Eleanor Van Oosten

April 22, 1912 - April 15, 2016
Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, April 19, 2016
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Van Strien Chapel
1833 Plainfield Ave., N.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
(616) 361-2613
Driving Directions


Wednesday, April 20, 2016
11:00 AM EDT
Second Congregational Church
525 Cheshire NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


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.

Second Congregational Church
525 Cheshire NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


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


It is near impossible to imagine witnessing the several high and low water levels left by the endeavors of humankind during Eleanor Jeanette VanOosten’s life. The RMS Titanic ventured into uncharted areas and never arrived home, but Apollo 11 did. Periods of peace were interrupted by wars, economies collapsed and thrived, and seasons changed a remarkable 103 times. And during this time, Eleanor touched the lives of those around her in ways that may not find expression in words, but are certainly wholly remembered.

Eleanor’s extraordinary tale begins in the North end of Grand Rapids where she was born on April 22, 1912, to the delight of her parents Fred and Lulubelle (Phelps) Rosset. At the age of two, her family moved to Edgewood St. NE where she would come to remain throughout her incredible life. As the eldest of four children, Eleanor grew up caring for her younger siblings - Gary, Catherine, and Dorothy. A testament to the priorities and resilience of her parents during this time, Eleanor would go on to graduate from Creston High School, despite the onset of the Great Depression and the reigning financial turmoil.

Although attending different schools, it was during high school that Eleanor met her one true love, James VanOosten. They say opposites attract, and this certainly rang true for the young couple. For a few years, Eleanor worked at the A&P bakery while dating James, and after a thorough courtship, they shared vows of marriage in 1935. As newlyweds, Eleanor and James bought their house on Edgewood from her grandparents. It was in this home, which meant so much to Eleanor, that she and James excitedly welcomed and lovingly raised their three children, Joyce, Jim, and Ruthanne.

Although an affectionate and supportive mother, Eleanor was known not to shun the role of disciplinarian when required. She spoke her mind, and her kids knew what was expected of them. In fact, everyone else also knew too well that things needed to be done Eleanor's way! She was very particular about certain things, and keeping a clean and organized house was one of them. A wonderful homemaker in every sense, Eleanor created a safe and caring environment for her family, and enjoyed cooking and baking family favorites throughout the years.

During the summers, Eleanor and her family experienced wonderful times, cementing many memories in Grand Haven with James’ family, as well as weekends at the family cottage at Sunfish Lake with hers. The love of these special family moments would be a constant throughout her life and in later years, Eleanor would treasure the times spent with her grandchildren nearly every day in the summer. Sharing many activities, she would take them swimming at Briggs Park, for ice cream at Frosty Boy, music lessons down on Sweet St. NE and vacation bible school at Second Congregational Church. All of them still fondly remember her grilled cheese sandwiches and delicious, homemade chocolate chip cookies. Holidays were always exceptional at Eleanor’s home where she delighted in hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. With her family growing ever larger, she would be remembered as the glue that kept them all together at these celebrations, the pivot that made them all belong.

Eleanor never saw the need for a driver’s license and preferred to reach her destination at her pace walking in the neighborhood that she knew so well and in which she was a fixture. Quite talented when it came to sewing, knitting, and embroidery, she took time to teach her children and grandchildren these skills whether or not they took to it. What did undoubtedly leave an impression was her passion for reading and subsequent ability to converse with understanding and wisdom on many topics. She also found peace in tending to her gardens with spectacular results in both her vegetables and flowers. As a woman of faith, Eleanor was a very active member of Second Congregational Church and she was involved in her guild which allowed for her to care for the wider community around Edgewood St. NE.

This sense of empathy reverberated throughout her life and was reciprocated often. With the passing of James in 1979, it was the love and support from family and friends that saw Eleanor through. Very much an individual in her own right, Eleanor was regarded as a willful and independent woman, and it came as no surprise to her friends, family and neighbors to find her mowing her lawn well into her nineties. So much so, that at the age of 97, her family had to intervene by regulating the use of her ladder as she was up on it painting her own house and trimming trees, an act that taught the family once again that Eleanor could be quite opinionated!

At the age of 102, Eleanor simply needed some assistance in her daily life. For the last two years she lived at Pilgrim Manor and although she was understanding of her changing circumstances, Eleanor’s independent nature still shone brightly. Dancing to her own tune, Eleanor lived with independence and determination. Her life was enriched in countless ways with those she loved by her side. Ever caring and mindful of supporting her family, she enlightened them with ways only she could. In them she cultivated a sense of self, and as a loving example, she leaves behind numerous memories to cherish. Her legacy isn’t the things she did or experienced in 103 years, it is the sum of her years of understanding, love and wisdom.

Eleanor J. Van Oosten, age 103 of Grand Rapids, passed on April 15, 2016. She was preceded in death by her husband, James; her daughter and son-in-law, Joyce and Jack VanBlooys; her brother, Gary Rosset; and sisters, Catherine Whitman and Dorothy Wessman. Eleanor is survived by her children, Jim (Sue) VanOosten, Ruthanne (Jack) Snyder; grandchildren, Daryl Melpolder, Nancy (Ken) DeGood, Bill VanOosten, Jim (Heather) VanOosten, Sue Everitt, Shannon Burton and Jason (Brenda) Snyder; 17 great-grandchildren and one great great-granddaughter.

The service to remember and celebrate Eleanor's life will be held on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 11:00 AM at Second Congregational Church. Friends are invited to visit with her family on Tuesday from 5-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home-Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Second Congregational Church are appreciated. To read more about her life, to share a memory and to sign her guestbook, please visit www.lifestorynet.com.