John P. Kivela


John Peter Kivela

Date of Birth: May 14, 1969
Date of Death: May 9, 2017

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” (Abraham Lincoln).
MARQUETTE, MI – LANSING, MI – John Peter Kivela, age 47, and Upper Peninsula State Representative, passed away Tuesday, May 9, 2017, in Lansing, following a struggle with alcohol addiction.
Born May 14, 1969, in Marquette, a son of Bruce and Patricia (Hruska) Kivela, John was raised in Marquette, graduating from Marquette Senior High School, Class of 1987. Following graduation, John went to work at his father’s business, Marquette Automotive, and later was employed as general manager of Jon’s Auto. John had a tremendous zeal for community service and serving people. Always hands on, he sought to make things better even if changes had to be made. He was an active member of the Marquette Rotary Club, served on the Marquette City Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, and served Marquette as mayor from 2008-2012. One of the highlights of his career came in 2011 when President Barak Obama visited the city. John felt so proud and fortunate to be the official Marquette tour guide for the president. He always enjoyed recalling two events which occurred on that tour. The first came when a Secret Service agent summoned him, at the president’s request, to join the president inside Donckers. John was humbled entering Donckers with the President of the United States holding the door open for him. The second highlight came minutes later when the president invited John to accompany him to Northern Michigan University in the presidential limousine. You can imagine John’s delight, as a former car salesman, to ride inside the most illustrious vehicle on planet Earth! No, he didn’t touch the red button, but related that this heavily armored car was much too cramped for two tall men. In 2012, John was elected to serve as Upper Peninsula State Representative for the 109th House District, a position he currently held. The Yooper kid with the big, engaging smile, and passion for fixing things was off to Lansing. There, he exhibited his ability to work with people, both political parties, disgruntled and adoring constituents, and bring about effective change. He was proud to serve as Minority Vice-Chairman, Minority Whip, and on the Natural Resource Committee and Energy Policy Committee. He wasn’t afraid to bargain, plead, or use stubborn determination on issues he felt passionate about. He never forgot that he represented the people, all the people, and was willing to learn from as well as mentor those he worked with daily. He knew his role as a public servant, was dedicated, always with an open door policy, and knew his strengths and admitted his shortcomings. His political successes and failures are all catalogued in newspapers and legislative records, too numerous to mention here. He did well under the dome, respected for his integrity and devotion to duty.
Away from the urgencies and anxieties of public life, John’s family, wife and children, were his top priority. At home, he loved waking up in the morning, brewing coffee, and making breakfast for the family. His kids brought their friends, and John was often a second dad to so many kids. He loved the outdoors, especially the local trail systems, being adventurous, and sharing the joys of nature with family and friends. He loved walking in the woods with his wife and dogs, and sitting at home on the deck watching family and friends enjoying the pool, and mastering the art of barbeque. He was never happier than when he could be with family, and often spoke with pride, his love and admiration for them.
He was a good and decent man, loving husband, wonderful dad, and devoted friend. Locally, John was a member of the Marquette Golf and Country Club, greatly enjoying the sport, and was a member of the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship. He was also a huge Packer fan and season ticket holder at Lambeau Field.
John is survived by his wife, Sandy; children, Shelby and Andrew Kivela; father and step-mother, Bruce and Sandy Kivela; siblings, Rob Kivela, Wendy Bollenberg, Pam (Glenn) Caron, Kris (Gale Knight) Kivela, Kevin (Kristan) Kivela; and numerous cousins. John was preceded in death by his mother, Patricia Kivela.
The family will receive relatives and friends in the Great Lakes Rooms, University Center, Northern Michigan University, on Saturday, May 13, beginning at 10:00 am until the time of service at 2:00 pm. Rev. Leon Jarvis will preside.
Memorials may be directed to Trillium Hospice House, P.O. Box 7115, Marquette, MI 49855.
“At the end of life, what really matters is not what we bought but what we built; not what we got but what we shared; not our competence but our character; and not our success, but our significance. Live a life that matters. Live a life of love.” (author unknown).
The Swanson-Lundquist Funeral Home is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at

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