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.
Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp
15113 Lincoln Lake NE
Gowen, MI 49326
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Life Story / Obituary
Isabel O. Smits faithfully lived her 101 plus years humbly viewing her life as a gift from God. Whether volunteering, traveling, fellowshipping at church, or spending time with her family and friends, she was beloved and respected. With a twinkle in her eye, she would offer a light-hearted comment or quip to the delight of those who knew her. She was generous, truthful, and accepting. This lovely woman will be dearly missed by her friends and family.
Isabel was born to Bart and Cornelia (De Vos) Nauta on January 23, 1917. Her childhood years were centered in faith, hard work, and firm structures. The second of the Nautas’ four children, she grew up with the good company of her older sister, Agnes, as well as her younger brothers, Bert and Peter. Her days were spent helping with the farm; daily chores included tending to the cattle, horses, and fruit. She and her siblings also helped their father sell their produce at the farmers market where patrons gathered in the warmth of his heated farm stand. Isabel attended Moffet Hill Elementary through 8th grade. Each morning she walked the half mile to school. When lunchtime arrived, she walked home and then returned to school afterward. At the end of the day, she made the trip one final time; completing her two-mile daily trek. Every Sunday the family attended West Cannon Baptist Church, and they often picnicked at Bostwick Lake where they enjoyed swimming and taking a break from the farm work. Isabel also spent a good deal of time at grandparents’ home. Isabel’s strict upbringing and faith centered childhood served as the firm foundation upon which she humbly built the rest of her life.
At the age of 19, Isabel left the family farm to attend La Parent School of Cosmetology on Monroe Ave. in Grand Rapids. With signature discipline, Isabel completed the one and one half year course and earned her degree in cosmetology. She worked outside the home as a hairstylist for a few years, building skills she would use for a lifetime as she cared for her family's styling needs - and her own!
One fateful day, Isabel’s brother-in-law’s family introduced her to William Smits who had immigrated from the Netherlands at the age of 17. Despite Bill’s shyness, the pair were soon dating and setting their sights on a future spent together. After dating for a year and a half, Isabel and Bill married on June 23, 1940. She was 23 and he was 28. After making their vows at Rockford Baptist Church, the happy couple honeymooned in the Wisconsin Dells. They stayed at a cousin’s cottage on Lake Michigan for a couple of days and then continued traveling around the big lake.
Following their honeymoon, Isabel and Bill settled in an apartment on Grand Rapid’s west side. Isabel returned to her work at the beauty shop while Bill worked as a tool and die maker. Over the course of two years, Bill and his father built their first home on Aberdeen Street.
Isabel and Bill were blessed to welcome four children into their family; Harvey in 1942, Margo in 1943, Ann in 1949, and Wayne in 1953. As their family grew, so did their need for a larger home. The family soon moved into a nearly new home at 1080 Kinney where they came to enjoy beautiful vegetable and flower gardens. Many a summer and fall was spent harvesting the bounty of their land and canning fruits and vegetables. One year they picked over 100 quarts of raspberries! While the kids attended Huff Elementary, Isabel loved to crochet and sew. For years the family enjoyed vacationing at many of the Michigan State parks in their travel trailer. Ludington, Pentwater, Traverse City, and Interlochen were their favorites. Isabel relished in the family gathering around the campfire and singing songs with a harmonica as accompaniment. More good times were spent at a local park where the family celebrated Bill and his brother Pete’s birthdays with an abundance of homemade goodies including homemade ice cream.
Around 1950, Isabel and Bill were able to travel west using famous Route 66 to visit relatives living in California and see the sights along the way. In retirement, they enjoyed visiting their children and grandchildren living out of state. They also felt very blessed to have returned to the Netherlands three times to visit Bill's relatives. But they didn't just relax in retirement - they enjoyed volunteering at Spurgeon Baptist College in Florida. For 17 winters, they took their travel trailer and stayed on campus. Their task was to help the maintenance crew. They always returned to Michigan mid-spring with the most beautiful tans! Later in life, Isabel wintered with her daughter Margo in Atlanta, traveling by plane to a warmer climate.
To her family and church friends, Isabel was known as a generous giver. Since she and Bill lived below their means and invested carefully, they were able to save for their golden years and have extra to share with others. She willingly met needs as they arose in the family, one time, even giving away her Mercedes! Isabel also gave periodic financial gifts to her descendants, along with admonition to invest the money instead of spending it all. Giving was such a priority for her that even when she was ill and couldn't attend church, she would look for ways to send her weekly offering.
Isabel was content to enjoy simple pleasures and comfortable, familiar routines. Gardening was a passion of hers and kept her active well into her late 90s. She collected silver teaspoons and postcards from the various places she had traveled. When relaxing at home, she could often be found working a word search and drinking a cup of tea. In her senior years, she was active in the Walker Firehouse Senior Center, lunching there three times a week. She loved card games, and it wasn't uncommon for her to win an average of 3 out of 4 games. One favorite, Spite and Malice, was particularly complicated, but Isabel would display a great deal of kindness and grace as she tried to help her opponents succeed - but usually end up winning in the end. She also had favorite TV shows that were a part of her daily routine, including Wheel of Fortune, The Price Is Right, and Let's Make a Deal. She was also an active and cherished member of Standale Baptist Church, which she had faithfully attended since 1960.
Just as life bestowed many blessings on Isabel’s life, she also suffered her share of hardships. In 1990 her beloved Bill died unexpectedly, leaving her to live as a widow for 28 years. And, in 1997 Isabel’s son Wayne was killed in a work-related accident. Needless to say, the loss of these two special men proved extremely difficult. We can only imagine the joy of their heavenly reunion.
Without a doubt, this world lost a precious soul when Isabel Smits went to be with Jesus. We can take comfort in knowing that she is now free from all pain and suffering, rejoicing in the presence of her Savior, and reconnected with loved ones who have gone before. The Bible teaches that in heaven, she is more alive than she ever has been; may God grant us all the grace to join her there one day.
SMITS, Isabel O. Grand Rapids, MI, Age 101, went to her Heavenly Home on May 9, 2018. Isabel was born January 23, 1917, in Ada, MI to the late Bart and Cornelia (DeVos) Nauta. She was also preceded in death by her husband, William Smits; son, Wayne Smits; siblings, Agnes Lankamp, Peter & Bert Nauta. Isabel was a founding member of Standale Baptist Church. She was proud of her Beauty school training and her volunteer work. Isabel will be remembered as a spunky, stubborn, straight shooter. Others remember her as a gracious, generous, and dedicated Christian woman. She is survived by her children, Harvey (Charlene) Smits of Clarksville, TN, Margo Cuthbert of Atlanta, GA, Ann (Tom) Ortmeyer of Potsdam, NY; grandchildren, Jamie Smits, Holly Smits, Corrine O'Leary, Karl Ortmeyer, Suzanne Lesser, Sandra Reppenhagen, Will Cuthbert, Heather Buchholz, Andrea Kraft; great-grandchildren, Jaydin, John, Lauren, Josh, Andrew, Amanda, Rosie, Donovan, Eden, Eliana; and sister-in-law, Jean Nauta of Grand Rapids. The family would like to extend a special thank you to her loving granddaughter Holly Smits, for the care and companionship she provided for many years. A funeral service will be held Saturday, May 12 at 2 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. Friends may visit with her family beginning at 1 PM. Interment will be in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Standale Baptist Church or Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp. Please visit Isabel's personal web page to read more of her life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.