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John H. Tow, Sr., age 82, formerly of Crystal and Clifford Lake, passed away peacefully into the arms of Jesus at home on Thursday, November 19, 2020, under the loving care of Laurie and his family.

The son of Merle & Clela (Race) Tow, he was born on May 6, 1938 in Grand Rapids. On October 7, 1961, he married Barbara Ann Greenhoe and together they enjoyed 48 years of marriage and raised two children. John was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Barbara (Greenhoe) Tow in 2009; and infant son, David Mark Tow in 1969.

Surviving are his “Sweetie” of eight years, Laurie Bowen; his children, Johnny H. & Kelly Tow, II of White Cloud; Jackie Tow-Zerka of Stanton; six grandchildren including Sarah “too pretty for a nickname” Tow, Joshua “Dozer” Tow, Jacob “Hammer” Tow & Sarah VanderMeer, Katie “too pretty for a nickname” & Travis “Traverse” Johnson, Eric “Tractor” & Chelle Zerka, Benjamin “Boomer” Zerka & Katelynn Epple; great-grandson Rowan “Pumpkin Seed” Tow; two brothers,  Norm & Christi Tow of Chippewa Lake, and Dick & Sharon Tow of Florida; one sister, Shirley & Fritz Strautz of Stanton; siblings-in-law, Betty & Rev. Jim Wilcox of Greenville, Ronald Greenhoe, and Wilber Jr. & Laura Greenhoe, all of Sheridan; and many, many nieces, nephews, and cousins; and especially the family of Laurie Bowen.

John began his career in retail with Tow’s Leonard Service, a gas station in Crystal that he ran with his father, which he later converted into a convenience store. John and Barb worked together with their family in many of their business ventures including the Paris Hardware & Grocery, Crystal Hardware, Brookside Dairy Freeze in Big Rapids, Tow’s General Store in Crystal, as well as several family rental properties. What made John unique was that he genuinely loved talking with people and made every person feel special; he remembered your name, he remembered your story, and he always had a smile. Even in retirement he delighted in being the official greeter at his son’s stores at Lincoln Lake and Coral and we salute those that survived his Handshake of Steel!

John’s last years were filled with love as he and Laurie enjoyed each other’s company greatly. When they were not driving the roads in his golf cart bottle hunting, they enjoyed spending time together playing cards, visiting with friends and family, and spending time at Little Rainbow Lake. But, if you knew John, you know his biggest delight after his grandchildren and newest great grand was in cheering for his Spartans! Go Green! Go White! We will miss him greatly.

Due to current state orders, a private graveside service for immediate family will be held at Evergreen Township Cemetery near Sheridan. A celebration of life will be held in the future when COVID restrictions are more forgiving. Instead of flowers, contributions in memory of John to Spectrum Health Hospice would be appreciated as we can not say enough about the loving care their team provided to John and our family throughout this journey.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign John’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:  Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Christiansen’s Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Greenville, (616) 754-5638.


Let the family know you care by sharing this tribute.


  1. Jan Halstead on November 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Oh so sad.. love to all of the family during your time is sorrow.. he was a great man.

  2. Pete and Nancy Luckurst on November 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Being able to call John friend is such an honor. That friendship goes back 60 yrs. If you were in a bad mood or were feeling down when you went into Tow’s General Store in Crystal it was almost guaranteed you would come out laughing if John was behind the counter. If you needed something on a Sunday when other stores were closed you could almost bank on John having it in his store. John made such a positive impact in the lives of so many people, young and old. John Tow will be so missed by so many many people. May God Bless and hold his family close in his loving arms during this time of loss. We will keep you in our prayers. Nancy (Pearl) (Sherwood) Luckhurst

  3. Shirley Dukes on November 20, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    I have known John Tow, for years, long before my Cousin Barbie married him! He has always been so outgoing! Rip! Praying 🙏 for the family! One Day we will all meet again! Love you Johnny, Kelly, Jackie, and all of your Children!

  4. Sandy Cole on November 20, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Loved coming to Tows and grandpa Tow was handing out pop and candy for Halloween. He always gave me a big hug 💙
    Loved that man❣️

  5. Jeff and Julie Tompsett on November 20, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    John will be be dearly missed. We enjoyed him stopping over to have his golf cart worked on and telling us such great stories about his life. John was a complete joy to stop by and visit with.

  6. Ron Zerka Jr on November 20, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    By the sounds of his Obituary, he was an All around Great Man. So very sorry for your loss. You All are in my Prayers!!

  7. Peter and Tracy Vandermeer on November 20, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    What a beautiful life and a beautiful family. One of the best well-written tributes I’ve ever seen. So much love and family history. Our love and prayers to the Tow family during this difficult time.

  8. Deb Zerba Webber on November 20, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    Jackie i am so sorry you are going thru this part of life.. losing your dad is a very hard thing to do. I will, along with Brian, will remember your dad … he surely made sure us kids had fun!! Even getting out of bed to open his store!! Lolol
    My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.

  9. Mike Foley on November 20, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    John was a great friend. I bought my first shotgun from him at the Crystal hardware. That was 55 years ago. Johns hunting stories were the best. I can’t tell you how many times he’d show me he could kick himself in the butt. My condolences to Little John and Jackie and all the grandkids. If there truly is a happy hunting ground John will fit right in.

  10. Roxanne on November 20, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    John was a great person. He remembered everything whenever he saw me he would ask if I had the rest of his dishes.
    He will be missed by a lot of people. R I P John Tow

  11. Annette Blum on November 20, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    John was such a funny guy could make you laugh. Our family Reunions he would call numbers for bingo and make it funny. He will be missed. Sending prayers for his children and grandchildren and close friends . Love you guys . Annette Blum

  12. Dawn on November 20, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Sending Thoughts and Prayers to the Tow Family!
    ❤ Dawn & Bernie

  13. Jim & Betty on November 20, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Goodbye for now John, our hearts are filled with so many fun memories of you. When I got the phone call yesterday I couldn’t stop crying, we loved you so much John, and one day we will see you again. God bless you Johnny, Jackie and families. We care deeply. Jim & Betty Wilcox

  14. Elizabeth Wight and David Wight on November 20, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    My husband grew up across the road from John. John was older than my husband so they did not hang together but they knew each other very well. John was a friendly and jolly person. He loved to talk and tell stories. I have only know John for the past 10 years. He was a pleasure to know. John and Lori would always stop in for a visit and some Banana bread. We will miss those visits. The good ones pass to quickly.

  15. Megan Ledin on November 20, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    When I think of stories with Uncle John I laugh, yet as I type, the memories make me cry. So much fun selling signs, laughing at his tall tales, enjoying his bargains, and listening to Aunt Barb put him in his place. I always just felt good when we were together. Love you so much and am happy you are with Aunt Barb. I know she has been waiting for you!! Much love to my amazing cousins!!!

  16. Kristine on November 20, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    What a beautiful life! As a friend of a family member, I am confident he will live on in the love and laughter of his beautiful family.

  17. Karen Williams on November 20, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    RIP John! You have been a good friend thruout the years! I will look forward to seeing you again ! You were always a caring person and always had a smile and a story! Blessing to all your children and grandchildren! Love you all!

  18. Pamela Helder on November 20, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    What a wonderful guy John was! I always looked forward to seeing him at Tows when I went to my dad’s house nearby! Always happy and I was blessed to know him! God bless your family!

  19. Rachel Geselman on November 20, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    I was honored to have cooked for John at one of Sheridan Assembly Fund Raiser Events. It was a good time. He enjoyed the football presentation that I put together. 🌹

  20. Elizabeth Hathaway on November 20, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    So so glad I got to know Papa. I loved listening to him and watching the love he had for his family. What a great display of love and family. I love you all ❤️

  21. Carolyn Hansen on November 21, 2020 at 4:56 am

    We are sorry to see John has passed away. We remember him well from when we used to go into Tows and he was standing in there greeting people. ( And making sure everyone was working !😄) RIP – you will be missed. Carolyn and Marcus Hansen

  22. Donna Wight Kidder on November 21, 2020 at 7:12 am

    So sorry Norman, Dick, Shirley, Laurie, little John, and Jackie to hear about John. Lots of memories about our families growing up together on neighboring farms and going to Spencer and Crystal schools together. Was always a pleasure when we would see and visit with John as he and I went to school together in the same grade. Enjoyed the stories we could share. Remember the good ones.

  23. Eddie Koutz on November 21, 2020 at 7:51 am

    John Tow, everyone knew him. Every time that you see a green address house number sign, John most likely sold it to them. He could sell a feather to an Indian. He told me that he just loved working at the Crystal Party Store, people kept bringing him money. RIP John.

  24. Diane (Scheid) Montague on November 21, 2020 at 8:23 am

    My grandma Wells would take me to help pick berries in Grant Center & afterwards she always treated me to lunch @ The Tastes Freeze.Mr.Tow always had a huge smile on his face & a kind words for all who went there.My grandma thought VERY highly of him!! My deepest sympathies to all his loved ones! Fly high Me. Tow & say hello to dad & grandma & grandpa Wells for me

  25. Diane (Scheid) Montague on November 21, 2020 at 8:24 am

    My grandma Wells would take me to help pick berries in Grant Center & afterwards she always treated me to lunch @ The Tastes Freeze.Mr.Tow always had a huge smile on his face & a kind words for all who went there.My grandma thought VERY highly of him!! My deepest sympathies to all his loved ones! Fly high Mr. Tow & say hello to dad & grandma & grandpa Wells for me

  26. Jackie Gibbons on November 21, 2020 at 9:23 am

    RIP John going to miss see you at the lake I know you and Gary Reer are up in heaven together sorry to the family for ur loss jackie Gibbons Nancy Reer Judy DeVore

  27. patricia nelson on November 21, 2020 at 9:27 am

    So sorry for your loss. He was such a great guy. Going to miss him visiting at our garage sales.

  28. Tina Garcia on November 21, 2020 at 11:29 am

    John was a really nice man and I am sorry to hear of the loss of a father, grandfather and friend to so many.

    Our condolences,

    The Garcia and Clements families

  29. Mary Fish on November 21, 2020 at 11:52 am

    So sad to hear about Papa John…He was such a happy man…always picking on everyone who walked through the door at the store…and most people would give it right back to him..loved his laugh!! He was the best darn greeter ever!! To the Tow family, I hope all the wonderful memories will help you through this hard time.. He is with Barb now ..(who he talked about with all his heart)…I bet he is with her now… he always cared about everyone that came into the store..he had the biggest heart and his hand shake will never be forgotten! sending hugs and prayers.. He is your Angel watching over you now. God Bless..

  30. Henrietta DuBreuil (Sanders) on November 21, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I have so many fond memories of Johnny and Barbara growing up. They always had smiles and positive words for me. Johnny and my dad could spend hours telling stories about their childhood adventures, but the one that stands out is about the bus and Crystal Lake. Johnny will forever be in my heart. Give a big bear hug to dad and Barbara for me, Johnny.

  31. David & Marie Linder on November 22, 2020 at 9:18 am

    So sorry to hear about John’s passing. Thoughts & prayer to the family.

    David & Marie Linder

  32. Joanne withey on November 23, 2020 at 11:06 am

    I lived in crystal all my life i remember tows general store..him and his family was so pleasant. If he didnt have it in the store he would order it…thought and prayers go out to his laurie bowen and her family…prayers sent ..joanne nickels(withey).

  33. Deb Nieman & family on November 24, 2020 at 7:28 am

    John was a “Icon” inCrystal. Everyone knew him & his family. Always opening the store early in the morning before the sun would rise & late into the late,late hours at night. Holidays, snowdats, you could always rely on them. I remember taking a plate of food or baked goods in on holidays to thank them for always being so special to our community of Crystal. A true legend will be remember into many history books. Virual hugs n prayers to his family, n ya all know hes still smiling 💖 on his celebration of life.

  34. Pam neumann on November 24, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Remembering John, the many adventures through the years. I’ve known Shirley & Fritz since we moved to Stanton.Prayers for the Tow Family.
    God Bless you All!
    Pam & Phil neumann

  35. Amy & Matt Clementz on November 27, 2020 at 12:50 am

    So sorry to read this tonight, Matthew & I rented from John & Barb , practically in their backyard. They made you feel like family and always watched out for our little family. I have to say we enjoyed watching them work together around their house , in their garden and yard. I’m sure they are already working on a project together. RIP John & prayers to the family 🙏🏻

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