring from serving the Church he loved, John and Marge began to split their time between Michigan and Florida. Summers were spent in their 32 ft motor home, on the farm of his brother Paul (deceased), helping his sister in law, Eleanor, maintain the lawn, and anything else that needed attention.  From the Leaton, Michigan, location, John and Marge could easily travel to events and gatherings of family and friends, with a special fondness for seeing his “spiritual family” of deacons. As colder weather set in, John and Marge would head south to their place in Lakeland, where John especially enjoyed playing shuffleboard with other folks from the Sterling Mobile Home Park. He even took the coveted “green jacket” as Park Champion!

As the years rolled on, Marge’s infirmities began to take their toll. Ron, their youngest, retired and purchased a home near Silver Lake in Traverse City, specifically to take care of his parents in their later lives. Marge’s mental and physical health forced John to make the tough choice of giving her 24 hour care in Medilodge Elder Rehab Center.  Shortly before she went to be with The Lord, in a very lucid moment, she kissed John and told him, “I will ALWAYS love you!”

Deacon John has spent his remaining years happy, comfortably, and very well-fed at Ron’s home – the “well fed” coming from of Ron’s fiancé, Miss Stacey Popp. Between the two of them, John got regular medical care, visits from many of the friends and family he had gathered over his 9+ decades, birthday parties, reunions, cookouts, and the “Wednesday Night Euchre Tournament” with a half-dozen of his nephews and Stacey’s dad, Ray. John’s play had slowed, but his joy at setting his opponents hadn’t dimmed a bit!

John is survived by his family: Timothy (Michelle), Daniel (Tracey), Marc (Beth), Carla (Rich), and Ronald (Stacey Popp); 13 Grandchildren; 20 Great-grandchildren; Sister Rosaline Moeggenberg; Brothers Jim (Sue), George (Sue), and Dave (Jean); Sister-in-law Eleanor (Paul d.); 75+ nieces and nephews; untold Greats and Great-Greats.

John was preceded into Eternal Life by his wife of 61 years, “Margie-Jean”; Parents August and Gertrude; sisters Paulina (Henry), Mary (Frank), Marcella (Edward), and Florence (Wilbur); Brothers Vincent (Hester), Paul, Cletus (Elsie), and Fr. Raymond.