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Life Story / Obituary
Throughout her long and fulfilling life, Carrie Bouterse gave of her time and talents in numerous ways. An outgoing woman who was quite personable and social, she loved putting her skills to good use, especially for the greater good. She was a woman of faith and served her church well, and could always be counted on whenever there was a need. Carrie was an advocate and a friend of many who will be remembered for these things and more.
Marked by a time of prosperity, the Roaring Twenties emerged as a decade of economic expansion rich with optimism and innovation. The stock market soared and people everywhere were brimming with hope. By 1927, tunes such as Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band” and “Old Man River” brought excitement to the air. Yet in the lakefront city of St. Joseph, Michigan, Franz and Carolina (Riske) Wesner had some exciting news of their own on February 2, 1927 when they welcomed the birth of their little girl, Caroline Lydia into their arms. Her birth marked merely five years since the Wesner’s made their way to America from Europe, and young Caroline was their last born, and 13th child.
Caroline or “Carrie” as she was affectionately known grew up in St. Joseph alongside most of her siblings and enjoyed a childhood typical of the times. Her father supported their bustling household as a factory worker, using his skills in this area he learned from his trade in Germany. When the onset of the Great Depression created financial turmoil from coast to coast, Carrie’s family was no exception to these trying times. Even so, she attended the area schools and made many dear friends through the years. In high school she particularly enjoyed journalism, and had aspirations of one day becoming a writer.
During Carrie’s high school years, news of the day included the travesties of war. Much was being done for the war effort, and young and old alike did what they could. With the thankful end of World War II, Carrie graduated from St. Joseph High School in June of 1946. She went on to further her education, attending Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Carrie later took courses at Twin City Business College located in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Working towards a possible degree, she then began attending Western Michigan University as well as several other colleges.
Through the years, Carrie had various office jobs and also worked for several health organizations which included Crystal Springs Florists in Benton Harbor, the V-M Corporation of Benton Harbor, Berrien County Health Service, and the St. Joseph and Berrien County Intermediate School District in St. Joseph. Although it seemed as though she held more jobs than any one career, her varied skills and multiple interests found her doing well at everything she did.
Life changed in an exciting new direction for Carrie when she met a handsome gentleman by the name of Harold Peter Hiemstra. After dating for a time, the couple was happily married on February 6, 1959, just days following Carrie’s 32nd birthday. In 1961, she and Harold moved from St. Joseph to Chicago, Illinois to work at the American Messianic Fellowship, and returned to St. Joseph a year later. The year 1967 found Carrie and her husband moving to Kalamazoo, Michigan where together they established Hiemstra Optical. Until their eventual retirement in 1979, they opened additional optical stores throughout Southwest Michigan and after retiring, relatives operated the stores for them on a full-time basis.
Although they never had the blessing of children in their lives, the years were good to Carrie and Harold. Following her retirement, Carrie kept busy working for seven years as an Advocacy Specialist for the Area Agency on Aging, Region III. She also worked in Lansing at Senior Power Day functions, and served on the Michigan Senior Advocates Council. A staunch supporter and advocate for senior citizens, Carrie also established and developed the Scrutiny Newsletter which was sent to senior citizens in her five county service area. She continued in her retirement to serve the AAA Region III part-time until the region was reorganized by the State of Michigan. These causes were near and dear to Carrie’s heart and gave her great purpose, especially after she experienced the death of her husband in 1988.
Carrie was very proud of her American citizenship. Although her parents made a new life and were happy in America, she witnessed them long for their homeland. Carrie lived most of her life in Berrien County where she was very active in the community. She was a member of First Baptist Church in St. Joseph where she served as a Sunday school teacher for many years and held various offices within the church. Carrie was first impressed by the church choir when they sang the “Triple Trio” at her high school. While attending First Baptist, she sang in the choir, partaking in various groups, trios, quartets, duets and mixed groups at church and community gatherings. She most recently was a member of Hillcrest Bible Church, and considered Pastor Robert Cosby her son in faith.
While attending one of her many senior meetings, Carrie met Robert John Bouterse. Quite compatible, the two shared much in common. Robert felt led to help people, and in his retirement he took a position with AARP. He previously worked as a television art director before becoming a producer. In fact, he produced hundreds of commercials including those for Colonial Sanders and KFC.
With their shared interest in genealogy, Carrie and Robert went on their first date together to discuss genealogy at Russell’s. The best of companions, they were married on July 28, 1990, and recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They made their home in Carrie’s house where Carrie loved working in her beautiful and fruitful gardens. True to her nature, she was always giving, and enjoyed sharing her plants, seeds and produce with others. Carrie also had a passion for being outdoors in general and especially loved watching the wildlife around her home.
Gone but never to be forgotten, Carrie leaves a lasting legacy of a life well lived and for the things she believed in. She served her church and community well, and lived by her convictions. Carrie made a mark and paved the way for many as an advocate for senior citizens. Deeply missed, she will be remembered fondly for her inspiring ways.
Caroline L. (Heimstra) Bouterse, age 88, died on Sunday, November 22, 2015 in Kalamazoo. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Harold Hiemstra, step-daughter, Vera Jagielski and brothers: Gus, Fred and William Wesner. Surviving is her husband of 25 years, Robert Bouterse; four stepsons: Donald (Jane) Bouterse, William (Tanya) Bouterse, Robert A. (Mary Beth) Bouterse and Cornell Hiemstra; two granddaughters: Sara and Claude Schofield, and Anne and Mark Seveska; and many nieces and nephews. Visit with her family and friends on Friday, November 27, 2015 from 10:00 AM until the time of her service at 11:00 AM at Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900. A luncheon will follow in the Life Story Center. Burial will take place Saturday, 10:00 AM at Riverview Cemetery in St. Joseph. Please visit Carrie’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a favorite memory, photo and sign her guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Hillcrest Bible Church.