Tom, Becky, Jennifer, and Kamrie Heeren
Dec 20th 1958 - Jul 7th 2011
There is no greater love given from above than the love of family. In the Heeren home, love was unconditional. They believed in one another, stood by each other and always extended a helping hand to family and friends alike. As a family and as the remarkable individuals they truly were, the days, months and years that lie ahead, and sometimes minutes in between, will indeed be difficult and at times unbearable without them, but may their love be what you remember most.
The story of the Thomas Heeren family began at a time when the American dream was alive and well. Minimum wage was at an all time high at $1.00 per hour and the space age was off and running. Young radio listeners everywhere were tuned to Elvis while American households had their television sets dialed to Leave It To Beaver. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, two families were celebrating the birth of precious babies who would come to leave a lasting imprint on the heart's of their families forevermore.
On the city's northwest side, Richard and Barbara (Stewart) Brown lovingly welcomed the birth of their daughter, Rebecca "Becky", born on September 15, 1958. The sixth of eventually eight children, she grew up in their family home on Lake Michigan Drive NW. Although a large family, Becky was close to each of her siblings. She attended Sibley Elementary School where her rambunctious nature was well known. Ever loyal to her family, she was a feisty girl and made it perfectly clear that no one messed with her family. Her family attended St. James Catholic Church where Becky received the holy sacraments. She went on to attend Union High School and graduated with the Class of 1977. Following school, Becky began working at Kent Meats for a time.
A few months later, across the city on the northeast side, John "Sonny" Heeren and his wife Donna (Girschle) also had reason to celebrate when on December 20, 1958 they were blessed with an early Christmas present with the birth of their son, Thomas Scott. He acquired several nicknames over the years, but "Frank" was the name by which he was most affectionately known. His father worked in the produce business while his mother, a homemaker, looked after him and his four siblings. They made their home at 1918 Houseman NE and later moved to 1918 Emerald NE where many enjoyable and memorable times were shared. Thomas had quite a mischievous side, and his adventures, often in the company of his brothers, landed him in plenty of trouble a time or two. He received his early education from Kent Hills Elementary School and Northeast Junior High. In high school he excelled playing baseball as an infielder and had one heck of a hit. He went on to graduate in 1977 from Creston High School.
From the beginning, Tom and Becky's love was based on mutual respect and the promise to always remain by one another's side. They met through Becky's sister, Denise, who dated Tom's brother, Stephen. She was always asking if her sister's boyfriends had cute brothers, and Becky struck gold when Denise replied, yes! For their first date, Tom picked Becky up in his canary yellow and black Camaro. It didn't go too well, and she wasn't too fond of his banana suit outfit, either. He also held the nickname, "rebel", and was never shy about how proud he was of it! They dated and soon discovered forever love as true soul mates. April 11, 1978 marked the day they became husband and wife at the Rockford courthouse before enjoying a great time on a brief honeymoon. For Tom and Becky, their focus was not placed on great wealth or acquiring grand material possessions, because when it came right down to it, family was already their greatest treasure. In time they cherished having a family to call their own. They were overjoyed with the births of their daughters, Jennifer in 1981 and Aimee in 1984.
Tom liked the challenge of hard work and that he did. He worked alongside his father in the family business and was often described as a very hard worker. He eventually acquired ownership of the family business along with his brothers and cousins, and together they served their family name proud. At work he often referred to himself admiringly as, "the mayor of cluster city" where work always came in clusters, no matter the business climate.
Becky was in her element at home raising their daughters before going to work for the business herself. She loved children, and they loved her, so as mother and daughters, the three found much to do and experience together. She said what was on her mind regardless of what the girls thought. Foremost in the lives of Tom and Becky, Jennifer and Aimee were their everything, until, of course, they later became . . . grandparents.
Their daughter, Jennifer was born July 23, 1981. She was a wonderful big sister to Aimee who always looked up to her. Although they did their share of squabbling, they made their home on the NE side of Grand Rapids all it should be. The girls attended Northpark Elementary School, Riverside School and graduated from Creston High School. Jennifer did quite well in school as an all A student and was very bright. Although often a rather quiet girl, she was a well liked and an admired friend to many. In her free time, Jennifer enjoyed bowling and fun filled times playing the "dice game" with family. Every now and again she liked to cut loose and have a good time. She liked nights out dancing with her good friends, Lindy and Leslie, and especially liked the sounds of R&B and rap.
As a couple, Tom and Becky shared many interests and created a good life together and for their family. When she was able, Becky loved getting away to the casinos with her mother and sisters. They often ventured to Bay Mills which was her favorite. When it came to her nieces and nephews, Becky welcomed them with open arms. And when visiting their Aunt Becky, only her rules applied. Even though she was a good cook, she never found any enjoyment in it. One of the biggest things she had in common with her husband was their shared concern and compassion for others. Their arms were extended above and beyond in all they did which was a formidable trait with which they raised their daughters.
Jennifer furthered her education later by attending Ferris State University as well as trade schools for classes in radiology and became a medical assistant. For the last ten years she thrived in her career as a medical assistant with Advantage Health where she was well respected. It was no surprise for those who knew Jennifer, because she always had a heart for helping people and worked hard at whatever she did. The first to lend a hand, her concern was always focused on someone other than herself. Not only was she loving and caring, she was quite protective, too, especially of those she so loved. She absolutely loved babies and regularly watched her "niece", Abby, which gave her the desire to have many children of her own one day.
When Jennifer gave birth to her daughter, Kamrie on February 8, 1999, it was the happiest day of her life. She loved every minute of being a mother. Through her love for Kamrie, it was clear she was made for motherhood. Her parents, Tom and Becky, were overjoyed with the new bundle of love in their lives and her Auntie Aimee was just as proud. Kamrie was truly a blessing in their lives and a doll in their eyes. A good baby, she was well ahead of her time when it came to walking at nine months and learning to ride a big girl's bike at the age of three. She was affectionately known as "tink", and somehow earned the nickname, "snack pack" and "koo-koo", too!
Kamrie was beautiful on the inside out. Throughout her all too brief life, she never hesitated expressing her love and affection to those who meant so much to her. Her family delighted as they watched her grow into nearly a young lady with so much to offer. She was a friend to many and was very smart, too. She received all A's in school, and Language Arts was her favorite subject. In school she sang in the choir, and the recycle program she initiated at school will be named in her memory. A voracious reader, at the age of 12 Kamrie was reading at high school levels, but loved playing her DS whenever she needed a break. She was a great soccer player, and knew her way with a camera.
There was the possibility Kamrie may have had aspirations of becoming a hair dresser because she regularly cut her own hair, which wasn't always such a good thing! When it came to her relationship with her Papa and Grammy, the three were quite a team. She loved swimming in Tom and Becky's pool, and could eat anything she wanted at their house, especially her favorite, brownies. Every year she spent two weeks camping with them which was the highlight of her summer. As a grandfather, Tom was just a kid at heart and basically lived his second childhood with his Kamrie. They loved teasing each other, and Kamrie couldn't help but get the best of him when she'd hide his favorite snacks. Two of her best buddy's included Emery and Henry.
It was just like Tom to live life to the fullest and have fun while doing it. With a sense of humor all his own, he loved being the life of the party. His beverage of choice was a good, cool, Bud Light, and he always "limited" himself to two beers at a time and one more! ! He considered Becky to be his “beer Nazi”. Among his love for fishing, classic rock, Tigers baseball, and being a Wings fan, Tom considered himself Michigan State University's #1 Spartan fan. He especially enjoyed tailgating at football and basketball games. He was handy around the house, and liked mowing the lawn, but he did more harm than good when he went into "Mr. Fix-It" mode!
Becky was always with her mom and dad tending to their every need. She had a strong shoulder to lean on and was someone to be counted on, especially for an honest answer. One thing about Becky, she was outspoken and no one ever had to guess what was on her mind. Her best piece of advice? "Buck up". Deep within, Becky was a very generous woman who selflessly gave of her time, money, and support. She'd do anything for family and friends and was usually their best advocate. Like the energizer bunny, Becky never seemed to stop and her energy was boundless. She was fond of anything chocolate, and seemed to know instinctively where everyone kept the chocolate in their house, a trait Kamrie was taking on as well.
For Jennifer and Kamrie, an abundance of heartache was set before them along the road of life. They lived with hard circumstances which often found them isolated from the very family that loved them. Jennifer kept much to herself over the past ten years which made for strained relationships. Through it all, she and Kamrie remained positive, always loving, but most importantly, together.
The entire family excitedly anticipated the birth of Aimee's baby. It had been a long time since Kamrie was an infant, and as a family they were well overdue! Jennifer was so excited to be an Aunt and couldn't have been happier when Carter was born earlier this month. Kamrie, too, was happy to see her new cousin, and of course, Tom and Becky had one more beautiful grandchild with whom to share their love.
Even with death's sting, there is the promise of new life. Because of the great abundance of love shared by this wonderful family, lives have been forever changed. None of us will ever again look to the stars as we did before, because now, four shining stars will be smiling forever more upon us. Tom, Becky, Jennifer and Kamrie have not only touched the hearts of others through the lives they each lived, but many through their death. Love is a gift, and the love of family is a treasure, and as we grieve, the arms of those who care embrace ever so gently as the days ahead are faced. Although hearts will always yearn for their embrace, may their love be what is remembered most.
Thomas "Frank", Rebecca, Jennifer, and Kamrie Heeren were taken from us too soon on Thursday, July 7, 2011. They were preceded in death by John ”Sonny” Heeren, Donna Heeren, Richard Brown, and Deborah Swartz. Surviving is their daughter/sister/aunt, Aimee (Thomas Blease) Heeren and her son, Carter Thomas; the Heeren family: James (Janice) Heeren and children: Joel (Erin) Heeren, Cora, Jillian (Matt) Gajtka, Megan Heeren; Denise Heeren and daughters: Heather (Nicholas) Roberts, Ella, April (Sam Henkel) Heeren, Tea, Elisha (Cameron Menzel) Heeren; Stephen Heeren; Cheryl (Wayne) Flanders and children, Jason (Kayla) Flanders, Eric Flanders, Daniel (Jill) Heeren and children, Katherine (Greg) Weichhand, D.J. Heeren, Courtney Heeren; Charlene Heeren; and the extended Heeren family; the Brown family: Barbara Brown; Richard (Donna) Brown and children, Eric (Nina) Brown and children Savannah and Sallyanna, Kari (Mike) Brown and Kelsey; Duane (Darlene) Brown and children: Duane (Lisa) Brown Jr. and children: Hailey, Jacob, Scott (Nicole) Brown, Andrew, Jason (Kimberly) Brown; Sue (Fred) Buyze and children, Fred Buyze Jr., Steven Buyze, Samantha (Christopher) Hekman ; Leah and Chad Buyze; Wayne Swartz and sons, Michael (Angie) Swartz; Hannah, Emery and Henry; Justin Swartz; Denise Heeren-Brown and family; Joan (Harold) Holcom and daughter, Ashley and her children, Abby and Dominic; Craig (Priscilla) Brown and children, Kristi Brown and her children, Brittany, Andrew, Jade; Angie Brown, and Dustin Brown; extended Brown family; the Gross family: Todd (Liz) Gross, Casey, and Jeffrey Gross.
A Celebration of Life service will be held in memory of the Heeren family at 1:00 PM on Friday, July 15, 2011 at Sunshine Community Church, 3300 E. Beltline Ave, Grand Rapids 49525. The family will be meeting friends on Wednesday and Thursday from 12-3 PM and 6-9 PM at the church. In Lieu of flowers, contributions in their memory may be directed to the Carter Thomas Blease Scholarship Fund at Fifth Third Bank or Safe Haven Ministries. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to share a favorite memory or photo and to sign their online guest book prior to arriving at church. Heritage Life Story Funeral Home-Alt & Shawmut Hills, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.