Bonnie and Ted ConradTed Conrad, a long time area businessman, athletic coach and co-founder of the gospel music group The Heralders, died Thursday May 8 following a short hospitalization. He was 83.
The Grand Rapids native leaves a multi-faceted legacy with family, music fans, area athletes and his role in retirement as an administrator for his Newhall Reformed Church in Wyoming.
That’s where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday May 12 (further details below).
Conrad is probably best known in the community for his music. He sang lead vocals with The Heralders for 42 years before retiring from the group in 2005. The ensemble recorded well over a dozen albums and in its heyday performed as many as 40 weekends per year.
“Singing with the quartet was some of the best music of my life,” recalled Dete Tilma, who was the tenor voice with The Heralders for 14 years.
“I loved singing high tenor above Ted, because he had such a strong lead that I never had to worry about drowning him out,” he noted.
Conrad was a father figure to him, according to Tilma, 61. “The fellowship we had in the group was always good,” he said.
Tilma, who is part of the worship music team at Pathway Church in Byron Center, will sing at the funeral service.
A ROCKY ROAD OF HEALTH
Conrad’s voice weakened in his later years – he first had vocal cord surgery in 1988. Eventually his voice turned raspy, a factor in stepping down from the group. In fact, Ted and his wife Bonnie with their seven children all helped battle his numerous health challenges. He endured five heart attacks.
There were several periods when he had to take a break from singing. Heart bypass surgery in 1993 came a year before a stroke that kept him in a coma for more than a month.
Along the way he required a feeding tube for an extended period. For the last number of years he’s lived with significant kidney problems, requiring dialysis treatments.
“Toward the end it was just one thing that led to another and then another,” said his son Rick Conrad. “He finally got too weak.”
Rick did a lot of coaching with his father over the years, and was a player-coach on Ted’s Conrad-Patterson softball team that won three state championships and eventually placed Ted in the Michigan Softball Hall of Fame.
The elder Conrad was also the first ever football coach at Calvin Christian High School which started competing in the sport in the early 1970s.
“He always brought out the best in people – especially in his coaching, guys always wanted to play so hard for him,” Rick recalled.
“The number one thing you can say about being a good coach is when your players come back and talk to you years later – and they always did.”
A WRITTEN LEGACY
Conrad’s life story is documented in the book “Ted Conrad: Through It All,” a biography published by Westbow Press (c. 2012) and written by local author Carl Conrad (no relation).
The volume chronicles Ted’s early years – a star athlete at Kellogsville High School who played semi-pro baseball for the local Chic Paint team.
After a four-year hitch in the Air Force (during which he sang in several USO shows), he returned to the Grand Rapids area. He continued his involvement in sports, and coached a youth recreation football team in Wyoming Park.
He started The Heralders in 1963 with bass singer Bill Sterk, who is still with the group.
Conrad’s “retirement” job was as administrator at his Newhall Reformed Church. He helped steer the congregation through a difficult pastoral transition before the arrival of current pastor Dan Kroeze.
The book includes tributes from all seven Conrad children and numerous grandchildren. (The Ted and Bonnie family tree now numbers 85 when even the great-great grandkids and all the family spouses are included).
There’s also a listing of Heralders albums and songs, plus a solo album released in 2010 of Ted’s “Special Favorites.” Included are some of his best-loved songs such as “Prayer Is The Key To Heaven” and “The Haven of Rest.”
In an interview last year, Ted explained that the title of the book (“Through It All”) is taken from an Andrae Crouch song that summarized his life’s testimony: God has faithfully taken him through all of life’s ups and downs.
“The book opened my eyes to how blessed I really am,” he said.
Note: Funeral arrangements are being handled by Cook Funeral Services, 4235 Prairie St. SW in Grandville. (www.cookfamilycares.com).
Visitation is 2 to 4 p.m and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday May 10, and 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday May 11 at the funeral home.
The funeral service is 11 a.m. Monday May 12 at Newhall Reformed Church, 3764 Byron Center Ave. SW.