Marie Vander Ark
Sep 23rd 1929 - Mar 1st 2012
With a life that spanned many decades of great change within the world around her, Marie Vander Ark held fast to those she so deeply loved. She cared for her bustling clan while her children were at home, although she may have argued that being a grandmother and great-grandmother was her greatest reward. Life was not without times of struggle for Marie, but her faith and the love of her family helped her keep perspective. As she journeyed through life, she gained appreciation for all that she had.
The Roaring Twenties were a great time to be an American as there were countless changes that forever transformed the cultural fabric of our nation. Prosperity was the dominant force while jazz music, films available in both color and sound, and the vibrant shows of Broadway entertained those looking to celebrate their success. It was within this colorful decade that an active family from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was pleased to announce the birth of a healthy baby girl on September 23, 1929. Marie Theresa was the youngest of three girls born to her parents, Barend and Theresa (Meulendyk) Van Wattum; she was several years younger than her older sisters, Anne and Nell. She was raised in the family home on Alpine Avenue during the harsh years of the Great Depression, which left the Van Wattum family struggling to make ends meet. Marie’s older sisters were instrumental in her upbringing and saw to it that she was a bit spoiled as well.
For the most part Marie experienced a childhood that was reflective of the times. She found fun in simple ways such as spending time at nearby Richmond Park where she swam in the summer and ice skated in the winter. Marie was raised in the Christian faith; she and her family were members of West Leonard Christian Reformed Church where she was involved in youth group. She also discovered her passion for singing during her formative years. As a student Marie attended West Side Christian School and went on to Christian High School.
While attending a neighbor’s wedding, life was forever changed for Marie when, she met Jay Vander Ark, the man with whom she would establish a family. Although they went their separate ways for a time, they reconnected after he returned from Montana when they saw each other at a Sunday evening hymn sing after church. On their first date they enjoyed a malted,, and more dates soon followed. With a desire to build a life together, Marie and Jay were married on September 15, 1950.
The newlyweds didn’t have an easy time at first as they struggled just to keep a roof over their heads. Marie worked as a secretary for Kraft Foods until they began welcoming children into their lives. Together Marie and Jay were blessed with six children: Cheryl, Pam, Wendy, Ann, Kimberly, and Ken. From the time she became a mother, Marie stayed home to care for their children. In 1962 they moved to the house on Pheasant Street that Marie called home throughout the majority of her life. They put in a swimming pool there that naturally made their house the place all their children’s friends wanted to be. Later in life, the pool also regularly brought their grandchildren over for swimming and water fun. Together the family also enjoyed annual camping trips to Wooden Shoe Park in Ellsworth, Michigan where Marie always had a good time.
After the children were in school, Marie worked third shift as a nurse’s aid at the Christian Rest Home a couple of nights a week, but despite working overnight she always made sure there was a warm meal on the table at promptly five o’clock each evening. Saturdays were special in the Vander Ark family as they were treated with burgers from Sehler’s, and the kids all had a shake and shared some french fries, too. Sundays also had special routines as Marie prepared a large meal and then gathered the kids around the radio to listen to Hymns by Request.
In her leisure time Marie was very involved with both the Calvin College Oratorio Society and the Metropolitan Choir of Praise, practicing weekly with each group in addition to regular performances. The family belonged to Westview Christian Reformed Church where Marie was involved and enjoyed participating in women’s Bible studies. She also enjoyed golfing and she bowled for many years; when she was home she could often be found reading.
Marie’s sunset years were perhaps the most fulfilling years of her life. She fully embraced the chance to travel both with the choirs and with her husband, including a couple of trips to Europe, a trip to Alaska, and several trips within the continental United States. These were also the years that Marie welcomed grandchildren into her family, and since her family all lived nearby she was able to see her grandchildren frequently. As she got older she began to treasure relationships more, and she really appreciated her great-grandchildren later in life. The latter years of Marie’s marriage to Jay were perhaps their best as she really began to appreciate all she had, but sadly, Jay died in January of 2004. Marie continued in her role as the matriarch of her family, gathering everyone together for the various holidays. She was fortunate to be able to remain her in home due to both her independent nature and help from her children when needed. When Marie required additional assistance she moved to Edison Assisted Living Center. The family appreciates the care she received there. Marie will be deeply missed and warmly remembered.
Mrs. Marie Vander Ark, age 82, went to her eternal home on Thursday, March 1, 2012. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jay, in 2004. Surviving are her children Cheryl and Jim Buist, Pam and Mike Westhouse, Wendy Bitely, Ann and Robert Vander Laan, Kimberly Vander Ark, Ken and Julie Vander Ark; 18 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law Joyce and John Valk, Helengene and Cliff Doornbos and Peter Teitsma; and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services for Mrs. Vander Ark will be held Monday, March 5 at 11 AM at Westview Christian Reformed Church, 2929 Leonard NW. Interment in Rosedale Memorial Park. Friends may meet her family on Sunday from 2-4 and 6:30-8:30 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. N.W. For those who wish, memorial contributions to the Christian Rest Home Foundation are appreciated. You may read more about Marie’s life, share a favorite memory or sign the guestbook at www.lifestorynet.com.