Herman "Al" Bouwman
Nov 13th 1916 - Jul 15th 2012
Herman “Al” Bouwman was an extraordinary man; a man of character, of love, and of faith. He was a man of many talents and had an incredibly admirable work ethic that spoke volumes of his character. Al spent his life balancing hard work with being a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather, and succeeded in bringing the best for his family. His years of dedicated work afforded him both a happy place in life, and a family that loved him dearly.
In 1916, the United States was deep in the trenches of World War I. While soldiers were fighting for our nation overseas, Americans at home tried to forget the sorrows of war by attending films featuring Charlie Chaplin. Meanwhile, the esteemed scientist Albert Einstein was making headlines with his work in relativity, and words like “atom” and “molecule” became household terms. However, for Garm and Margaret Bouwman of Grand Rapids, Michigan, they were celebrating a miracle that seemed to outshine all other historical events that took place that year. On November 13, 1916, the couple welcomed the birth of their son, Herman. He was the second of their three children.
Al was born and raised on their family dairy farm on the northwest side of Grand Rapids (where Oakleigh and Richmond are today). Proud of their Dutch heritage, the family was members of the West Leonard Christian Reformed Church, and this strong Christian upbringing would always be an important part of Al’s life. His parents made sure that he and his siblings learned responsibility by pitching in with daily farm chores. It fell to Al to milk the cows each morning before school, which he greatly disliked because he smelled like “cows” for the rest of the day. As a teenager, Al got out of the barn for a while when he worked as a caddy at the Elk’s Country Club and was lucky enough to learn how to play, too.
It was while in high school that Al found his true talents working with machinery after taking a machine shop course. However, like many teenagers of the time, he dropped out of Union High School before graduating to go to work. Al was able to start work in a machine shop, but not for long for he soon received his draft notice from the U.S. Army to serve in World War II. During his tour of duty, Al was kept stateside and trained to be a sharp shooter for which he was awarded medals. After his honorable discharge, he returned home to Grand Rapids and got a job in a machine shop as well as did some truck driving.
In 1945, while out bowling with some of his friends, Al met the love of his life, Kathryn Tuinstra. They had much in common, including that both their families operated farms, so it was easy to strike up a conversation together. It was love at first sight, and within three months, they were happily married at St. Cecelia Auditorium in downtown Grand Rapids in 1946. Because so many soldiers were coming home from the war, housing was hard to come by for the newlyweds, so they lived with Al’s parents for a while before moving into a remodeled, three stall garage. In time, Al was able to build a home for his new bride on a parcel of land on his family’s farm on Richmond where they created over 50 years of memories together.
Al and Kathryn were the proud parents of five children: Joyce, Linda, Kathy, Douglas and David. Time together as a family was always important and they spent many summers enjoying Lake Michigan on their cruiser and fishing. Later, they began traveling with their travel trailer, camping in various spots throughout “Pure Michigan” as well as outside its borders.
As deeply committed as Al was to his family, he was also that committed to his work. In the early 1950s, he started his own business, Commercial Tool and Die Company, and worked very hard for many years to make his company a success. Though Al’s work ethic and talent spoke for itself, his skillfulness in tool and die making as well as his designs were always very innovative and of high quality. He was a respected businessman throughout Grand Rapids and the Midwest. A bit old fashioned, Al wasn’t too thrilled when computers began making their way into the tool and die trade. He decided to retire in 1987 at the age of 70, and was only too happy to hand over the reins to his son, Douglas, who now runs the business.
Al was elated to have more leisure time to devote to some of his favorite pastimes, including hunting, fishing and making wine. In the early 1960s, he and Kathryn bought a tract of land near Big Rapids where they built a cabin. With its seclusion and serenity, this became the couple’s favorite place to relax together. Al could hunt and watch wildlife to his heart’s content, and when their kids and grandkids came up for a weekend, the house was filled to the brim with love and laughter. After retiring, Al and Kathryn also began traveling more often and bought a motor home to hit the road in. They spent many winters in Florida in their motor home, and eventually traded it in for a place of their own in sunny Florida. They wintered there every year (except the last two) since Al retired in 1987. Back home in Michigan, he enjoyed working in the yard, and as an all around handyman, he did most of the finishing work on the house he built. It seemed his talents were endless. For the last several years, Al and Kathryn attended Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, where they enjoyed the fellowship and Bible studies.
All who knew and loved Al will treasure his memory.
Herman “Al” Bouwman, age 95, of Grand Rapids, MI passed away on Sunday, July 15, 2012. Surviving is his wife of 66 years, Kathryn; his children, Joyce and Robert Bouma, Linda Bouwman, Kathy Jones, Douglas and Jane Bouwman, and David and Kathleen Bouwman; his grandchildren: James Bouwman and fiancée Kayla Wagner, Daniel Bouwman, Danielle Bouwman, Nichole Bouwman, Natalie and Josh Kritzler, Mitchel Jones, and Leah Jones; and great-grandchildren, Hendrik Bouwman and Miles Kritzler. Also surviving is his sister, Tena Bouwman; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Ruth and Leon Whetstone; nieces and nephews; and special friend, Sharon Ann Peters.
A special thank you to Faith Hospice, Dr. Robert Lang, and caregivers Sanela Huskic and Cam Hoogeveen of Stay Home Health Agency. Funeral Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 19, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. N.W., Grand Rapids. Interment will be in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. Friends may visit with the family from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, at the funeral home. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Covenant Village of the Great Lakes or Faith Hospice would be appreciated. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to share a memory or photo, or sign the online guest book.