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Covenant Village of the Great Lakes Benevolent Fund
2510 Lake Michigan Drive NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
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Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around her, Phyllis Worpel was truly beautiful on the inside and out. Generous with her time and resources, she touched the lives of numerous others in ways both great and small. A devoted wife and mother, Phyllis certainly took these roles to heart, but she just might have argued that nothing was sweeter than becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother. Life was not without times of trial for her, but she faced whatever came her way with both strength and grace that were to be admired. Deeply loved, Phyllis will never be forgotten.
The Roaring Twenties were an exciting time in America. Jazz music was hot, ballroom dancing was among the latest trends, and the lights of Broadway never shined brighter. It was on June 3, 1928, that Edward and Bernice (Henkel) Ysseldyke were filled with great joy for a much different reason as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Phyllis Ruth. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she was the oldest of five children in her family and was raised on the Northeast side of the city alongside her brothers, Bob, Jerry, Ed, and Bill. Of great significance during her childhood years were severe burns experienced as a result of a boating accident when Phyllis was just five.
In many ways Phyllis was a young girl of her generation. As the oldest child and the only girl, she had many responsibilities around the house and was very involved in helping raise her younger brothers. They had huge gardens in their yard and grew fruit not only to not only put on their own table but also to sell at the market. Phyllis attended local schools including Creston High School where she sang in the choir. This uncovered a lifelong passion for singing, and she had the most beautiful soprano voice throughout her life. Phyllis went on to graduate from high school.
It was while singing in a quartet at Immanuel Lutheran Church that Phyllis met the man who would forever change the course of her life. His name was Otto Worpel, and although he lived across the street it was that fateful day when the sparks flew. Although Phyllis had been seeing someone else, Otto swept her off her feet despite being three years her senior. A romance followed, and they were married about a year later on September 26, 1947, at Immanuel Lutheran Church. The newlyweds then enjoyed a short honeymoon to Niagara Falls. Phyllis had been working at the phone company, but her father then got both she and Otto a job at Berkey and Gaye. At first Phyllis and her husband had a home on Four Mile Road, NW, which is where they started their family with the birth of their daughters: first Diane, and then Linda. Phyllis also stopped working once she became a mother so she could focus her time and attention on her home and family.
As their family grew, the Worpels needed more room. This brought them to a house just down the street where their family was completed with the two boys, Tom, and Bob. Although Phyllis was more of a prim and proper city girl, she did overcome the few challenges that living in the country brings. At first she put glass bottles overtop of any spiders that she found so that Otto could take care of them when he got home from work! Around the home Phyllis was neat and orderly, and her bed was always meticulously made. She was amazing in the kitchen, and she also did a lot of canning and freezing. Phyllis was deeply devoted to her children, and as a mother she was patient, tender, and understanding. At the same time she wasn’t afraid to discipline her children when needed.
Both Phyllis and Otto were social people. They were charter members of Mount Olive Lutheran Church. Over the years Phyllis was involved in the choirs there, and she was also part of various guilds. One such group was a group of ladies who regularly gathered in each other’s homes for Stitch and Cackle. When Phyllis was hosting, the entire home had to be cleaned from top to bottom - and it involved the entire family! She and Otto also liked going to the Lexicon Club to dance.
When her children were older, Phyllis became more involved outside of the home. She went back to work at a pharmacy store in Standale called Nellists. Phyllis spent several years working there as a manager and buyer, but she also enjoyed working with the cosmetics and arranging the window displays. She liked her work, and over the years she was able to work with each of her kids there. After they closed, Phyllis worked in the pharmacy at Meijer until retiring.
Although Phyllis and Otto had different interests throughout their married life they complemented one another well. She enjoyed things like movies, concerts, traveling, and music, but she did get him to take a few vacations with her to places like Hawaii and Europe. As they approached retirement, she adopted many of his pursuits as her own. Phyllis began traveling with him and the horses, going to parades and taking part with the Michigan Trail Riders Association Shore to Shore ride. They were delighted to become grandparents, and they loved seeing them often. Phyllis was always particularly smitten with babies, especially newborns. The grandchildren will always remember leaving her home with a fat pretzel and Phyllis taking the time to play with them. Later in life she lit up when great-grandchildren came as she loved to hold them and even just observe them.
After spending a lifetime together making memories, Phyllis and Otto experienced some struggles as his health began declining in 2005. They moved to Covenant Village, which was a much easier move for her than it was for him. Phyllis was was deeply saddened with his death in May of 2006. She really found such joy in her community there, and her involvement blossomed as she became involved in a choir while also singing in a trio with others at her church. Phyllis took part in other activities such creative writing, various service groups, and volunteering to the point where it was often hard to catch her at home. As her health declined she moved to assisted living.
Kind, warm, caring, and generous are just a few of the words used to describe Phyllis Worpel. She wasn’t overly expressive, but she became more so as she got older, and her sweet disposition made her a true joy. Phyllis delighted in her family, and her faith was a solid cornerstone in her life. She will be forever missed.
Phyllis Worpel, age 88 of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully, entering her heavenly home on December 6, 2016. She was preceded in death by her husband, Otto; her daughter, Linda Romig, and her granddaughter Erica Sanders. Phyllis is survived by her children Diane Cremer, Tom and Kathy Worpel and Bob and Chris Worpel; son-in-law David Romig; grandchildren Angela (Tim) Horjus, Julie Cremer, Tara Hampton, Rebekah (Jeff) Weglarz, Jordan Worpel, Caleb (Rebecca) Worpel, Lisa (Rob) Walcott, Kate (Craig) Howell and Lori (Ben) Craymer; 12 great grandchildren; brothers Bob (Sharon) Ysseldyke, Jerry (Dawn) Ysseldyke, Ed (Bea) Ysseldyke, Bill (Kathy) Ysseldyke; as well as several nieces and nephews. Her funeral service will be held on Saturday, December 10 at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends may visit with her family on Friday from 5-8 PM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Covenant Village Benevolent Fund are appreciated. To read more about Phyllis, to share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com