Local family trying to cremate loved one before Christmas Eve

Posted at 10:30 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 23:10:36-05

KENT CITY, Mich. — The family of a man who died this weekend is struggling to pay for his cremation expenses ahead of Christmas.

Jason Groenke, 31, was driving in the area of Fruit Ridge Avenue and 18 Mile Road early Sunday morning when his car rolled over, killing him. Kent County deputies say he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

“It’s still so surreal; it’s just so weird to think he’s gone,” said his sister, Amber Groenke. “Part of me thinks, ‘Is he really dead? Did he really pass away?’ But we know he did.”

Amber says Jason’s death is the latest in a series of hardships their family is facing. The eldest Groenke brother was recently in a collision with a drunk driver and suffered a brain injury. And three members of the family has a rare cancer called familial adenomatous polyposis.

Jason Groenke. Undated courtesy photo.

Jason Groenke. Undated courtesy photo.

“This time of year makes it even harder,” Amber said. “We were in a store the other day. Everyone (in the store) was so happy, we could barely make it through Michael’s getting supplies for the funeral.”

Amber says the family is trying to cut back on Christmas this year to budget for Jason’s cremation, but they have started a GoFundMe page to help raise some of the money. After the cremation, the rest of the money raised will pay for a headstone.

“Jason, he was a fun guy. Everyone loved him,” Amber remembered. “The one thing that he did have — which I was so mad at him when he did it — he decided to tattoo a smiley face on his butt, [so] his motto was he’d always be smiling when he left the room.”

The Groenke family is trying to make arrangements to cremate Jason before Christmas Eve this Saturday.