Earl H. Girard, age 83, of Hesperia, passed away on January 12, 2021 peacefully at home with his loved ones at his side. Earl was born May 12, 1937 to Earl James and Ruth (Harvey) Girard in New Baltimore, Michigan.
He graduated from New Baltimore High School in 1955 where he excelled in football as an “all star” halfback. He also competed in track and field in the long jump as well as sprinting events.
After high school, he went on to graduate from auto body school. Earl specialized in collision, paint and framework until he retired. He was well respected as a leader and innovator in the body repair industry as it constantly evolved over his five decades in the profession. He was an absolute perfectionist with an acute attention to detail - a true “professional”. Nothing left the shop unless it was “perfect”. In his earlier years he was also known for his custom work repairing the fiberglass bodies from the world’s most famous funny car dragsters. He was the “one” they went to. In the 50’s he also had several of his own custom street cars, one of which was the famous “Lead Sled”.
On June 21, 1958 he married Marilyn Elaine Zuehlk at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Macomb County. They spent sixty-two wonderful adventurous years together. He always said “he never knew how he found such a wonderful girl”.
Earl is survived by his wife and his children, son, James (Barbara) Girard of Manistee and their children, Jeff (Sarah) and their children, Bryce, Kacey and Hailey; Allisson (Patrick Kennedy) and their son, Mason; daughter, Jean (Ray) Sorensen of Hesperia and their children, Brett and Cami (Tyler VanHeukelom); son, Earl James Girard of Hesperia and his children, Candice, Genessa, Luciana, and Alonso “Bud”, and Christina Girard; sister, Dona McArdle; four nieces, and one nephew. Earl was preceded in death by his parents and his brother-in-law, Tom McArdle.
His grandchildren were his absolute pride and joy. He enjoyed attending school and sporting events for them. From the oldest to the youngest, he was always there helping them become a better person. He was the best mentor, having one on one talks with them, always with funny stories. These talks were never complete without a few clever analogies that stuck with them, providing strong life lessons. He always had a very realistic and optimistic outlook on life, “it’s what you make of it”.
Earl spent life not just working hard but playing even harder. Racing was his true passion. He raced everything from school buses to open wheel sprint cars, racing motorcycles on the ice to burning rubber on the strip. He loved the smell, the sound and the challenge to the mind in all forms.
He raced in the first five Soo I-500 snowmobile races, still holding the record for placing the highest with the smallest cc engine. He raced for many years at the famous “Detroit Dragway” in the dragster and altered classes; Mt. Clemens Speedway, racing on the spectacular “Double O” track, as well as the super modified class on the “big” track.
He met and gained strong friendships with all of the most famous racers across many different fields of the sport. True to his own words, “keeping his foot in it”, his racing career came to an end at age sixty-nine when he had a cardiac arrest while racing in an Outlaw Modified Feature in 2006. He always believed that “when you put on the helmet, nobody knows your age”.
Earl also had a passion for maple syrup. He and Marilyn founded White River Sugar Bush in 1979, producing and marketing high quality maple products for over forty years. He was always proud of the fact that they made and sold more maple candy than any other sugar bush around.
A graveside service will be held in the spring on his birthday, Wednesday, May 12th, at 2:00 pm at the Otto Township Cemetery. This service will be open to anyone that knew Earl and would like to pay their final respects. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Harbor Hospice 1050 W. Western Ave. Suite 400, Muskegon, MI 49441.
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