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Life Story / Obituary
A generous, driven, and dedicated woman, Diane VanBennekom lived her life with great passion. Equipped with quick humor to lighten any mood, an ability to empathize with others and a positive outlook on life, Diane modeled for others a selfless and caring nature. She fought a courageous battle never wavering from her faith or the support of her friends and family. Although she will be deeply missed, Diane leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories for her loved one to cherish for years to come.
The 1960s were characterized by great social changes. Known as the era of optimism, many Americans believed they were standing at the dawn of a golden age. At the beginning of this promising decade in our nation’s history, Henry James and Joyce Margaret (McNitt) Ludwick welcomed home their newborn daughter, Diane on April 29, 1961, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her birth gave them much hope and happiness.
Growing up in Jenison with her brother, Douglas James, Diane lived a typical childhood of the times. Her father was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who retired as a college professor from Grand Rapids Community College and her mother was a speech pathologist. With two professional educators as parents, education played an important role in her upbringing. She attended Bursley Elementary School where she was often described as a tomboy due to her keen sense of adventure. Always active, even after injuring her ankle twice on the teeter-totter, it didn’t stop her adventurous spirit or keep her away from playing or swimming with the neighbors in their pool. As long as there was any daylight left, Diane was content playing outdoors.
Raised in a strong Christian household, she and her brother, Douglas were very close and enjoyed one another’s company which usually involved fishing together with their father. As a family, they spent many summer vacations touring different parts of the United States. They’d haul their camper trailer on trips to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Maine, as well as several trips to Florida. Family holidays were always celebrated with plenty of presents, especially at Christmas. During her years at Jenison High School, Diane discovered her beautiful and natural singing voice. Remaining active in the school choir, her voice was a gift she cherished throughout her lifetime. She also enjoyed participating on the Pom Pom team. Ambitious and optimistic, Diane had a bright future ahead of her.
Not to be forgotten was the meeting of the man of her dreams, Michael Scott VanBennekom! Both of them were active in their commitment to volunteering in their community and met at a special education event held at Lincoln Public School. After dating for nearly a year, they joined in marriage in her childhood church, Bethlehem Lutheran, on April 7, 1984. Eager to start a family of their own, they settled into a duplex and were joined by their son Mathew in 1985 followed by their daughter Kari in 1989. Diane was immensely proud of her role as a mother, staying home with the children while also working at an adult foster care home to help support their growing needs. As a family, they treasured many wonderful vacations together. Often they traveled to Florida making lasting memories. When it came to the cooking, however, Mike would have to remove the smoke detectors beforehand as Diane was not the most talented cook! The kids were fond of ordering out for pizza or helped pitch in from time to time. Despite her lack of teaching her children how to make their way around a kitchen, she most certainly provided them with a sound Christian foundation by sharing with them her love of the Bible and leading them in daily prayer. Her deep love of her Lord and Savior was truly her legacy to her children.
Later, when the children were grown, Diane was able to pick up more hours and worked as an Occupational Therapist at Beacon Hill Retirement Community. Loved by both the clients and staff alike, Diane’s wonderful gift of compassion was shown in every aspect of her work there. Active in their faith life with Kentwood Community Church also opened many doors for Diane. She eventually accepted a position in the administrative offices of the church and she and Mike continued to grow in their faith. With such a vast number of experiences as well as their steadfast commitment to the church community, she and Mike were asked to help establish a second church campus in Wyoming, Michigan. Working with the church was certainly Diane’s most profound role in all of her employment years. She felt called to serve others and share in fellowship with countless lives she touched over the years.
Hard to believe that Diane had any time to experience her many special interests. She and Mike both enjoyed traveling and went on a cruise together as well as vacationed in Mexico. Her heart was filled with joy when her granddaughter, Mykenna arrived! The two of them adored one another. Diane shared with Mykenna her love of serving others and practicing the Christian faith. When it came time for relaxation, Diane favored Christian pop music as well as traditional gospel hymns. She cherished time to read and loved all of James Patterson’s mysteries. When it came time for fun, Diane was the first to make others smile and laugh. She’d often make clever impersonations of others to keep everyone entertained. Diane was truly an angel on Earth. May her loved ones never doubt her unending love for each and every one of them. Gone too soon, she will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered.
Diane Marie VanBennekom [Ludwick], aged 57, passed away peacefully on Saturday, December 15, 2018, while in the company of her family. She was born in Grand Rapids, MI in the Spring of 1961 to the late Henry and Joyce Ludwick. Diane is survived by her husband of 34 years Michael S. VanBennekom, her children, Matthew “Matt” and Kari VanBennekom, her granddaughter, Mykenna and stepmother Diane Ludwick. She is also survived by her brother Douglas (Mary) Ludwick and her nieces, Erika (Chris) Vonk, Claire (Stephan) Labadie and Lauren Ludwick. Diane had enjoyed a successful career as an Occupational Therapist, most recently working at Beacon Hills at Eastgate. She was also an active and engaged member of Kentwood Community Church. Please join Diane’s family for visitation taking place at Kentwood Community Church (1200 60th Street SE, Kentwood MI 49508) on Friday, December 21, 2018, from 10-11 AM. A memorial service will follow beginning at 11 AM. Memorial contributions may be made in memory of Diane to either Kentwood Community Church, Wyoming Campus, (1200 60th St. SE, Kentwood MI 49508) or to Faith Hospice, (2100 Raybrook SE, Suite 300 Grand Rapids, MI 49546). Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to submit a favorite memory, picture, or to sign the online guestbook.