Thursday, May 30, 2019
11:00 AM EDT
Westview Christian Reformed Church
2929 Leonard St. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
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.
The Voice of the Martyrs
1815 SE Bison Road
Bartlesville, OK 74006
Bethany Christian Services Refugee Ministry
901 Eastern Avenue NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Life Story / Obituary
Patient, loving, and kind, Barbara Lynn Hoekema lived a faith-centered life rich in family and friends. An eternal optimist, Barb possessed both an unwavering faith and amazing strength. She welcomed both life’s joys and struggles equally, embracing each and every moment as a gift. Her heart was the safest place anyone could know, and she often afforded others with a safe harbor from life’s storms. Everyone’s grandma, Barb embodied her faith and was a powerful role model for all who were blessed to know her. Cherished by many, Barb’s legacy will continue to burn brightly in the lives of those she loved.
1946 was a year marked by much celebration and hope. With the victorious end of World War II, families tuned into the celebratory tunes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and the Andrews Sisters, while children delighted in the debut of the slinky. While the nation indulged in a renewed sense of peace and newfound hope, even greater promise for the future was celebrated by Clarence and Doris (Welling) Poel as they welcomed their daughter Barbara into their hearts and home on December 8, in Grand Haven, Michigan.
The oldest of the Poels’ seven children, Barbara grew up with strong family values. While her father worked as a reporter and then editor for the Grand Haven Tribune, her mother was a homemaker. Barb spent much of her youth helping her mother tend to the home and her younger siblings. Babysitting, doing laundry, and cleaning were everyday tasks she took on with a natural sense of responsibility.
Some of Barb’s fondest childhood memories include sharing a room with her sister Marilyn. There they would eat popsicles together, saving the sticks in the window sill. They also enjoyed picking up radio stations from Chicago. Industrious and resourceful, Barb loved to bake loaves of bread and sold them to neighbors for a little spending money.
After completing K through 9th grades at Grand Haven Christian School, where she enjoyed playing basketball, Barb attended West Michigan Christian High School. During her high school years, she played the saxophone, pursued her love of reading, and established a lifelong friendship with Dawn Taylor. Barb proudly graduated in 1965; the same year her youngest sibling, Marti, was born.
With a deep desire to share her love of learning Barb completed a degree in education from Calvin College. During her freshman year, she worked in the dining hall for Saga, Calvin’s food service, as a waitress for the family style suppers. Also working suppers for Saga in the food disposal area was Dan Hoekema. The two would often see one another while working, and Dan eventually asked Barb out. The young pair shared their first date folk dancing at an event on campus, and soon found themselves in love and making plans to spend their futures together.
Surrounded by family, friends, and the lilacs they picked around Grand Haven, Barb and Dan exchanged their wedding vows May 31, 1969 at Second Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, just a few short days after graduating from Calvin.
After honeymooning in Chicago for three days, the newlyweds moved to East Lansing where Dan began veterinary school at MSU, Barb also took some classes, and both became diehard Spartan fans. The first of their 50 years of marriage began in married housing. Barb found a job teaching English at Pewamo Westphalia. Despite the long commute, Barb loved her job, especially directing the school’s plays.
While in Lansing, Barb learned she had polycystic kidney disease, a dominant genetic disorder that could lead to a difficult pregnancy and could pass on the disease so she and Dan decided to adopt. They were thrilled to welcome their son Eric into their family, and later on daughter, Robin.
After Dan graduated from veterinary school, the family moved to Dearborn for seven years, and Barb taught at Dearborn Christian School. In 1980 they moved to Barbara St. NW in Grand Rapids when Dan purchased an existing practice on the northwest of town. For a time, Barb worked as a substitute teacher before being hired at Jenison Christian Middle School. When JCMS 9th grade moved to Unity Christian High School she accepted a job teaching 9th grade English at Unity. Not only did she dedicate herself to her classroom, but she became the faculty advisor of the School newspaper and was instrumental in organizing a student led service project at Adams Park encouraging her students to connect with the residents, have a yearly Christmas party with gifts, holiday food and singing to experience the joy of serving those who were less fortunate. Barb’s efforts helped establish a strong service tradition that is still in action today.
Faith was always a cornerstone of Barb’s life. Soon after moving to Grand Rapids, the Hoekemas found their forever church family at Westview Christian Reformed Church where they instantly felt welcome and at home. With a servant’s heart, Barb felt called to offer her time and talents to many of the church’s endeavors. She felt especially moved to work with Larry Groggel when Westview sponsored refugee families, many from Burma. Over the years, she and Dan opened their hearts and home to at least three Burmese families providing them with temporary housing, much love, security, faith, and fellowship. Later in life, Barb helped organize a Westview led bible study at Mt Mercy apartments where she became close friends with Ann. Barb also had a passion for people with special needs that was powerfully influenced during her childhood growing up with her neighbor, Ronnie, who had Down syndrome. When she and Dan first moved to Barbara St. she instantly connected with their special needs neighbor, “Big Jerry” who similarly captured her heart.
A lifelong learner, Barb had many interests. She read her Bible every day and always loved to read good books such as historical fiction, mysteries, Christian fiction and nonfiction. She enjoyed music; most of her favorite songs were the classical, spiritual, or praise and worship songs that touched her heart and lifted her spirits. She inherited the Poel family gardening gene and loved tending her flowers as long as she could. Their yard became a sanctuary for her bringing comfort and joy, especially in times when her activity was severely limited by health challenges. She loved to watch the birds from the all season porch and drink in all the beauty that surrounded her, the trees, flowers and plants Dan planted. She and Dan enjoyed bird watching together, and they took many vacations to botanical gardens and zoos all across the Midwest. The couple also enjoyed traveling during Spring Break with their friends Judy and Bernie Winkle, both teachers. A huge MSU fan, Barb loved learning about the lives of the basketball and football players. Going to games was a great way to get out and socialize, and the family room at home was really a Spartan room enthusiastically decorated with MSU sports-centered pictures and articles on the wall. As her mobility became more challenged, she and Dan came to love watching dramas on TV: Chicago PD and New Amsterdam, a couple of their favorites, as well as ALL the Spartan football and basketball games.
Never losing her sense of humor Barb was always able to laugh at herself. She was prone to falling and did so rather often, providing the stuff of family jokes. The tales of her falls at Mt. Rainier, in Arizona, and even at at Romence Gardens became legendary, mostly because she was never really hurt, merely embarrassed. Similarly famous within the family were her one-liners which included: “you’re milking it, Dan,” “Dan, it’s gonna work out,” and “Mr. 24/7” which began when they built their home on Wellspring Ct. in 1999. One of her most classic phrases originated during a road trip to the thumb area when Dan was driving in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but a train track in the distance. Concerned about the possibility of a train coming Barb yelled, “Railroad!” instantly providing fodder for a family story that would too often be repeated.
1989, after following a very restricted diet her kidneys continued to fail, and Barb needed a transplant or go on dialysis.. Three family members were a match, and her brother Bill generously made the donation. Bill’s kidney was affectionately named “Willie,” and the family had a Willie party every year to celebrate Barb’s life and to express her gratitude for this extraordinary gift that granted her 27 more years of life.
“Willie” required anti-rejection medications, and Barb regularly battled respiratory infections until her damaged lungs required daily supplemental oxygen. In 2002, after three separate trips to Ann Arbor, she was additionally diagnosed with Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a genetic disorder where her body is unable to make an essential protein that protects the lungs and liver .from damage. As a result, she began having weekly IV infusions of Prolastin. A silent heart attack and congestive heart failure permanently knocked out Willie and Barb had to be on dialysis three times a week for the rest of her life. Over the years, she bravely endured hospitalizations, surgeries, and health challenge after health challenge with dignity and grace. Over the last three weeks, she was hospitalized for pneumonia, GI bleeding, a stomach ulcer and profound weakness. Then came a new diagnosis: stomach cancer. Barb had had enough and was very much at peace. At 9 AM on May 23, Barb and Dan spoke briefly on the phone and she asked him to take more pictures of their beautiful yard and all the blooming flowers before coming to the hospital, expressing that she was so tired, in so much pain and just couldn’t continue dialysis anymore. Barb died 40 minutes later.
Whether tending the garden, indulging in a Fricano’s Pizza , a meal at Red Lobster, cheering on the Spartans, curling up with a good book or delighting in the sight of Spring’s first Orioles, we know Barb’s spirit continues to inspire others as she so inspired us. While it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Barb’s steadfast kind presence, may it afford comfort to know that she is free of her earthly limitations and was welcomed into her eternal home hearing her Lord say “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. May we also find comfort and hope in our own lives in carrying her faith legacy forward to God’s glory.
HOEKEMA – Barbara L. Hoekema aged 72, of Grand Rapids, went to be with her Lord on May 23, 2019. Barb is survived by her devoted husband of 50 years, Dan; children, Eric (Debi) Hoekema and Robin (Robert) Armock; grandchildren, Dani Hoekema, Ashley Geary, Austin Geary, Riley Hoekema, Dustin Armock and Jessica Hoekema; and great-grandchildren, Alivia and Carter. Also surviving are her siblings, Marilyn Milkamp, Bill (Kathy) Poel, Linda (Scott) Wesseldyke, Randy (Lisa) Poel and Marti Wiersma; brothers-in-law, Andy Maddox, Gerry (Jan) Hoekema and Cal (Ruth) Hoekema; sister-in-law, Marti (Fred) Ruble; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Clarence and Doris Poel; parents-in-law, Andy and Alyda Hoekema; sister, Chris Maddox; brother-in-law, John Wiersma and nephew, Ross Poel. Barb loved her Lord, the Church and His Kingdom with a true servant’s heart. Polycystic kidney disease slowly destroyed Barb’s kidneys. She was so grateful for brother Bill’s gift of a kidney “Willie” and cherished the 27 years of improved quality of life which allowed her to continue teaching English at Jenison Christian Middle School and Unity Christian High School. Despite endless, very serious, painful health issues Barb remained strong, always positive, rarely complaining, and her faith never wavered. She continued to touch the lives of so many with her selfless love: her family, Burmese refugees her church sponsored, fellow dialysis patients and staff, Spectrum infusion nurses, church family, old and new friends and always sharing her faith in Jesus Christ. Barb was a longtime member of Westview Christian Reformed Church, 2929 Leonard St. NW where her funeral service will be held at 11 AM on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Her family and friends will gather to share stories from 2-4 and 6-8 PM on Wednesday at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Contributions in her memory may be made to Voice of the Martyrs or Bethany Christian Services Refugee Ministry. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Barb’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook online.