Life Story / Obituary
Thomas (Tom) Theodore Kobza, 80, of Traverse City died Monday, February 20 ,2023. He was born October 23, 1942 to Joseph and Marie (Carey) Kobza in Muskegon.
Joseph was a Logistics Manager for Sheldon’s Office Furniture and Marie was a 3rd grade teacher. Tom was one of 8 children, his siblings are Joan, Jim, Mary, Bill, Kathleen, Mike, and Diane.
As a teen, Tom enjoyed squirrel hunting especially with his brother Mike. As a big brother to his younger sister, Diane, Tom made sure she knew what it was like being the youngest child. He was always teasing her and continued to do so until she was able to defend herself. They were very close through their adult years. When Tom was 16 or 17 he went on a road trip to California and got to see the Pacific Ocean, a story he would pass on to his kids. As Tom got into his Adult years he enjoyed going to deer camp. He was always an explorer. Tom would regularly travel on back roads just to see where they went. This was prevalent throughout his entire life..
Out of high school, he went to a Seminary College in Chicago to be a Catholic Priest, he would find this was not his path. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids before earning his Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan. Tom specialized in Licensing of Adult Foster Care Homes and was a Subject Matter Expert of Recipient Rights in the State of Michigan…
He was extremely devoted to those he served as a Social Worker. Tom made it a point to know all of the residents of the AFC homes by name. He even would take over visits for Deacon Rene while Rene was out of town. Through his career, he performed a lot of Jail Ministry in Traverse City. Later in life, he was a Eucharistic Minister through St. Patrick’s for the homebound Parishioners. He also brought the Eucharist to people in the jail. Tom retired from the State of Michigan after 25 years of work, though his work did not stop. He continued to show his love for social work by working with Community Mental Health and Lutheran Social Services. He finally retired after another 10 years.
Tom was an explorer, adventurer, always curious, a seeker of God’s Truth, and an avid learner. He was all about the “Kobza” family! Tom was a very spiritual man who was extremely devoted to his Christian beliefs. He had a love for astronomy, having many walks or sitting outside on the deck pointing out constellations.
Tom had a unique way of referring to any type of remote, he would call them a Flea Flicker. He would also say “You Oughtta” do this or that. He would refer to his travels downstate as “Safaris.” You could find Tom pulling his glasses to the tip of his nose, pounding his fists on the table saying “Doncha know who I Am?” always referring to being part of the Kobza clan. He loved Hank Williams Sr. and any type of Polka music. As far as football: University of Michigan and Muskegon Catholic!
He loved gardening, he was always a farm boy at heart. He also loved history, classic literature, astronomy, and swimming in the bay. His favorite place to go was Big Boy. For years he would go there every morning and night for a cup of coffee to meet up with his buddies.
Every Saturday he would take Carol and Jacob there for dinner. After COVID, he started going to Speedway by the mall every morning to get his coffee. He then would go to the Marina and listen to his favorite radio sermons.
Tom had a huge AA family. He was sober for 42 years! He was considered an “Old Timer” This was a huge influence in his life and helped cultivate the new man he became!
Some stories from Julia.
Dad and Carol had Winnie the Pooh stuffies on their bed. Whenever they wanted to be goofy, they would pull the stuffie of their choice and bring them out and talk like them in front of ANYONE that was there! Hilarious!
Dad played the piano. He had one for YEARS! I remember as a little girl, Dad playing for hours! He’d put us on the bench next to him and taught us Chopsticks so we could duet with him!
In the summer, Dad would bring us (Jeff, Colleen, and I) to Interlochen Arts Academy. Back then, we could wander the rehearsal rooms and Dad would always play the piano in one of the rooms. During Summer evenings, he’d bring us there to sit outside and listen to the open air concerts.
- Some stories from Jeff.
An early funny memory of Dad and I was when I probably was 4 or 5 year’s old and we were living in Muskegon. Dad was in the drive-way and I was upset and returning from across the street from the neighbors kids house. As Dad was asking me to explain what was going on I had inadvertently used one of the “spicey” words I had recently learned. Before I knew it, I was in the bathroom with what seemed to be the largest bar of soap tucked neatly in my mouth. He was quick with love but quicker with correction.
Throughout our early childhood, Dad seemed larger than life, always surrounded by our Uncles and Aunts and so many wonderful cousins that thought the world of Dad. He was playful and engaging and created lifelong memories that truly painted the story of his life.
All of the cousins and us learned that to survive the Elders you had to be crafty and fast. Uncle Tom, being the youngest boy of the Elder’s and close to his nephews/nieces had been instructing his nephew Craig on how to do a Judo flip for just such an occasion. Craig instantly applied this new knowledge to an unaware Uncle Mike. Craig quickly found that follow through and Uncle Mike’s weight led to a dog pile with him at the bottom. The noise had alerted Grandma who only witnessed Uncle Mike piled upon this innocent victim which quickly led to a broom whooping. All of us gleefully deployed the second valuable lesson, Perception equals reality.
Our early childhood was full of memories from our visitations, laughter, fun and most of all the love of our missed family. We made the rounds as if on a circuit, Aunt Mary’s , Aunt Joan and Uncle Jim to have fun with Judy and Doug, Aunt Diane’s to play in Austin Lake, Uncle Bill and Aunt Judy, Uncle Mike and Aunt Cheri , with the crescendo and favorite to be at Uncle Jim’s Duck Lake family party where everyone including Uncle John and Aunt Kathleen with all of our cousins would be there, and on occasion a distant family member from Poland.
The family party was the pinnacle of knowledge transfer for the cousins. Older cousins taught younger ones the art of harassing the elders, escape and evasion, psychological warfare, and story crafting. All while ensuring a safe training environment, i.e. when to not engage the elders. Dad was insistent that this was a necessary part of love and family.
Some stories from Colleen.
My favorite memory with my Dad is when I told him I was getting married and asked him to give me away. Dad had only been out of Michigan one time so this was a BIG ask, since I was in Whidbey Island, Washington. Dad did not hesitate, he and his good friend jumped in the car and drove 24 hours straight to be there for us. It was an amazing day and I am so happy he was there for me. The last time I saw Dad a week before my 28th anniversary, we reminisced about that incredible journey he took for me.
Some stories for Patrick from Julia.
Dad went religiously to Patrick’s Jr high and High School football games both home and away in Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Traverse City. Patrick was (in his own words) “A Daddy’s Boy” they talked to each other very often.
Stories from Jacob:
Dad will be incredibly missed but never forgotten. I will see him in the small things all around me, the flowers in the gardens he inspired me to grow, the corney honkey tonk music he loved, the birds he fed and watched during winter, to the stillness of the calm starry summers nights breaking to the sympathy of fiddling crickets and firefly sparkles. I know you're not gone and I will see you again. THANK YOU GOD I cannot express this enough. I have seen the power of your works through the many lives my father touched by his very presence.
The night Tom learned of his son Patrick’s death, he had a severe stroke. He has several mini strokes afterwards. The family held vigil with him throughout the week until he finally passed on peacefully.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Carol Kobza; his children, Julia Kobza, Jeff (Alisa) Kobza, Colleen (Craig) Esakson and Jacob Kobza; daughter-in-law, Jill Kobza; his 10 grandchildren, Aimee Yeater, Codie Michael, Haleigh Kobza, Rhylan Kobza, Robert Esakson, Michael Esakson, Katie Cavner, Megan Esakson, Mason Kobza, and Taylor Kobza; his 5 great-grandchildren, Rileigh, Metzli, Ayden, Izabella, and Noah; his siblings, Kathleen (John) Rajkovacz and Diane (Dan) O’Neill; and 35 nieces and nephews and their families.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Marie (Carey) Kobza; his siblings, Joan (Kobza) Hefferan, Jim Kobza, and Mary (Kobza) Brown, Bill Kobza, and Mike Kobza; and his son, Patrick Kobza.
A Memorial mass will be held 11 am, Saturday, March 11, 2023 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. The family will greet friends starting at 10 am. Please visit www.lifestorytc.com to share your thoughts and more. The family chose Life Story Funeral Home