Betty Nichols

March 15, 1929 - July 29, 2016
Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, August 2, 2016
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263
Driving Directions

Wednesday, August 3, 2016
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT
Trinity United Methodist Church
1100 Lake Dr. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Wednesday, August 3, 2016
11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EDT
Trinity United Methodist Church
1100 Lake Drive SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506


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.

Trinity United Methodist Church Memorial Fund
1100 Lake Drive SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Hospice of Michigan
989 Spaulding SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49301


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Betty Gean Heeringa was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 15, 1929 to Richard (Dick) Heeringa and Elizabeth (Betty) Wilson Heeringa. It was the height of the depression, and many of Betty’s childhood memories were of helping her parents and her Aunt Annie pick and preserve fruits and vegetables, a skill she passed on to her sons. Canning applesauce, peaches and tomatoes was a family affair, even after the boys were grown. When the peaches were ready, it was all hands on deck, no excuses and cancel your plans because nothing was more important than capturing that golden treasure at the peak of ripeness.

Betty attended Oakleigh School, graduated from Central High School in 1947 and from Grand Rapids Junior College in 1949. She loved the medical field and would have loved to attend nursing school, but instead worked as a Physician’s Assistant. She would often tell of the tense moments when minor complications arose while she was assisting the doctor as he removed her sister Joann’s tonsils. It was here that Betty met Charles Ray, who had recently moved from Tullahoma Tennessee. They were married in 1950, and became the parents of four sons, David, Richard (Rick) and Thomas and a son who did not survive birth.

Because of Chuck’s job as a newsreel cameraman, the family moved several times. They lived in Cadillac, Michigan, Waterloo, Iowa, Bay City, Michigan and Des Plaines, Illinois. Betty often described ironing several shirts a day during these years as Chuck was always on call, and for every story he filmed he would put on a fresh shirt. In 1966 they divorced and Betty and the boys moved back to Grand Rapids to be near her widowed mother. These were very busy and happy times. The boys were all settled in new schools, her mother provided much needed support in meal preparation and taxi service, and to introduce a little more femininity into the house, Betty adopted Samantha, her first Siamese Cat.

In 1967, Betty joined the staff at Trinity United Methodist church, a large and active congregation, as secretary. Over her 28 year career, Betty served several pastors, Christian Education Directors, Music Directors, volunteers and custodians. She was very organized, had great people skills, paid meticulous attention to detail and had more than a little steel in her spine. She also was responsible for the large key ring which held the keys to every lock in the building. She affectionately called them the “Keys to the Kingdom” and guarded them with wit and grace. Eventually, after completing a two year program at Emory University, Betty’s title was changed to Church Business Administrator, at which she faithfully served until her retirement in 1995.

In 1970, much to her dismay, Betty’s son Rick joined the U.S. Army. Later, when home on furlough, Rick was involved in an auto accident and died in 1973 as a result of the injuries he had suffered. This was a very trying time for Betty and the rest of the family, but with the support of her mother, dear friends and co-workers, everyone was able to return to a new normal, for which she always remained grateful.

1975 brought a new member of the family, when David married Kathleen Hawkins. Two years later, Christian, Betty’s first grandchild was born. Betty loved babies, and when she had one she could call her own, all the better! Now, in addition to carrying the “keys” she carried a “Brag Book” filled with pictures. These were good years, filled with friends, travel and grandbabies, as Matthew arrived 1983.

In the early nineteen-nineties, Betty began to use her health care skills, as she cared for her mother until her passing in 1994 and then dear friends Virginia and Meg. Due to retirement, Betty had extra time and began walking each day, traveled with friends, and became a Steven’s Minister. It was on one of these walks that she met her neighbor Lou Nichols. Eventually he confided that he had recently lost his wife. The Steven’s Ministry training kicked in and Betty offered to talk over coffee if he ever needed to share. Over time and friendly driveway conversation, Betty and Lou began to spend a little time together and he invited her to deliver a boat with him. She told Tom about her new friend and how nice it was to have someone to share coffee or a meal. Then at Thanksgiving 1998, Betty invited Lou to meet her family after dinner. The greeting Lou gave Betty at the front door did not appear to be that of just friends, but the family was still surprised when they announced their engagement later that week.

Betty married Louis Nichols on January 30, 1999 at Trinity United Methodist Church. Their marriage was the beginning of a wonderful time of travel, long walks, working in the yard and gardens and enjoying their blended family. Betty noted in her journal that “Our lives are filled with many of God’s blessings and we are grateful for our time together.”

After a two year struggle with dementia, on Friday July 29, 2016, surrounded by her family, Betty Heeringa Ray Nichols, went to be with her Lord and Savior. She is survived by her husband Lou, children David and Kathleen Ray, Thomas Ray and Janet Shick, Russ and Mary Nichols, Randy and Gail Nichols, Rocky and Pam Nichols; grandchildren Christian (Elisabeth) Ray, Matthew (Kim) Ray, Steve Nichols, Abby (Alex) Lorenz, Becky (Jason) Van Spronson, Ann (Dan) Wiersum, Ben (Amber) Nichols, Lindsey (Nate) Peters, Justin (Amber) Nichols and Austin Nichols; 17 great grandchildren; a sister Joann Derby, a nephew Michael (Laurie) Sabik and family and several cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents, Richard and Elizabeth Heeringa and her son Richard Ray. A Celebration of Betty’s Life will be held on Wednesday August 3, at 11:00 AM at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1100 Lake Dr. SE. Friends may meet the family at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. on Tuesday August 2, from 7:00-9:00 PM and one hour prior to the service at church from 10:00 AM until the time of the service at 11:00 AM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Trinity United Methodist Church Memorial Fund or Hospice of Michigan would be appreciated. To read more of Betty’s life, share a memory or to sign the online register book please visit www.lifestorynet.com