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Eloise Jeltema

November 26, 1919 - April 12, 2019
Grand Rapids, MI

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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.

Holland Home Benevolence Fund
2100 Raybrook Ave SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Faith Hospice
2100 Raybrook Drive SE, Suite 300
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 235-5113
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Life Story / Obituary


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With a life that spanned nearly a century, Eloise J Jeltema was a kind and generous woman with a love for life that was easy to see. She was hardworking and diligent in everything she did, both inside and outside of her home. Eloise took her roles as a wife and mother to heart, but she just might have argued that nothing was better than being a grandmother and great-grandmother later in life. She loved reading, traveling, and caring for her home, but nothing was better than being surrounded by the love of her family. Although she will be deeply missed, Eloise leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will forever cherish.

Life in America in 1919 was drastically different than the life we know today. We were battling the deadly flu pandemic that started in 1918 and swept across the world. During this time we were also making the shift to being a nation at peace after America and our allies were victorious in WWI. This was also a time of great anticipation in the lives of Carl and Hazel (Lewis) Cahill as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as winter appeared on the horizon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in November that year. Their wait was finally over on November 26th when the baby girl they named Eloise Janette drew her first breath. She was the oldest of four as she was raised in the family home on the Northeast side of the city alongside her sisters, Marilyn and Dorothy, and her brother, Dave.

In many ways Eloise was a young girl of her generation. As the oldest, she regularly helped her mother with the household tasks and also care for her younger siblings. From the time she was a young girl Eloise learned how to be a nurturing caretaker but also how to be responsible, level headed, kind, and compassionate. She attended local schools and graduated from Creston High School in 1937.

Not to be forgotten during her years in school was Eloise’s introduction to the young man of her dreams. His name was John Jeltema, and they met while spending time with friends even though he was a few years older than Eloise. They began to date, and with a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Eloise and John were married on October 11, 1940 at the home of the Pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Grand Rapids. She also went to beauty school and spent some time working as well. Together Eloise and John settled into a home on Lafayette, and they raised their children, Joseph, Michael, and Tom, in their home on Alten where they remained for over 60 years. Eloise focused her time and attention on caring for her home and family. She loved cooking and baking, and since she always had sweet treats around like pies, cakes, and cookies the neighborhood kids often stopped by for a cookie. Every Sunday they had a traditional meal with meat and potatoes after they came home from services at Berean Baptist Church. As a family they enjoyed many camping trips, often in the large Army canvas tent, however, these trips certainly were a lot of work for Eloise.

Throughout her life Eloise was one to keep busy. Once her youngest was in school she started working again, taking a part-time job at a nursery school. Later, Eloise worked part-time in the mornings for the Grand Rapids Public Library, preparing books for the shelves. She did this for years, retiring at the age of 80 when the library was in its temporary home as they remodeled the main building. Eloise was an avid reader, and each week she and John went to the library to get a book. She primarily liked mysteries and novels. At times Eloise also tried her hand at cross-stitch and crocheting. Although she wasn’t necessarily outgoing, she was friendly and a great conversationalist. Together Eloise and John had many friends including a great network of neighborhood friends they often got together with. Later in life she volunteered at different voting places during the elections. During their retirement years Eloise and her husband traveled quite a bit including in Ludington and a trip near the Mississippi River. They also did some traveling with their children to visit relatives.

There was never any greater joy in Eloise’s life than her family. One of her greatest joys was becoming a grandmother, and she never hesitated to babysit. She and John had their own routines with their grandchildren including their bedtime routines that included a series of treats the kids always enjoyed. In 2006, Eloise was deeply saddened with the death of her husband. Although it was an adjustment, she was able to remain in her longtime home for a few years. Once keeping up with her home became too much, Eloise moved to Holland Home. It had taken a bit of persuasion to get her there, but she quickly realized that she had many things in common with other residents and truly enjoyed being social there. Over the past few years, she has struggled with some health issues.

All who knew Eloise Jeltema would agree that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out. She enjoyed so many of the best things that life has to offer, but it was her family that grew to include grandchildren and great-grandchildren that was her greatest source of pride and joy. Eloise had a special place in her heart for children, and she treasured every moment spent with loved ones. Cherished by so many, she will be forever missed.

Eloise J Jeltema, age 99 of Grand Rapids passed away April 12, 2019. She was preceded in death by her husband, John; parents, Hazel and Carl Cahill; sons, Joseph and Michael Jeltema; sisters Marilyn Houghton and Dorothy Rodriguez; brother, Dave Cahill; and grandson, Matthew Charles Jeltema. Eloise is survived by her son, Tom (Linda) Jeltema; daughter-in-law Annette Jeltema; grandchildren Laura (Jeff Richardson) Jeltema, Jeff (Tamara) Jeltema, Michele (Tim) Mergener, Julie Jeltema, Brad Jeltema, John (Karin) Jeltema, and Christine (Kevin Pelkey) Jeltema; great grandchildren Matthew and Ryan Mergener, Charlie Jeltema, Eloise and Hazel Pelkey, Evelyn and Bram Jeltema Richardson, Himani, Lalana, Taj and Akasha Jeltema, Marlow and Colbie Jeltema. A private graveside service will be held at Fairplains Cemetery. For those who wish, memorial contributions are suggested to either the Holland Home Benevolence Fund or Faith Hospice, both located at 2100 Raybrook SE, Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. To read more about Eloise’s life, to share a memory or sign her register book, please visit www.lifestorynet.com

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