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Life Story / Obituary
Friendly, outgoing, and genuine, Henry Van Ee was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was a fun-loving and funny man with a zest for life that was truly contagious. Henry was a devoted family man whose greatest joy was found in the family he shared with the love of his life. A man of faith, he was an active member of his church and eager to serve others in ways both great and small. Although he traveled all over the world, Hank was also content to just enjoy a quiet evening at home. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever cherish.
Life during the 1930s was anything but easy as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, and there were few who didn’t feel the stress and strain of the time. Although things were getting better as the 1930s were drawing to a close, there was still a long way to go. It was near the end of this decade that Henry Charles and Johanna (Moerdyk) Van Ee were eagerly anticipating the birth of their new baby as the year 1939 was drawing to a close in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their wait was over on December 22nd when the baby boy they named Henry Martin made his arrival. He was the younger of two children as he joined his sister, Carole, in the family, and he was raised in the family home at 1147 Crosby Street in Grand Rapids. Henry’s father worked at Bissell while his mother tested typewriters for Royal. As a family the Van Ees enjoyed spending time at Gun Lake, and they also had a cottage on Bostwick Lake. The family usually spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with extended family.
In many ways, Henry, or Hank as he was often known, was a young boy of his generation. He enjoyed swimming at Richmond Park and also played baseball. As a student Hank attended Harrison Park Elementary and went on to Union High School where he played trumpet in the band and also played both football and baseball. After graduating from high school in 1957, he continued his education at Davenport College, graduating in 1967.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Hank’s introduction to the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Gayle, and she was a waitress at Bylsma’s Pancake House where he used to go eat while working at Duthler’s Food Store. She was just a young girl of 16 while Hank was 17 at the time. They began dating, and with a desire to establish a life together the sweethearts were married on November 11, 1960, at Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church after dating for four years. The newlyweds then took a honeymoon to Florida. They settled into a home at 1123 Widdicomb, but they later moved to homes at 2123 Hamstead Drive and 1423 Seventh Street, all in Grand Rapids. Together they welcomed three children including Michelle Lynn, William Henry, and Robert Edward into their hearts and home. As a family they enjoyed spending time at a cottage at Lake Bellaire every summer, and they also camped in a trailer at Grand Haven State Park and Burt Lake for most of the summer. To support his family, Hank worked as an accountant for Seidman & Seidman, but after 21 years there he went into business for himself. Although he wasn’t much of a cook, Hank did make great eggs for dinner as well as popcorn. As a father he was the disciplinarian, but he was also fun, playful, and continually supportive of his kids.
Throughout his entire life, Henry was always busy. He was an active member of his church where he served as a deacon, usher, and coffee volunteer at times. Hank loved fishing, was a great bowler and golfer, and was a Detroit sports fan. He liked both Mexican and American foods, and for years he was a regular at both New Beginnings and Brann’s Restaurant. When it came to music, he was into country music and gospel with some of his favorite groups being Blackwood Brothers, Statler Brothers, Oak Ridge Boys, and the Gaithers. Hank loved cars, and later in life he treated himself to a new car every three years. He never really retired, but he took time off to do some traveling to places like Italy, Latvia, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, England, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Mediterranean Islands, Turkey, Canada, Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. Both Hank and Gayle loved seeing new places.
Described as someone who was always looking for ways he could help others, even generous to a fault, Henry Van Ee was a blessing to everyone he met. He was friendly and extremely funny as he was forever making those around him laugh. Hank was so proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and he was happiest when surrounded by their love. Although he will be deeply missed, his family finds comfort in knowing that he is enjoying perfect peace in his eternal home.
Mr. Henry “Hank” Van Ee aged 76, of Grand Rapids, went to be with his Lord and Savior on March 21, 2016. He was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Joan Van Ee, and an infant boy. Hank is survived by his loving wife, Gayle; children, Shelley Roberts (George Spates), Billy Van Ee, and Bob (Nicole) Van Ee; grandchildren, Justin, Katie, Ashleigh, Jacob, Adam, Allison, Lucas, Lacey, Gavin, and Andrew; four great-grandchildren; and sister, Carole Grose. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 1:00 pm on Saturday, March 26, 2016 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. The Family will receive visitors on Friday, March 25th from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm and Saturday March 26th from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes. Contributions in his memory may be made to Faith Hospice or the ALS Foundation. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read Hank’s lifestory, archive a memory, photo, or sign the guestbook online.