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.
Grace Baptist Mission Fund
1285 43rd Avenue
Vero Beach, FL 32960
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Henry Vander Werf, it is easy to see that his faith was first and foremost in his life. A close second was his family, and he was blessed to share the majority of his life with his true love. Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, Henry was a humble man who lived his life with others in mind. The way before him was not always easy, but his strength and courage were truly inspiring. Life will never be the same without him here, but Henry leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The 1930s were very trying days worldwide as the Great Depression was felt nearly everywhere, and the Netherlands was no exception. There was joy to be found, however, and it was on May 27th, 1934, that Henry and Henrietta (Folkert) Vander Werf found some joy of their own as they were blessed with the birth of the baby boy they named Henry in Sneek, the Netherlands. He was the second of six children in his family, and he was known to find himself in some mischief at times such as when he pole jumped over canals. Because his mother was sickly when he was a young boy, Henry entered kindergarten at the age of three, and then he did it two more times. There were many scary days as WWII invaded their country, and when the Germans searched the homes the Vander Werfs hid in the house. It was also commonplace to see tanks going down the roads.
In search of a better life, Henry and his family all came to the United States together in 1948 on what was a very long and rough boat ride. They eventually settled on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Still needing to learn English, Henry was put into a first grade class at Oakleigh Elementary alongside students who were much younger, but he excelled there and quickly caught up the peers who were his same age. He eventually went on to Creston High School and then took trade courses becoming a die maker. One of Henry’s first jobs found him working in a bakery where he was told he could eat as much as he wanted - knowing that after the initial splurge he would most likely not want to indulge anymore.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a teen was Henry’s introduction to the woman of his dreams. Her name was Virginia Meyners, and she lived just down the block. Henry offered to walk her home one day, and they later began seeing each other here and there. It took some time as Henry had a strong Baptist background while Virginia was raised Christian Reformed, but they later fell in love and were married on March 24, 1955, at Coldbrook Christian Reformed Church. Car problems diverted the newlyweds from their planned destination in Florida to a honeymoon spent in Niagara Falls instead. Their honeymoon story even made the local newspaper.
As a young husband, Henry worked in a tool and die shop. They settled into an apartment for a while before moving into the house on Carlton that he and his father built. Over the 18 years that followed, Henry and his wife filled the house with seven children, Marlene, Charlene, Darlene, Dale, David, Daniel, and Duane. As a father Henry was very involved in the lives of his children. Although he was the disciplinarian, he was also a lot of fun. The kids took turns going to the grocery store with him, and he also took them fishing, attended family football and softball games, and gave the kids piggy back rides to bed. Henry taught them Dutch songs, and he played his harmonica. The family enjoyed vacations together, and he was rather easy going as he was content traveling as far as they could by car. They eventually moved to a larger home on Olderidge, NE and then to Birnam Woods Drive.
Although he treasured his family, Henry’s faith was always the center of his life. They were active members at Highland Hills Baptist Church and provided their children with a Christian education, but Henry also made sure that he taught his children about matters of faith. He religiously read devotions with them at dinnertime, and after retirement Henry continued with his devotions each morning. Not only did the Vander Werf family attend services on Sunday, but they also attended Wednesday gatherings. Over the years Henry served as an elder, deacon, Sunday School Superintendent, and in many other ways as well.
Throughout his life Henry was known for his strong work ethic. After his apprenticeship he began his career at Michigan Machine where he became a foreman and earned the respect of his employer. Henry later formed Vander Werf Die Design, which started in his basement, knowing that it "takes money to make money” All of his boys eventually became involved in tool and die, and he expanded his venture with Vander Werf Prototype, which also started in the home and would grow to around 50 employees. Henry worked hard and expected much, but he also cared for his employees as he firmly believed that the business was his mission field. He also started each day with a meeting and prayer. Henry’s employees respected him and knew him to be a man of his word.
Always thinking and rarely one to sit still, he was also a dreamer and inventor. He holds several patents as he invented a ramp to help teach people to water ski as well as several things for the tool and die industry. Henry was very handy as he helped build his first house and also did repairs and renovations. He loved woodworking, especially during his retirement years.
In retirement Henry remained busy. They spent several years living in condo, and they also lived in Florida for part of the year. Henry and Virginia also traveled extensively to places like the Netherlands, Israel, and Australia, but his favorite was probably Hawaii. He also treated his entire family with a trip to Disney World.
A dreamer, a visionary, and a bit of a prankster, Henry Vander Werf was such a blessing. He accomplished great things, but he will be remembered most for his faithfulness to his Lord and his family. Deeply loved, Henry will never be forgotten.
Henry Vander Werf, age 82 of Vero Beach and formerly of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on Sunday, August 14, 2016. Henry is survived by his wife, Virginia; daughters and sons-in-law Marlene Snyder, Charlene & Chuck Gritter, Darlene Meyers; sons and daughters-in-law Dale & Patti; David & Dawn, Daniel & Barbara, Duane & Kathy; many grandchildren and great grandchildren; brothers and sisters-in-law Walter & Anne Vander Werf, Ralph & Mary Jane Vander Werf, Trudy Vander Werf, Don & Sue Vander Werf; sister and brother-in-law Gerda & John DenBoer; sisters-in-law Joyce Haan, Arlene & Gary Popma; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son-in-law, Jeff Snyder; granddaughter, Abigail and brother Peter Vander Werf. The service to remember and celebrate Henry’s life will be held on Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE where friends are invited to visit with his family on Friday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Grace Baptist Mission Fund are appreciated (1285 43rd Avenue, Vero Beach, Florida 32960). To read more about Henry’s life, share a memory or photo, or sign his guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com