Shirley Van Buskirk

May 28, 1927 - July 23, 2017
Kalamazoo, MI



Thursday, July 27, 2017
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren
Plainwell Location
120 South Woodhams Street
Plainwell, MI 49080
(269) 685-5881
Driving Directions


Friday, July 28, 2017
11:00 AM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren
Plainwell Location
120 South Woodhams Street
Plainwell, MI 49080
(269) 685-5881
Driving Directions


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.

SPCA of Southwest Michigan
6955 W KL Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 344-1474
Web Site

Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
222 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Ste. 100
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-0273
Driving Directions
Web Site

Sue's Loving Care
2827 Courtlandt Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49004
(269) 226-9165
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Plainwell Flowers
117 S. Main
Plainwell, MI 49080
(269) 685-8055
Driving Directions
Web Site

River Rose
(269) 692-3951

Life Story / Obituary


In her 90 years with us, we could always count on her spunk and vitality for life. She was known to be a bit of a spitfire, and she was impeccably tough because of the experiences she endured in her lifetime. Shirley Van Buskirk was a caring wife, a loving mother, and a cherished grandmother and friend to many. We will hold the memories we shared with her close to our hearts.

With the war far behind, America celebrated life with great exuberance. The 1920’s decade, known as “The Roaring Twenties,” was a time of amazing technological advances in a setting with wonderful entertainment. Charles Lindbergh miraculously spent a little over 33 hours flying in the air across the Atlantic, marking the first to ever do such a wonder! Movie goers used to silence while enjoying a film now had the ability to actually hear a soundtrack with the movie “The Jazz Singer.” All the while, President Calvin Coolidge marveled at the beginning of Mount Rushmore - a carved granite sculpture honoring other presidents in American history. This was an exciting time for sure, but extraordinarily so for Herman and Lila (Phelps) Kenyon who were expecting a precious baby girl. Her parents and older siblings welcomed Shirley on May 28, 1927.

Shirley did not have the title of the youngest child for long. Soon, Al, Leon, Eva June, and Shirley welcomed Marshall to complete their family. Shirley and her four siblings grew up in Plainwell, Michigan. The family fostered a very close relationship throughout her childhood and even as they all matured into adults - living mere blocks apart. Her parents were hard workers, and Shirley most certainly inherited this quality. Her father worked as a meat cutter initially, but he soon took on the responsibility of working as a police officer and fireman. In fact, due to his diligent years served, Kenyon Park was named after him and his brother. Shirley's mother also had her hands full as a homemaker, and she kept the family organized and happy - well, as happy as five children under one roof can be! Shirley's grandparents were also very helpful, and she was very close to them as well.

Early on, around the age of 3 years old, Shirley's family suffered quite a scare. Shirley became very ill, and she almost died. Upon her healthy return home from the hospital, her father spoiled her with an entire Hershey's chocolate bar. Poor Shirley had a difficult time enjoying it, as she felt guilty that her brothers and sisters did not get one too.

Shirley passed the years following her illness with good health and eventually grew into a teenager. She attended Plainwell High School and spent much of her time singing her heart out. She would even walk around the house while doing chores singing her favorite song, "His Eyes on the Sparrow." She had the honor of singing a hymn at the Plainwell High School's memorial when President Roosevelt passed away. With the class of 1945, Shirley received her diploma.

Love did not take long to find Shirley's young heart. In November of her graduation year, she met Lester Peter DeMars. The couple exchanged vows and began a family with their two daughters, Karen and Kathy. She and Lester both worked at Mol's Restaurant. He was a cook, and she waited tables. They conveniently lived directly above the establishment.

In time, life took Shirley and Lester separate ways. Soon, Shirley and her girls moved in with her parents, so they could establish a new life together. Shirley took on a new job working as a waitress at Zesto Grill. Her heart had grown more mature, and this time the love it came upon was an everlasting one. Chuck would tease Shirley with good humor, and the flirtations soon led them to fall madly in love. They chose to visit the Justice of the Peace to make their union official. They gained the love of a lifetime, but they also gained a bigger family. Shirley and her girls blended with Chuck's two children, Claudia and Bill, to make a new and beautiful family together.

They set up their family home on a farm with an enormous garden, 30 acres of crops, and many farm animals including cows, pigs, chickens, and horses. Shirley had a soft place in her heart for animals, and she was especially fond of 'Rastus,' a piglet and runt of the litter, who she brought into the house and even bottle fed him. Soon, the little piggy was fattened up, and you know the rest of the story! Thankfully the many cats they adopted did not face the same fate. Life on the farm was busy, especially during the holiday season. Christmas was always a big occasion, and Shirley made it memorable by always wearing her trademark red lipstick. Shirley and Chuck also owned and operated Van's Floor Service together. During this time, they met Willy Murphy who became a huge part of their lives.

Many vacations were shared between Shirley and Chuck. They ventured to Las Vegas and Europe (France, Normandy Beach and a lot of WWII places). They created many amazing memories on these trips. For certain, Shirley enjoyed delectable food on these trips, for they were both foodies. Luckily, Shirley was quite talented in the kitchen, and her meals were equally delicious. She would often cook for the farm hands and could cook just about anything she put her mind to. One of her favorite indulgences included anything with sugar, but she really loved ice cream - vanilla was her favorite.

As their children grew up and moved on to find adult lives of their own, Shirley and Chuck looked forward to grandchildren. They were blessed with 9 grandchildren; Patrick Jensen, Mike Jensen, Chad Jensen, Susan Kopka, Peggy Luchene, Rebecca Gay, Angela Young, Karla Feathers, and Tracie Harris were each a great delight to their grandparents. In time, they also celebrated the birth of 20 great and 10 great-great-grandchildren! Every one of these young lives created an extra sparkle in Shirley's life, and she loved to be with them - even despite the name they called her in pure endearment - Grandma Cow! - definitely not her favorite.

In all of these celebrated times, there were times of difficulty too. Shirley was forced to say goodbye to Chuck in 1998 when he sadly passed away. With the love and support of family and friends, Shirley found the goodness in life again. She faced a new beginning in life again, and this involved selling the farm animals. She found great solace in tending to her gardens even more. She also began to attend church, for she was never one to stay idle for long. If all else failed, Shirley was content listening to music or watching a movie (she enjoyed Disney greatly). She also loved to read cookbooks and cooking magazines, as well as fictional books (James Patterson was her favorite author).

Shirley had a huge heart and cared deeply about her friends and family. Ultimately, her family was the most important aspect of her life. With great sadness, we must say farewell. We will look to one another to find comfort in our shared memories of Shirley, as she passed away July 23, 2017. She will be fondly remembered and missed dearly.

We wish to extend a special thank you to William Crispe Assisted Living, Amber Place, a part of the Heritage Community, and Sue’s Loving Care for making her last days comfortable.

Visit with her family and friends and view her life story film on Thursday, July 27 from 4:00 – 7:00 at the Life Story Funeral Home, Plainwell; 120 Woodhams St. (685-5881).

A funeral service will be held on Friday, July 28 at 11:00 am at the same location. Left to cherish her memory are her daughters: Karen (George) Gay, and Kathy Porter; 9 grandchildren, 20 great and 10 great-great- grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband Bert “Chuck” Van Buskirk; brothers: Marshall, Leon, and Al; and sister Eva June; and her daughter Claudia Sexton.

Those who wish may donate to the SPCA of SW Michigan, Hospice of SW Michigan, or Sue’s Loving Care.