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John F. Linnen

John Francis Linnen, age 77, passed away on Saturday, December 19, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. He was born on February 22, 1943, to Robert and Kate (Markofski) Linnen in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. John graduated from Waupun High School in 1961 and received his bachelor’s degree in Math Education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1965. He then took his young family to Ripon, Wisconsin, where he taught math at Ripon High School for four years. John received a National Science Foundation Grant and was accepted to the University of Notre Dame, where he received his master’s degree in Mathematics and a one-year teaching position. He would later say that was the most difficult thing he ever did – that the work was incredibly difficult, and the level of students was exceptional. Yet it also was the start of John’s lifelong love of Notre Dame, and he passed that love on to his children and grandchildren, many of whom are devoted Notre Dame fans and who John always enjoyed taking back to campus to reminisce.

After deciding to continue teaching at the college level, John thought Big Rapids would be a wonderful place to raise his family, especially after seeing the lakes and rivers in the area, and he accepted a position at Ferris State College in 1970. On the Ferris campus and beyond, John was a quiet and selfless leader. For John, it was always about others and never about him. John was a very caring man coupled with his powerful intellect, helped him to make meaningful changes in the lives of others. John’s dedicated service with the Ferris Faculty Association was just one example among many of his being a tireless champion for the people.

John was an equally devoted father who was very involved in his children’s activities, coaching their Little League teams and helping build the dugouts at the fields by Win Kellum that were there for years. When Ferris State built an ice arena in 1976, John helped found the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association and coached his two sons through high school age. When his sons went to Ferris and still wanted to play hockey, John started the Ferris State College Club Team so they and other college students could continue to enjoy the game. Those hockey years were very enjoyable for John; he cared about his “extra” sons and would get a kick out of the shenanigans they got into and the stories they told. John also ran the scoreboard for Ferris State hockey games for years and championed for high school hockey at Big Rapids High School.

John always kept busy in the summers when he wasn’t teaching summer school. He worked at Brower Park when his children were younger, and they would stay at the park all summer long. Because John wanted his kids to learn responsibility and the value of work, he purchased an ice cream truck so his kids could ride around the park selling favorite ice cream treats. John later built a concession stand at Brower Park where all three of his kids would work (in between water skiing) until they graduated from high school. Summers were good for the Linnen kids.

John was a hard worker who could often be found on semester breaks hauling shingles up a ladder, doing roofs with a hammer and a well-worn toolbelt around his waist. Along with some fellow math professors and lifelong friends, he built his daughter and son-in-law’s first home. John could always be counted on to help his kids with their home remodeling projects. He also loved tree houses, building one for his grandkids and a two-story treehouse at his home.

When grandchildren came along, John loved to spend time on the lake, jet skiing, fishing, water skiing and taking the kids to get ice cream. According to Grandpa Linnen, you could never have enough ice cream.

John loved working out at the Racquet Facility at Ferris, where he always started his day with an hour on the Stairmaster or a game of tennis. He then began his day teaching. John loved teaching and enjoyed working with students until his retirement in 2010 after 40 years at Ferris.

In 2010, John married his wife Shelly, who survives. Also surviving are his daughter, Kelly (Tim) Thebo of Big Rapids, his sons, Dan (Dianne) Linnen of West Bloomfield, MI, and David (Valarie) Linnen of Chippewa Lake, MI; stepchildren Ryan (Stacey) Adams of East Lansing, Nathan (Kathleen) Adams of Rodney, Brandon (Rachel) Adams of White Cloud, and Collin (Kelly) Grunst of Big Rapids; grandchildren Jessica (Wes) McGinnis, Megan (Adam) Turner, Sarah (Luke) Anglemire, Nick and Kathryn Linnen, Tim and Hope Thebo, John David Linnen, Ainsley, Regan and Barret Adams, Logan, Blake, Jakob and Kayelynn Adams, Jacob, Evie, and Ethan Adams and five great-grandchildren; three brothers, Lt. Colonel James (Gaby) Linnen of Lewes, DE, Tom Linnen of Scottsdale, AZ, and Patrick (Nancy) Linnen of Southport, NC.

John was preceded in death by his parents, his sister-in-law Jan Linnen, and an infant daughter, Colleen.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign John’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:

Cremation arrangements are entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, 616-452-3006.


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10 Condolences

  1. Barb (Carpenter) & Jim Stehle on January 1, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    Very sorry for your loss Shelley. Keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  2. Mary Moore on January 2, 2021 at 8:37 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about John’s passing. My late husband Dave, and I spent a lot of time with him while students at UWO in Wisconsin. He was a groomsman in our wedding in 1965. We lost touch, but I am delighted to know more about his life. Much to be proud of.
    Mary Moore
    Oshkosh, Wisconsin

  3. Bruce L Beetley on January 3, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    My deepest sympathy to the Linnen family. John and I hunted and fished together, played sports together, shared many responsibilities at FSC/FSU, and socialized together. He was a great guy with a great sense of humor and he will be missed by all of us.

  4. Nancy Hogan on January 7, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    My prayers to John’s family. He was a wonderful professor and was well liked by his students. I would like to thank him for his wonderful life of service. He devoted almost his entire life to educating others to make their lives better. His kindness, dedication, and love for his family will be missed. BRAJHA and Big Rapids Hockey as well as Ferris hockey and all the families that participated in hockey appreciated his time and effort in establishing these organizations. God speed! Nancy

  5. Bahodir Siddikov on January 7, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    Dear Shelly and Linnen Family. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept my deepest and most sincere condolences. John was one of the most friendly and caring faculty members of our department. He loved his students and colleagues. John was always there to help everybody in everything. He had big heart for everybody. He was a good man. I will always remember him as a dear friend with big smile on his face. Rest in peace my dear friend.

    Dr. Bahodir Siddikov,
    Professor of Mathematics, FSU

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