Lifelong Macomb Township resident and local legend Joachim William Penzien died Monday at the age of 97.
Those who did not know Joa personally will no doubt recognize the Penzien name, which has given itself to subdivisions, street names, golf courses and a one-time booming potato farm in the township.
“He’s been a mainstay in this town for a very long time,” said Roger Krzeminski, family friend and township trustee. “He was quite a guy. Being almost 100 years old, just think of what he has seen.”
Born on March 21, 1914, Penzien entered the world before Babe Ruth played in his first major league game and World War I began.
Penzien would earn his nickname, “Mr. Potato,” from his expert knowledge gained through work on his family's farm. At one time, Penzien Farms covered some 315 acres of land in Macomb Township.
Penzien, who was a longtime member of the Michigan and National Potato Council and Macomb County Farm Bureau, was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Potatoes in the 1960s by President John F. Kennedy. In 1978, he was recognized by Michigan State University for his Distinguished Service to Agriculture and received the Golden Potato Award from the National Potato Board.
But outside of farming, Penzien was also deeply involved in his community. He ran for township supervisor in 1957, and though he lost that race, he maintained an active role in township government by serving as a member of the township’s Planning Commission for some 20 years.
A lifelong member of , Penzien married his wife, Beatrice Viola Bock, there on Dec. 12, 1942, and served as an elder for many years.
“My takeaway from Mr. Penzien is that he was a great, great family man and part of the social fabric of Macomb Township,” said William Oehmke, family friend. “He was a great conversationalist, and for a long time if you really wanted to find him, you would have found him on a stool at Cracklewood (Golf Course, which was built on Penzien land).”
For Clerk Michael Koehs, who served with Penzien on the Planning Commission, Penzien’s passing means a significant loss in township history.
“Joa will be missed,” Koehs said. “He contributed to the community and his ability to have at his disposal everything that had happened in the recallable past … it was just great to have that type of a resource on our Planning Commission. He will be truly missed. He was a good man.”
Penzien died at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township on Monday, Sept. 12. Joa is survived by his wife, Beatrice; children, Janet (Jerry) Stange of Macomb Township, Judie (Harry) Kreger of Washington Township, Jim Penzien of Macomb Township and Richard (Mildred) Reinhold of Macomb Township; brother, Arthur Penzien of Macomb Township; sister, Wilma Wangelin of Washington Township; grandchildren, Lisa (Gregg) Matkin, Cindy (Michael) Hubbard, Kim (Josh) Etheridge, Chris (Linda) Kreger, Mike Kreger, Katie (Rob PhD) Padzro, Derek (Kris) Penzien, Jasen (Sue) Penzien, Jared (Barb) Penzien, Jimmy (Carrie) Penzien and Amy Kogelmann; and 20 great-grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his parents, William C. and Emma M. (nee Schoof) Penzien, and siblings, Dorothy Wilde, William Penzien and Helen Penzien.
- Wednesday 2 p.m.-8 p.m. at
- Thursday 10 a.m.-11 a.m. at
- In lieu of flowers, memorials would be appreciated to St. Peter Lutheran Church - Joa Penzien Memorial Fund.
- Thursday 11 a.m. at St. Peter Lutheran Church. The and the Rev. Matthew Baye will officiate. Burial will follow in St. Peter Lutheran Cemetery.