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.
St. Judes Children's Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN 38105
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
A generous and compassionate woman, Marilyn VanStrien devoted her life to serving others. She accomplished so many things of which to be proud, but her greatest source of pride and joy was found in her relationships with others. She was an active member of the community and made many wonderful friendships over the years. Although she will be deeply missed, Marilyn leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories to be cherished forever.
Looking back on the 1930s, it is difficult to recall much of anything that wasn’t affected by the Great Depression. There were few jobs and a soaring unemployment rate that left countless American families without homes. Despite these tough times, James and Alice (Standish) McClurkin celebrated with great joy the arrival of their newborn baby girl, Marilyn on April 1, 1935, in Hastings, Michigan. She was born the oldest of three children and her birth brought much happiness and promise to the family home.
Growing up with a mother who was a direct descendant to Captain Myles Standish of the Mayflower, Marilyn was proud of her heritage. She and her siblings, Eleanor and James each pitched in to help their father on the family farm. Not one to like the outdoor chores, Marilyn favored her time in the kitchen where her mother, Alice taught her how to cook and to bake. This skill set would prove to be needed in the meager years after her mother’s passing. At the tender age of seventeen, Marilyn stepped in as the primary caregiver to her siblings, especially her younger brother, James. Her father was a hard worker and looked to his night shifts at a local dairy to help make ends meet. Struggling with their grief as well as the tough economic times meant there really wasn’t much time left for building memories as a family. Instead, Marilyn took on several responsibilities around the home and farm while their father was away at work. One night, the three children were out milking cows when a tornado struck and tore the roof off their barn! Frightened, yet familiar with managing alone, they grew close to one another during those years. Regardless of the endless demands of dairy farming, the family never missed Sunday service at McCallum United Brethren Church. In fact, they often went twice on Sundays and once during the week!
Although Marilyn gave Beauty School a fair shot, she never really enjoyed it and instead sought other areas of interest. With her many years of being creative in the kitchen, jobs at local diners were a good fit. She continued her love of cooking by working in restaurant kitchens and baking the most delicious cakes and cookies for gifts or payments to the special people in her life who stepped in to help her out from time to time. Marilyn had a unique way of connecting with patrons during her restaurant years. As fate would have it, her role as a cook led her to meet the man of her dreams, James VanStrien! Hitting it off right from the start, the two of them were married after a short courtship. Moving into their home at 1407 Burton Street SW, they made a happy life together. James had four children from a previous marriage and Marilyn developed an exceptionally close relationship with her step son, Jim.
Her husband, James was a hard worker and a good provider. While he was working for the moving company, North American Van Lines, Marilyn often worked right alongside him helping him pack boxes. After fifteen good years together, the news of James’ diagnosis with lung cancer hit them both hard. Fighting a tough battle for two years, James succumbed to his illness. No greater example of Marilyn’s unconditional love for him was given during his illness. Steadfast and true, she never left his side. Her unwavering commitment to him was admirable.
Widowed for forty years, Marilyn relied on the resiliency of her past to get her through. She dove into her work in order to drown out the painful loss. Over the years, she worked for both United Trucking Company and later, Spartan Stores. Remarkably, but not surprisingly, she was a dispatcher for a fleet of nearly two hundred trucks! It was here, that she found great happiness mothering the truckers who became like family to her. Even after she retired from her former role, she continued as a companion even babysitting for several of the driver’s children. Blessed to watch over them like they were her own, Marilyn was delighted to spend time with each and every one of them. Marilyn was a magnet to young children, especially babies. It was not uncommon for her to be distracted while out to eat at one of her favorite restaurants by the cries of a newborn who would win her heart with their sweet innocence! She simply couldn’t get enough of them!
Marilyn never remarried as she was mostly content in life. Her work and her working relationships filled in whenever loneliness hovered. She also fell in love with reading and travel. The folks at the local Barnes and Noble were on a first name basis with her as she was the first person they called whenever one of Danielle Steel’s latest romance novels came into the store! A memorable trip was when she was able to join her sister, her aunt, and two others on a vacation of a lifetime to Ireland. Marilyn had always held a strong desire to return to the place of her family’s origin and later learned that her father was from Northern Ireland. Thankfully, as she aged, her step son Jim stepped in to care for her. Eventually, she moved into his home for the last few years of her life. His generous spirit and exceptional way of caring for her were a blessing. Marilyn leaves behind a legacy of being a thoughtful and caring person. She never missed a special birthday. Many close friends grew accustomed to receiving one of her cards that most likely she had picked out months in advance! A person of strong faith and kindness beyond measure, Marilyn will be fondly remembered by all who knew and loved her.
Marilyn J. VanStrien, age 82, of Lowell, Michigan passed away on July 24, 2017. Marilyn was born on April 1, 1935, in Hastings, MI the daughter of the late James and Alice (Standish) McClurkin. She was preceded in death by her husband, James W. VanStrien in 1977. Marilyn is survived by her sons, Terry, Jim, and Jack of Lowell and Kentwood; daughter, Amy of Allendale; sister, Eleanor (James) VanZandt of Portage; brother, James McClurkin of Edwardsburg; niece, Corina Ingole; nephews, Kenneth (Beverly) Berman, Daniel (Pamela) Berman; 2 great nieces and a great nephew. A funeral service will be held on Friday, July 28, at 1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 1833 Plainfield Ave. NE. Friends may visit with her family beginning at Noon. Interment will be in Rest Lawn Cemetery. Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children's Hospital. Please visit Marilyn's personal web page to leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.