GRAND RAPIDS — James Joseph Cwengros, age 54, and his wife, Rita Antoinette (Fleis) Cwengros, age 53, of Grand Rapids, entered eternal life together on Jan. 11, 2013, after sustaining injuries in a tragic automobile accident while serving on the Holy Spirit/Haiti Needs You medical mission in Haiti.
They were preceded in death by Jim's parents, Elmer and Betty (Boss) Cwengros; his brother, Michael Cwengros; and Rita's parents, Edward and Irene (Lamie) Fleis.
The most important aspect of Jim and Rita's lives was their faith and their family. They are survived and will be dearly missed by their three children, Eric (Roni) Cwengros, of Wyoming, Andrew Cwengros and Laura Cwengros, of Grand Rapids; their two grandchildren, Jesse and Esme; five step-grandchildren, Randie, Jacie, Jade, Ryanne and Ralye; and a step-great-grandchild, Damien.
Also surviving are Jim's family members; sister-in-law, Kathy Cwengros, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Paul (Doris) Cwengros, of Grosse Pointe, Susan (Michael) Hagen, of Chesterfield, Nancy Phillips, of Waterford, and Mary (Peter) Bolton, of Royal Oak.
Rita was the youngest of 12 children. Her surviving siblings are Ruth Ann Smith, of Suttons Bay, Juliette (Raymond) Watkoski, of Grand Rapids, Edward (Barbara) Fleis, of Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., Mary Jane (Roger) Steup, of Auburn, Ind., Ted (Mary Lou) Fleis, of Grand Rapids, James (Doris) Fleis, of Rogers City, Bernadette (Ken) Denoyer, of Cedar, Larry (Jackie) Fleis, of Ada, Shirley Mikowski, of Cedar, Joan (Dale) Gauthier, of Cedar, and Noreen (Tom) Savage, of Walker.
Rita and Jim will also be lovingly remembered by many nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts, uncles and dear friends.
Jim was born on May 1, 1958, in Detroit. Rita was born on June 14, 1959, in Northport. They were high school sweethearts, attending Glen Lake High School in Glen Arbor, Jim graduating in 1976 and Rita in 1977. The couple married on Sept. 15, 1979, at Holy Rosary Church in Cedar. Continuing their educations, Jim earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of North Carolina. Rita received her RN after completing studies at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. During these school years, they moved 10 times in 10 years, finally settling in Grand Rapids, where they raised their family and became actively involved with their church, community and the world.
Jim was employed by Pfizer International as a regional medical research specialist. He was a member of the Holy Spirit Ushers Club and the 5-Man Cigar Club and will be remembered for his gentle, kind nature, quick wit, outstanding cooking and conflicted sports loyalty between UNC, MSU and U of M.
Rita was a prayer warrior and will be remembered for her spark and fun personality, long walks and talks, engaging smile, creativity and love for all. She was a regular volunteer at Health Intervention Services in Grand Rapids and strong supporter of Right to Life. She served on the Board of Directors for the Ed and Irene Fleis Education Fund and was a force in getting the traffic light at Oakleigh and Lake Michigan Drive, as well as the center lane from Covell to Collindale.
Rita and Jim believed in giving and sharing their time and talents. The needy in Haiti held a special place in their hearts. It was Jim's fifth and Rita's third mission trip to Haiti, and they were part of the relief efforts when the earthquake hit in 2010. Besides their active involvement with the medical missions, they also served as Scoutmasters with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. Passionate about Catholic education, they served at numerous West Catholic and Holy Spirit events and committees, most notably, the West Catholic Band Boosters.
A Mass of Christian Burial and Committal will be celebrated Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Holy Spirit Church. Jim and Rita's families will receive visitors Monday from 3 to 9 p.m. at the church. A rosary will be prayed at 3 p.m .A time of sharing will take place from 8 to 9 p.m. Please note, visitation is at Holy Spirit Church. Interment will be in St. Philip Cemetery, Empire, in the spring.
Memorial contributions may be directed to the Ed and Irene Fleis Education Fund, 6060 Grand Haven Road, Norton Shores, Michigan 49441; Boy Scouts of America, Gerald R. Ford Council, 3213 Walker Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49544; or Haiti Needs You, PO Box 140532, Grand Rapids, MI 49514.
To share a memory of Jim and Rita or to write a note to the family, please visit www.arsulowiczbrothers.com.
Arrangements are by Arsulowicz Brothers Remembrance Mortuary.