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.
Char's prayer packet Ministry
Char made and distributed prayer packets in recent years. Her family would like to honor her by continuing that ministry. Funds collected will be used for printing costs in coming years. More information will soon be made available on how to donate.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
A woman who embodied Christ's love, Charlene Carpenter lived a life rich in faith, family, and friends. Charlene was a good and faithful servant who welcomed each person and moment as a gift. She loved with all her heart and dedicated herself to being a source of comfort, confidence, and unwavering faith. In so doing, Charlene proved an inspiration for all who were blessed to know her. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend, Charlene will long be remembered and ever so missed.
1948 proved a year of continued celebration of the end of World War II. As America's heroes eagerly returned home, a renewed spirit and hope filled the air. American prosperity grew like no other time in our history. The Greatest Generation soon proliferated, creating the age of the Baby Boomers. In Muskegon, Michigan, the cause for celebration grew even greater for Charles and Joanne (Wilderotter) Thomas as they welcomed their daughter, Charlene, into their hearts and home on January 18.
Charlene's early years were filled with the comforts of faith and a large extended family. She and her older sister, Joanne, inherited their parents' love for Lake Michigan and being very involved in the community. Charlene attended St. Joseph School and then Muskegon Catholic High School, where her faith, academic studies, and lifelong friendships were richly nourished. Charlene was a friend to all and was considered a best friend by many.
With her heart set on a teaching career, Charlene continued her education at Western Michigan University. With hard work, focus, and determination, she graduated with her degree in just three years. In the course of her career, Charlene would teach at many levels while also continuing to pursue her own learning. She taught community education classes, high school, college courses at Davenport University, and ended her teaching career with the Grand Rapids Public Schools, teaching at Park School. She saw Park School as her mission field and started a Christian club, "Pooh Club," for this special community of learners. Ambitious and accomplished, in many ways, Char was a woman ahead of her time. She worked hard to reach goals and was a lifelong learner who earned master's degrees from Aquinas, Grand Valley, and Michigan State.
After college, Char met the love of her life, Stephen "Steve" Carpenter. The couple began dating and soon fell in love. On August 1, 1971, they married in a beautiful beach wedding on the shores of Lake Michigan. The wedding made the newspaper and captured the beginnings of Char and Steve's epic love story and 50-year marriage.
Early in their marriage, Char and Steve moved to Flagstaff, beginning their year-long adventure in their Volkswagen Bug. While in Arizona, Char turned to the Bible and finally found God. While she read the ancient text with a clear intention, she soon found He revealed himself to her. From that time, she dedicated her life to being a good and faithful servant, consciously living in a way that reflected Christ's love to those around her. The couple returned to Grand Rapids, settling in the northeast side, and Char officially embarked on her teaching career.
One of Char's greatest blessings was the birth of her daughter, Kelsey. Char embraced motherhood, ensuring Kelsey was well supported. She balanced high expectations with love and laughter. Char encouraged her daughter's endeavors, especially when they afforded her opportunities to learn by experience. She encouraged her education and cheered Kelsey on at every turn. The two shared a love for Lake Michigan and created many memories together there. In 1997, Kelsey married Matt, and Char welcomed him with open arms as a son.
When Char was blessed to welcome grandchildren, she welcomed her new role with joy. Devon and Emma were her heart's delight, and she relished in sharing their lives. She made time for whatever they were passionate about, listening and supporting them in any way she could. Never one to sit around, she loved sharing experiences with her grandkids. She encouraged their love of reading and took them to events or activities that naturally connected the books she gave them. More often than not, they would find a photograph of the event they attended inside the book. As the kids became older and found new interests, Char continued to take an interest in whatever they were involved in.
A faithful member of Bella Vista Church, Char participated in Bible Studies as a servant-scholar. Her rigorous study, passion, and real-life assimilation of her learnings inspired all who were blessed to witness her example. Over the years, Char generously shared her gifts for recognizing God's glory in nature, culture, relationships, and everyday celebrations. She and Steve traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and all over the world, sharing their love and skills for photography and creatively documenting the beauty they witnessed together. Travel was a passion she inherited from her father and happily passed on to her daughter and grandchildren. In retirement, Char took classes and started a photography business, Timeless Images. She specialized in capturing special moments, including senior pictures, weddings, and family gatherings.
Creating opportunities to gather with those she loved was another gift Char freely gave to many. She was a natural party planner. She loved gathering people together, often with a fun theme. Whether planning get-togethers with her childhood friends or extended family, she poured herself into sharing her desire to keep these connections alive.
About nine years ago, Char was first diagnosed with cancer; it proved a turning point in her life. With signature faith and commitment to being of service, she quickly chose to use her experiences to help others going through similar battles. She started making prayer packets, tying Bible verses with personal testimonies of others, distributing over 1000 packets of comfort and hope to many, many families. She wanted the Lord to use her to reach others, even planning her funeral service to ensure this desire.
Charlene demonstrated steadfast faith, love, and hope. May we find comfort in our many treasured memories and in the honor of carrying her beautiful legacy forward.
Charlene Betty Carpenter, age 73, of Grand Rapids, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on January 17, 2022, and now is rejoicing as she spends her 74th birthday with Jesus. She is survived by her husband, Stephen; her daughter and son-in-law Kelsey and Matt VanZanten; grandchildren Devon and Emma VanZanten; sister, Joanne Gonyo; and niece, Amy Gonyo. The service to remember and celebrate Charlene's life will be held on Saturday, January 22 at 11 AM at Bella Vista Church, 5100 Belding Road NE in Rockford. Friends are invited to visit with Charlene's family on Thursday, January 20, from 2-4 and 6-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. For those who wish, memorial contributions may be made to help continue Charlene's Prayer Packet ministry. (donations for this ministry will be collected by the funeral home). To read more about Char, to share a memory, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com