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Life Story / Obituary
Robert Clair (Bob) Vanderham went to be with our Heavenly Father on May 26, 2013. He was born May 6, 1922 in Kansas City, Missouri, raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, attended college in Indiana and moved to Holland in 1949.
The first born son of Mathel and Lloyd Vanderham, Bob’s brother, John Carlton was 5 years younger and sister, Francis Jean, 15 years his junior. Bob married Marion Elizabeth Stiles, his college sweetheart on September 14, 1944 and enjoyed a beautiful life of 65 years together.
Bob and Marion were blessed with four children, Diane, David, Debra and Drew; eight grandchildren, Jennifer and Jeremy (Diane & Ken Witteveen); Lynsey and Casey (David & Denyse Vanderham); Matthew and Crystal (Debra & Ray Munson); Jenna and Jordan (Drew & Star Vanderham) and three great grandchildren, Kadence and Olivia (Jeremy and Amie Witteveen) and Marco (Pili and Matt Munson).
Bob attended two years of college at Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois at Garret Seminary before graduating from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana with a BA in sociology. He went on to earn a Masters Degree in sociology at DePauw and a Master’s Degree in Social Work at Michigan State University where he also spent an additional year in the PhD program in Sociology.
Bob loved his country and was honored to spend nearly two years in the South Pacific as an Ensign in the United States Navy during World War II. Upon discharge, he accepted an Assistant Professor position at Michigan State University and shortly after was recruited to be Assistant Professor of Sociology and Chairman of the Department at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Eight years later, he took a year long sabbatical to teach at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio.
Returning to Holland in 1959, Bob joined D.A. Blodgett Homes for Children as a Social Worker launching his second career involving foster care planning, family counseling and juvenile court work. In 1967, Hope College invited him back to teach sociology and social work. He also coached Hope’s cross country team.
While teaching, Bob continued to work part time at both D.A. Blodgett Homes for Children in Grand Rapids and Child and Family Services in Holland as Supervisor specializing in adoptions. During his career, he placed over 400 children into adoptive homes. Many of those families stayed in touch throughout the years sharing stories about “Bob’s kids”.
A man of strong faith, Bob was a 40 year member of Hope Church and 15 year member of Beechwood Reformed Church. He and his wife, Marion were co-Presidents of the Couples Club and Bob served on the Consistory. He was also active as a leader in Boy Scouts, on the Child Welfare Board in Grand Rapids as well as an active member of the National Association of Social Workers and the American Sociological Society.
“That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.” Bob Vanderham was not only successful, he was also a bit of a Rock Star on the campus of Hope College in his retirement years, encouraging, counseling and teaching a whole new generation of students. He particularly enjoyed the past four years when he was “adopted” by several Hope College students who became his extended family, visiting him daily at Warm Friend where he encouraged them to paint, read and talk about whatever was on their hearts. These kids became the lights of Bob’s life. They gave him purpose and he gave them unconditional love.
Bob was preceded in death by his brother, John in 2007, his wife, Marion in 2009 and his daughter Diane in 2011.
A service celebrating Bob’s life will be held on Saturday, June 15 at 11 am at Beechwood Reformed Church. The family will welcome visitors after the service.
Burial after cremation will be beside his wife, Marion, in Fort Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan and Mount Muncie Cemetery in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Memorial messages may be created by logging onto http://bobvanderham.muchloved.com. In lieu of flowers, charitable contributions may be made to Resthaven of Holland, Hope College Art Department or Hospice of Holland.
Arrangements by the Downtown Chapel, Dykstra Funeral Homes, www.dykstrafuneralhome.com.