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.
Highland Hills Baptist Church Benevolent Fund
1415 Northrup Ave. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Robert Nyssen, words such easygoing, hardworking, and outgoing come to mind. However, perhaps the word that paints the most accurate picture of him is the word selfless. Bob was selfless when it came to his family, and he was the sort of person who was willing to help others in ways both great and small. He was a longtime resident of the westside and the sort of person everyone seemed to know. Life will never be the same without Bob here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The 1930s were some of the most trying days we have faced as a nation as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Although the unemployment rate was on the decline by the time the year 1939 dawned, our nation still had much further to go to fully recover. Despite the trials around them, Martin and Henrietta (Boukma) Nyssen were filled with great anticipation as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as May dawned in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that year. The big day finally arrived on May 10th when the baby boy they named Robert Jay drew his first breath. Robert, or Bob as he was often known, was the third of fourth children in the Nyssen clan as he was raised in the family home alongside his older siblings, Bill and Marge, and his younger sister, Ruth.
A lifelong WestSider, Bob was a typical young boy of his generation. His father worked as an interior decorator while his mother had more than enough to keep her busy at home. A bustle of activity right from the start, Bob loved playing baseball including on his high school baseball team. He attended Harrison Park Elementary and then went on to Union High School. It was also as a young boy that Bob learned to play golf, which was something he kept up throughout his entire life. Growing up, he and his family were regular attenders of Quarry Avenue Baptist Church, which is now called Highland Hills Baptist Church.
After graduating from high school in 1957, Bob worked at TJ Hager Lumber Co. He started out working in the yard, and over the years he worked his way up to sales. After 25 years there, Bob worked for Weyerhauser Lumber Co. Finally, Bob moved to Schultz, Snyder and Steele Lumber Co, where he worked for 20 years until retiring. He often worked two jobs as he worked three nights a week at Rogers Department Store for several years while also working at the lumberyard.
New and exciting changes were in store for Bob when he met the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Mary Feenstra, and they met while she was babysitting for his nieces, who lived across from her parents’ home. The couple began dating and soon found themselves deeply in love. About two-and-a-half years later, the couple was married at Mary’s church, Wallin Congregational, on May 23, 1964. After their reception, which was also at the church, the newlyweds were off for a honeymoon out East.
Eager to begin their new lives together, the couple returned home. They initially settled into an apartment at 933 Myrtle Avenue, NW. A little over a year later they moved to Finsbury Lane, NW. In 1978 they moved to Shawmut Court, NW. Together they welcomed four children including Betsy in 1965, Barb in 1967, Brooke in 1969, and Wendy in 1971. As a family they enjoyed spending time at his sister and brother-in-law’s place on Big Star Lake. They also took amazing vacations to Florida, the Smokey Mountains, fall trips to Crystal Mountain, and Gulf Shores, Alabama, for spring break several times. He especially loved teaching his kids the classic board games like Sorry, Life, Yahtzee, Monopoly, and Cribbage. Later on, Bob was thrilled to become a grandfather, and loved visiting with his grandchildren.
Although working kept Bob busy, he did enjoy other things as well. At home he loved working in his yard, and he was meticulous, too. No one else could cut the grass, trim the bushes, and tend the flowers as good as he. When back surgery left Bob unable to do the work, his wife helped out by cutting the grass, much to the surprise of his neighbors. However, once he got back on his feet, he was able to “repair the damage,” thankfully. Bob could fix anything and did. His carpentry skills were not only put to good use building and repairing around his house, but also for his kids when they needed something done. Of course tinkering and caring for the pool was also only Bob’s job. For years Bob golfed with his son-in-law, Mike, on the Michigan Bell Golf League at Gracewil Country Club. He liked reading novels by John Grisham as well as any book or television show on WWII. A lifelong sports fan, Bob liked watching sports, especially golf, on television, and he was a fan of the Red Wings, Lions, and Tigers. He enjoyed music from the Eagles, and he was more than willing to eat anything and everything, even when he was sick.
Later in life Bob experienced both peaks and valleys. They moved to a condo at Oakleigh Woods in 2000, which is where he spent his sunset years. Tragedy struck on April 7, 2005, with the unexpected death of their daughter, Betsy. This was a very difficult time, the love of their close family, friends, and neighbors sustained both Bob and his wife. In September of 2016, life became more difficult for Bob and his loved ones when he developed Lewy body dementia. He was hospitalized and he lived his final months at Yorkshire Manor, where he was visited daily by family. The staff at Yorkshire provided him with wonderful care.
Throughout his rich and rewarding journey, Robert Nyssen lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He was never one to worry about the things of this world, rather, his focus was on being a blessing in the lives of everyone he met. A loving husband, father, grandfather and brother, Bob’s devotion to his family was truly unmatched. He was kind, gentle, and humble in everything he did. Deeply loved, Bob will be forever missed.
Robert J. Nyssen, aged 77 of Grand Rapids, went to be with his Lord on Wednesday morning, January 18, 2017 with family at his side. He was preceded in death by his daughter Elizabeth “Betsy”, his brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Marian Nyssen, brothers-in-law, Jack Deppe and Gary Edema. He is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Mary Nyssen (Feenstra); daughter, Barbara and Michael Martin, and their children, Micah, Jacob (fiancée Tayler Truskoski) and Lydia; daughter, Brooke and Jay Wayman; daughter Wendy and Donald Sutherland and their children, Emma and Ainsley; his sisters, Marge Deppe and Ruth Edema; sister-in-law, Joan Feenstra; many nieces, nephews and friends. Bob was a loving and gentle, husband, father, grandfather and a friend to all who knew him. He retired from Schultz, Snyder and Steele Lumber Co., where he worked for 24 years. A service to celebrate Bob’s life will be held on Saturday, January 21 at 11:00 AM at Highland Hills Baptist Church, 1415 Northrup Ave. NW. Burial in Rosedale Cemetery. Relatives and friends may meet his family on Friday from 2:00 – 4:00 and 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Contributions in his memory may be made to Highland Hills Baptist Church Benevolent Fund. To read more about Bob’s life, to leave your own memory of him and to sign his guest book, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com