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3550 North Central Ave. Suite 300
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St. Vincent's Home for Boys
2800 West Willow
Life Story / Obituary
With his heart that seemed to know no bounds, Harry Vanderstow, Jr. embraced each day he was given by deeply loving the family that he saw as his most prized possession. Harry was a man of honor who proudly served his country during a time of need, fighting for the freedoms that every American enjoys each day. Harry was generous and intelligent, and a loyal friend through and through. He was blessed with a beautiful singing voice, and marked every birthday within his family with a heart-felt “Happy Birthday” serenade over the telephone. Harry was a rare gem indeed whose sparkle radiated to the lives of so many.
During the 1920s, life was good in America. Business was expanding and industry was booming in order to meet peacetime needs after we emerged from WWI as a world leader. Also enjoying this exciting time were Harry and Bregje “Bessie” (DeBree) Vanderstow Sr., of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who were pleased to announce the birth of their son, Harry, on April 27, 1926. Harry, who was most often called “Jr.,” was the oldest of four children in his family and was incredibly intelligent even as a young boy as evidenced by his ability to read when he was just three years old. His father worked as an interior designer, but as the prosperity of the twenties fell victim to the Great Depression near the end of 1929, his father lost everything during this difficult time. Their family then moved to Lake City, Michigan, where his father worked as a dairy farmer when Harry was four years old.
Life was forever changed for Harry when he noticed a striking young girl who was walking on the other side of the street one day. Jr. asked his friend who this girl was, to which his friend replied, “Don’t you know the daughter of your mail carrier?” Well Harry certainly had plans to get to know the young girl named Paula Chess, and the two began dating while he was in high school and she was 15. Harry used to walk six miles to see his sweetheart, and it wasn’t long before they had fallen hopelessly in love. Jr. knew she was the girl for him when he told her that he wanted to have 12 children, and she agreed – only to find out later that he wasn’t joking!
As our country was pulled into WWII after being attacked on December 7, 1941, Harry enlisted in the Army and became part of the driving force throughout Europe as the war drew to a close. For a time, he was also part of the occupying army in Germany. Upon his discharge, Jr. returned home where he resumed the life he left behind.
Although Harry and Paula were physically separated while he was overseas, their hearts remained intertwined. Harry married his beloved Paula on November 23, 1945, in Lake City when she was just 16. It wasn’t long before Harry and Paula were blessed with their first of ten children, filling them with joy beyond measure. Harry. and Paula enjoyed a rich and fulfilling marriage, providing their children with a living, breathing picture of what true love really is. Their children even witnessed their parents dancing in the kitchen while Harry whistled a tune. Harry supported his family through his work at Fisher Body from which he eventually retired.
There were so many things that made Harry unique and dearly loved by so many. He was a brilliant mathematician, could read and write Latin, and was always able to complete the crossword puzzles in the New York Times. Harry loved good food, yet it was common knowledge that his favorite restaurant was Old Country Buffet. He was a great cook himself and taught Paula to cook as well. Harry also loved woodworking and throughout the years, he not only made many crafts for his children and grandchildren, but also taught them woodworking skills for themselves. He enjoyed his vegetable garden, and volunteering within his community. Harry liked to travel, and went to places such as Brazil and Italy. He was intelligent and astute, was brilliantly able to multi-task, and had strong opinions that were always founded on rational thought. Harry in his Dutch stubbornness “could not tolerate a fool.”
To Harry Vanderstow, Jr., life was not about the quest to achieve the seemingly elusive “American dream,” but it was about establishing relationships with those placed in his life. He cherished his wife and was thrilled with the births of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren - an outpouring of a love story he shared with his one true love for nearly 65 years. Harry lived a full life, felt as though he had everything he could ever desire, and that he left no unfinished business behind. He leaves behind a legacy that will certainly withstand the ebb and flow of the tide. Harry will be so dearly missed by those he leaves behind as evidenced by the heart-felt words of his family:
“We love you more than you will ever know.
Through the tears and joys of life.
The tears must be overcome.
We will miss you.
The tears now nearly overcome us,
But the joys of you in memories will let us go on.
We hope you are in a place where tears cannot harm you anymore,
And hope to see you again one day.
Goodbye for now Grampa.”
Harry A. Vanderstow, Jr. died on August 25, 2009. Harry’s family includes his wife Paula and their children: daughters, Peggy Underwood, Catherine (Michael) Zwerk, Diane Newman, Francine (Kevin) Vaughn, Gretchen (Everett) Garry, sons, Bruce, Douglas, Bradley (Toni), Jeffrey and Jeremy; 20 grandchildren; 43 great grandchildren; 3 great great grandchildren; sister Marilyn (Roy) Heron and brothers, Gardner (Shirley) and Robert (Mickie). He was preceded in death by sons, Brian and Chad. Funeral services will be 11:00 a.m., Saturday, August 29, 2009 at Osgood Funeral Home, 104 E. Cass St., St. Johns, with Pastor Kathy Leydorf officiating, burial at Sowle Cemetery. The family will receive friends for visitation 2-4 and 6-8 p.m., Thursday and Friday in Maple Rapids at the Abbott Chapel of Osgood Funeral Homes, 509 E. Main St., Maple Rapids, MI. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com/memories/50930, where you can archive a memory or photo, sign his memory book, make a memorial contribution to the Make a Wish Foundation or St. Vincent’s Home for Children (Lansing).