At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
1551 Franklin St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Wallin Congregation Church Benevolent Fund
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Life Story / Obituary
With her ever present smile, Bea Dempsey brought kindness and joy to all around her. A dedicated woman to her faith and family, she was also a welcome friend. Bea lived a long and full life grateful for all she had been blessed with, most importantly, her family. She found joy in the little things, and her love and faith served as a nurturing example for her children to live by. Although she will be deeply missed, the heart of Bea lives on in those who knew and loved her.
Born at home on the family farm on October 8, 1918, Beatrice Emily was a welcome addition in the lives of her parents, Clarence and Gladys (Kelley) Yeiter who lived in the township of Lowell in Alto, Michigan. A significant time in our nation’s history, the end of World War I was a welcome relief for many, but cause for great concern was the Spanish flu which reached epidemic proportions.
Bea’s mother remained at home as a homemaker while her father worked the farm where they raised chickens and cows for milking. Her father bottled and sold the milk to area residences on a daily route through the summer and during the brisk winters, on a horse drawn sleigh. When Beatrice was four she went with her father on his route. While he was at a house, she remained on the sleigh when a dog suddenly spooked the horse and off it went galloping down the road, with Beatrice. Thankfully, a neighbor saw the commotion and stopped the horse.
Faith was an integral part of Bea’s upbringing. As a family they were members of Alto Methodist Church. While Bea and her father sat in the front pew each Sunday, her mother played the piano for Sunday services. Her mother also taught Bea how to play the piano which she enjoyed for years to come. Along with other extended family members who lived in the area, Bea enjoyed memorable family get-togethers and picnics.
As a young girl, Bea walked to town daily to retrieve the mail as there was no rural mail delivery at the time. Her father had a truck, but he only used it once a week to pick up chicken feed. For the remainder of the week, he put it up on jacks to save the tires. Life on the farm was pretty much routine for Bea. She went to school, attended to her studies, completed her daily chores, and then went off to bed. With the onset of the Great Depression, there was little money or time for much else. Bea attended Merriman School, a one room schoolhouse through the eighth grade and went on to graduate from Lowell High School with the Class of 1936.
Due to the Depression and like many during these times of struggle, Bea’s family lost their farm. However, while her father was at Ackerman Electric in Grand Rapids picking up some supplies, he heard of an apartment for rent on the city’s west side at 1212 Jackson Street. Near Valley Avenue Methodist Church with a German congregation, it was also near Lincoln Park. With nothing to lose, her father took the apartment, moved his family to the city and soon landed a job as an electrician. Bea began attending Heaney College, a business school in downtown Grand Rapids. Their family later moved to a home at 425 Garfield NW where several years later in 1943, Bea’s father sadly passed away at home after suffering a massive heart attack.
Bea remained a support to her mother during these trying times. They faithfully attended church, and while at Valley Avenue Methodist Church, Bea met the young man of her dreams, Richard “Dick” Dempsey. They dated for a time before Dick was called to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. Upon his return, they took up where they left off and on June 28, 1947 they were united in marriage at the very church which brought them together. They traveled up north to the Mackinac area and rode the ferry to St. Ignace for a memorable honeymoon before making their first home together with Bea’s mother on Garfield Avenue.
In 1950, Bea and Dick were blessed with the birth of their little girl, Marilyn, and their son, Bruce came along in 1951. Bea loved nothing more than caring for her mother, husband, and children. She loved knitting and sewing, and enjoyed sewing for herself and her family. Over the years she made delicious meals for her family, too, like her scrumptious fried chicken, pot roast, and her peanut butter Rice Krispy treats. Dick worked for the RC Allen Company and later began working with his brother-in-law, E.L. Klaiber and his company, Klaiber Manufacturing where Dick was a plant manager.
Bea and her family remained living with her mother on Garfield until 1955 when they bought a home at 2256 Tremont NW. The children attended Shawmut Hills Elementary School and went on to graduate from Union High School. Through the years, many enjoyable times were shared as a family to destinations such as northern Michigan, California, Chicago, Illinois, New York and picturesque Niagara Falls. They also went camping several times.
Following Dick’s retirement, he and Bea traveled to his 13th Armored Division Army buddy reunions. These trips took them to various places throughout the country each year. They also treasured travels to the Holy Land and Hawaii. In 1997, when Valley Avenue Methodist Church merged with Second Street Methodist Church, Bea and Dick became members of Wallin Congregational Church where Bea loved playing the piano for the kids in Sunday school. She especially loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and loved being with them at every opportunity.
When Bea began having health issues with macular degeneration, she and Dick sold their home in 1999 and moved to Clark Retirement Community where they enjoyed many new friends and the numerous activities offered there. They so enjoyed the lifestyle they developed while living there, but around the time Dick retired, he also developed diabetes which led to heart problems. After 56 years of marriage, Bea’s beloved Dick sadly died on March 7, 2004. Following her husband’s death, Bea continued to be involved at Clark Home. She enjoyed her many friends and came to be known as, “Queen Bea” by the staff. She was active in the book club, bible study, and exercise classes, among others. She attended Sunday services at church and loved singing as music was always an important part of her life. She visited with her family often, and enjoyed spending the holidays with them.
With continued health issues, Bea was forced to give up driving and reading, which she missed very much. She did enjoy listening to books on tape which she considered a wonderful alternative. As time went on, Bea began to slow down. She eventually moved into assisted living at Clark, then the nursing unit where for the last 14 months she was under the care of hospice.
A kind and devoted woman, Bea’s life was enriched in countless ways. Her love was immeasurable, and with ways all her own, her kindness shown bright with an ever present smile. She was a loving and dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to all who knew her, and will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered.
Beatrice Emily “Bea” Dempsey, aged 97, of Grand Rapids, peacefully passed away on Saturday morning, December 5, 2015 at Clark Retirement Community where she was a resident for many years. She was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Dempsey in 2004. She is survived by her children, Marilyn Dempsey-Reynolds (David) of Naples, FL, Bruce Dempsey (Anne Barton-Dempsey) of Muskegon, MI; her grandchildren, Sarah (Tom) Webb, Lillian Dempsey, Eric (Nikki) Ahlquist, Joshua (Becky) Ahlquist, Kyle Ahlquist, Renee Larson, Teri VanHall, Kristi (Rich) Hendrickson, David G. Reynolds; several great-grandchildren; her niece, Diane (Al) VanLoocke; several other nieces and nephews; and many friends.
A service to celebrate Bea’s life will be held on Thursday, December 10, 2015, 11:00 AM at the Clark Retirement Community Chapel, 1551 Franklin St. SE. Relatives and friends may meet her family at the Clark Home Chapel on Thursday morning from 9:30 AM until the service begins at 11:00 AM. Contributions in Bea’s memory may be made to the Clark Retirement Community Benevolent Fund or Wallin Congregational Church Memorial Fund. To read more about Bea’s life, to sign her guest book and to leave your own memory of her, please visit her web page at www.lifestorynet.com.