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Susan G Komen
13770 Noel Road, Suite 801889
Dallas, TX 75380
Life Story / Obituary
Darlene Smitter was a vibrant person to know and to love. She loved her family beyond measure and had a natural passion for people as well as learning about her family ancestry. Spending time with her family meant everything to her and she treasured their special time together. Her warm personality and steadfast love will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by her many special friends and loved ones.
The 1940s were characterized by WWII. Some of the most significant inventions that would impact lives for many years to come were created during this time period including the Transistor and the Mobile Phone. George and Rose Heidenga were delighted when their daughter, Darlene, arrived on January 12, 1946, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Born the youngest of six children; her birth brought her parents great joy and happiness.
Growing up on White Street NW, Darlene shared a wonderful childhood with her siblings; Ray, Joanne, Sharon, Sandy, and Jim. Her parents were an example of hard work to make their place in the world. Her father worked long hours at the local GM plant on 36th Street and her mother worked as a line cook in a local restaurant. She attended Leonard Elementary School and Harrison Park Junior High before transferring on to Union High. While taking driver’s education classes, she met the local paperboy, Robert Smitter. Friendly and outgoing, after they met, he would often stop on his route to chat with Darlene. When the time felt right, he asked her out to the Berlin Raceway to see his friend, Bill Dutler race. Although they enjoyed their evening, Darlene’s tan overcoat took a beating with the dirt track’s debris of oil and dirt! Smitten with one another, they were engaged in June of 1964. Trinity Reformed Church was the perfect setting for their June 17th wedding ceremony in 1965. The newlyweds honeymooned in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, a popular vacation spot of the times, before settling back into their upstairs apartment on Hamilton NW. Together they raised two wonderful children, Robert and Susan.
As a family, they shared many happy memories on Crosby Street NW. She was a patient mother who treasured each milestone with her children. Strict, yet loving, she wanted nothing but the best for the two of them. Robert worked as a transportation manager and Darlene helped supplement the family income by working at Baxter Laundry as a purchasing secretary. Later in life, she worked for the Great Day-Family Fare customer service desk from 1988 to 2007. An excellent cook, her family was spoiled with her savory dishes. Darlene was especially famous for her ham gravy and banana bread. Despite her busy schedule, each and every night they sat down to a family meal. Fond of traditions, Saturday nights were always made special with the family hamburger fry. Each Saturday after Thanksgiving was saved for shopping in Frankenmuth preparing for the holidays. A shopaholic, she loved finding the perfect gifts for her family as well as bracelets and rings to accessorize her outfits. Above all else, Darlene instilled in her children the value of family.
As much as she enjoyed her role as a secretary, wife, and mother, she loved her many special hobbies. Active throughout her life, Darlene enjoyed taking ceramic classes, doing cross-stitch, as well as building dollhouses. Her yard was always well kept and her flower beds were the talk of the neighborhood. A collector of clocks and cobalt glass, Darlene enjoyed looking for her treasures at the local garage and estate sales as well as antique shops. A highlight was searching for cuckoo clocks. In 1997, she and Robert moved into Robert’s parent’s home where he was raised on Haines NW. Although she had never been on an airplane, the two of them enjoyed many bus trips to local casinos or traveling with a group from the UAW. Darlene was an avid reader and after they purchased their first home computer, she dove into finding out more about her family history. After many long hours and several years later, she was proud to have traced her family’s heritage from the Netherlands back six generations!
She and Robert cherished their special relationship with their grandson, Joe. Each weekend Darlene prepared for his visit by purchasing his favorite foods and planning their special activities. Joe enjoyed selling lemonade from homemade stands, visiting the Zoo, or even playing squirt guns with the two of them! Social by nature, once a month, Darlene also looked forward to the girls’ luncheons with her sisters and sisters-in-law. In 2017, she suffered a stroke that limited her mobility, but didn’t keep her from shopping or going out to get her hair and nails done! Described as a person with a generous heart, Darlene was known to buy groceries for others or pick up the tab for a stranger’s meal while dining out. Surely she will be dearly missed. May her wonderful collection of memories warm the hearts of her loved ones for generations to come.
Darlene Smitter age 76, of Grand Rapids, MI, passed away on April 25, 2022. She was preceded in death by her parents, George and Rose Heidenga; brother, Raymond Heidenga; and sister-in-law, Carol Heidenga. Darlene is survived by her husband of nearly 57 years, Robert Smitter; children, Robert (Deb) Smitter and Susan (Patrick) Strohmer; grandson, Joe (Cheyenne) Smitter; and great-granddaughter, Evalyn. Also surviving are her siblings, Joanne (Wayne) Warner, Sharon (Skip) Gilmore, Sandy (Charles) Buffham, and James (Karen) Heidenga; sister-in-law, Judy Caine, and several nieces and nephews. The Funeral Service will be held at 11 AM on Friday, April 29, 2022, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. The family will receive visitors on Thursday, April 28 from 2-4 and 6-8 PM at the funeral home. Contributions in her memory may be made to Susan G. Komen. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook.