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God's Kitchen - Grand Rapids
Life Story / Obituary
Upon spending only a few moments with Barbara Jewell, it was easy to see that her life was rooted in something different, something deeper, and that something was her faith. She was never one to worry about the things of this world, rather, her focus was on how she could bless those around her in ways both great and small. Completely devoted to her family, Barbara considered it to be both her highest calling and her richest reward to witness her family tree blossom to include the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she adored. Although she will be deeply missed, her family finds comfort in knowing that she is enjoying perfect peace in the presence of her Lord and Savior.
The 1930s were primarily defined by the Great Depression that covered our nation and much of the world throughout the entire decade. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, and things only became more trying when a drought covered our nation’s heartland for nearly two years. Despite the trials around them, Donald and Fannie "Lois (Pritchard) Steffe were focused on an exciting time in their own lives as they eagerly anticipated the birth of their new baby as the heat of the summer held the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, firmly in its grip in 1931. Their wait came to an end when the baby girl they named Barbara Joyce made her arrival on July 27th. She was one of three girls to be born and raised in the family home on Lewison, although she was actually one of four children in her family as her older brother, Warren, died as an infant. The Steffe family did move around a bit throughout the United States as her father searched for work during the harsh days of the Great Depression.
In many ways, Barbara was a young girl who experienced a typical upbringing. Back in Grand Rapids, she attended Palmer Elementary. Described as a good girl, Barbara didn’t have much in the way of material possessions, but she was very thankful for what she did have including two dolls. She enjoyed keeping busy indoors. Barbara attended East Leonard Baptist Church with her family, and as a high school student she went to Creston High School.
As a young woman, Barbara was eager for all that life had in store. She worked downtown at Wurzburg’s for a time, but she later took a job in the office at Lear Siegler. This proved to be quite fateful as it was there that she met the young man of her dreams. His name was T.R. "Mickey" Jewell. With a desire to establish a life together, the sweethearts were married on July 17, 1953. Together they were blessed with the births of four children, Larry, Debra, Diane, and Cindy. Sadly, their beloved Cindy died when she was just four. Although it was difficult for Barbara, she relied on her unwavering faith to get her through.
From the moment she became a mother, Barbara fully immersed herself in the task. She stayed home to care for her children, and she was often on her own as Mickey was on the road as a traveling salesman. Much of Barbara’s life was spent living within a very small area, often near her parents as she was very close to them both. To keep her kids in line, she didn’t shy away from discipline, often using her long fingernails to grab the children by their ear. At times they struggled to stay in the same neighborhood as there were some difficult years financially, but Barbara and Mickey were more than willing to sacrifice. While being a full-time mom, she worked selling Viviane Woodward cosmetics for over 30 years and she even helped with cosmetics at the Miss Michigan Pageant a few years in a row. In the early eighties, Barbara was focused on caring for her husband as he battled cancer for more than two years until his death in 1984. Even in this difficult season, she remained steadfast in her faith. She found work at Foremost Insurance where she remained for 10 years until retiring at the earliest point that she could. Barbara also found a roommate, Martha, who turned into a longterm friend. In fact, Martha even helped care for Barbara in her last years.
Throughout her life, Barbara was one to keep busy. She always wanted to look her best and made sure that she was rarely seen without her makeup on! Barbara was also particular when it came to her home as she was immaculate and thrived on being organized, structured, and keeping routines. Being so organized, she was the one who organized her high school reunions for several years, and she also volunteered at the Ronald McDonald house. Barbara was a very active member of Calvary Church as she took part in Bible Study Fellowship, sang in choirs, the chordaliers, and took part in their annual Festival of Lights programs. She established a group for widows, the Sunday Chicks, who met for lunch on Sundays, and Barbara liked getting together with other friends as well. Her pets, including her dogs, Peppy, Cinder, and Lucas, were always an important part of Barbara’s life. She looked forward to spending two weeks on vacation every summer at Big Brower Lake where she loved relaxing with her family and friends. Back home, Barbara enjoyed caring for her yard and was particular in caring for her flowers and trimming bushes.
In everything she did, Barbara treasured every moment she had to spend with her family. She loved seeing the family all together, and as a worrier she always asked her children to let her know when they made it back home safely after visiting her. Barbara delighted in her grandchildren and loved spoiling them, of course. For the first two years of Jennifer’s life, Barbara was the one to care for her. As they grew older, she still remained actively involved in her grandchildren’s lives. Later in life, Barbara loved her out of town vacations with her sister and kids. Her family always looked forward to her hugs and amazing conversation, and as her health declined due to Alzheimer’s disease, Barbara’s children honored her wishes and kept her living in her own home.
All who knew Barbara Jewell would agree that she was such a blessing. She never shied away from sharing her faith, and her concern for her family and others was always first and foremost. Barbara will be deeply missed, but she leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will hold forever near to their hearts.
Barbara Jewell was ready to leave the worries and troubles of this life and entered the presence of her Lord and Savior on November 24, 2015. She has joined her husband, Mickey; her daughter, Cindy; parents Donald and Lois Steffe; brother, Warren Steffe; and sister, Nancy Johnson. Although she is now in eternal glory, Barb will be greatly missed by her children, Larry & Jan Jewell, Debra & John Collier, Diane & Dave Frede; grandchildren (and great grandchildren) Jennifer & Andy Venema (Ava, Ayden, Anderson), Joshua & Dana Collier (Jaxson); her sister, Judy & Frank Stimpson; her longtime friend, Martha Dove; and many nieces and nephews. Friends are invited to visit with her family on Sunday, November 29, 2015 from 3-5 PM and on Monday from 10-11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. On Monday, friends are encouraged to honor Barb's request by wearing bright colors to the service to celebrate her life that will be held at 11 AM at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to either the Alzheimer's Association or God's Kitchen. To read more about her life, to share a favorite memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com.