Dr. Richard Ilka passed away on March 23, 2021 at the age of 78. Richard was born on July 21, 1942, in New York City to the late Arvo and Hilkka Ilka. He will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 34 years, Susan Ilka. His adult family consists of daughter Lisa Abrams and sons Ben and Nick of Tucson, Arizona and sister Elizabeth Ilka of Victoria, B.C., Canada. His immediate family in loving remembrance consists of step daughter, Rachel, and Don Veldink and son Chase and daughter Autumn of Holland, Michigan. He is also lovingly remembered by stepdaughter, Sharon, and Dr. Jeffrey Sikkenga and grandchildren, Rhys and Raina, of Ashland, Ohio. His stepson, Mark Savellano, and wife, Dr. Dagmar, and grandchildren Andres, Tirza, and Justine of Hanover, N.H. are also included in this remembrance. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Douglas, and his sister, Susan of Detroit, MI.
Dr. Ilka grew up in Detroit and attended Wayne State University. After graduation he joined the Navy. Facing the draft for service in Vietnam, he attended Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I. and was sent to the Naval Academy as a math professor. His dream was to attend medical school and he was accepted by Stanford Medical School in 1973. He continued his studies at Westminster Medical School in London, England and at Cambridge University. In 1975 he received at MPH degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He became a surgery intern at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and was certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine and Occupational and Environmental Health in 1979. He became chief of Emergency Medicine at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati moving to the Associate Director of Laboratories for New York State. Following that he became Director for Health and Environmental Systems in Phoenix, AZ. After that he filled a number of Medical Director positions for Marathon Oil Co. and Motorola Semiconductor. Coming to Grand Rapids in 1993, he joined Butterworth Occupational Health and directed four of their facilities. In 1994 he formed Corporate Occupational Health for consulting and doing independent medical exams. He obtained certification to perform required medical exams for pilots for their FAA licensure, which he continued until the end of 2020. He also was working on a pioneering form of pain treatment called Calmare but never got to publish and promote it as he had hoped. During all these years he stayed with the Navy and was called up to serve as a Battalion Surgeon, U.S. Marine Corps to be the Commanding Officer of the Navy medical detachment in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. In 1993 he served as the Commanding Officer at the Grand Rapids Reserve Center for four years, retiring as Commander, Medical Corps, US Navy in October 1997. He served as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, MSU College of Human Medicine. Some of the awards he received were the Bausch and Lomb Science Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and the National Environmental Partnership Award for rescuing wildlife in Saudi Arabia. He also had several publications in his name.
Dr. Ilka was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church on Lake Dr. for more than 20 years. He enjoyed sailing his North Star on White Lake and Lake Michigan. He aspired to a perfect golf game. He relaxed at his White Lake condo on Murray Road near the light house. And he loved walking his dog, a schnauzer named Heidi, around the neighborhood in Cascade.
A memorial visitation will be held at the Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Home on Tuesday April 6th from 2-4 and 6-8pm. The memorial service will be held at 2:00 P.M. Wednesday April 7, 2021 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1100 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506. Burial will be in Cascade Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Trinity United Methodist Church, the Boy Scouts, MSU College of Human Medicine, and the medical charity of your choice.
To send flowers to Richard's family, please visit our floral store.