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Life Story / Obituary
Generous and kind, Evelyn Mae Groters lived a life rich in faith and family. Born in a time of plenty and having lived her youth in a decade of want, Evelyn's persevering spirit and unwavering faith inspired a life filled with adventure, laughter, and great love. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Evelyn greeted every person with a smile, and each day as a treasure. She was an inspiration to all who were blessed to know her and will long be missed and remembered.
The early 1920s were marked by tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts. The economy boomed, wages rose for most Americans and prices fell, resulting in a higher standard of living for most. With the inventions of the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, self-winding watch, bulldozer, instant camera, drive-in restaurants, Band-Aids, and the convertible the post-war, era marked significant advancement and morale flourished throughout the land. While the US census proved for the first time in history that more Americans lived in urban areas than rural ones, the wave of sweeping social and economic growth grew exponentially with the ratification of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote. More than a million women worked in white-collar jobs while the automobile industry nearly doubled. Without a doubt, it is fitting Evelyn's radiant life began in the midst of such great fervor. Imagine the excitement when her parents, James and Cora Renagon, welcomed Evelyn into their family on Wednesday, August 20, 1924, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The third of the Renagons' five children, Evelyn enjoyed a childhood home filled that bustled with activity. Growing up during the Depression on Pleasant St. SE, Evelyn and her siblings, Beatrice, Corrine, Ernest, and Carol Ann, quickly learned the values of hard work and the importance of family. While her father, who immigrated from Sicily in his young 20s, provided for the family through his work with the railroad, her mother ran the home. While the family wasn't wealthy, they were rich in faith and tradition. Evelyn was always proud of being both Dutch and Italian.
Quiet and strong, Evelyn was a disciplined student. She was particularly competent at shorthand and with typewriters. Eager to join the working world, Evelyn found work in various bookkeeping and clerical positions. Her first job was with Grand Rapids Label Company, and she later worked for a company called Jobbers Warehouse.
Evelyn flourished after high school. Not only did she enjoy her work, but she was also a very good bowler. For several years she was a proud member of the Grand Rapids Chicks Bowling League. She also loved, loved, loved University of Michigan sports; it was a love she had her entire life.
While attending a wiener roast in Grand Haven, Evelyn had the good fortune of meeting William "Bill" Groters. Instantly smitten, Bill declared he would marry her one day while walking Evelyn to where she was staying that night. Not entirely convinced of his proclamation, Evelyn thought Bill was a bit weird. Firm in his intention, Bill passionately pursued Evelyn's heart and hand. A month after they met, they were engaged, and four months later, on March 23, 1946, they exchanged their marriage vows, officially beginning their 59-year adventure together. Their wedding day proved a wonderful celebration for all as it coincided with the end of the war and was rooted in tremendous hope.
The newlyweds purchased their first and only house at 1443 Gridley Ave. in Walker, MI, where they were soon blessed to welcome their daughters, Suzanne in 1949, and Deborah in 1952. While Bill provided for the family by working as a mechanic for Wolverine Buck and later as a salesman for Jobbers, Evelyn proudly ran the house and home. She relished in creating a loving space for her family. Though she wasn't a particularly exciting cook, she liked to afford her family comfort foods like meat and potatoes meals. She liked a good BLT and Reuben sandwiches, but her favorite thing to indulge in were chocolate covered cherries!
Evelyn and Bill were very active members of Remembrance Reformed Church. Committed to living the principles of her faith, Evelyn authentically connected with others and experienced God through worship, prayer, and scripture. She graciously served others, reaching out with the good news of Jesus Christ, including her time as a youth group leader. Evelyn's steadfast faith was never more important than in the face of indescribable grief when her youngest daughter, Deborah, died in a car accident in 1969 at the age of 17. Forever impacted by this devastating, life-changing event, Evelyn was never quite the same after Deborah's death. However, drawing strength from her faith, she found a way to embrace both her grief and the will to live life fully.
A humble and gracious woman, Evelyn found joy in the simple things in life. She and Bill were very social. They had many friends, attended many parties, and loved to go out dancing. Evelyn never refused a meal at the Schnitzelbank or Mr. Burger, and she loved a good storybook. She was an avid reader of novels, a fan of the 40s big band music, and she loved church hymns.
Over the years, Evelyn and Bill were able to travel extensively. Bill's work as a salesman resulted in the rewards of winning several trips, including memorable journeys to England, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Hawaii, and Mexico. While they enjoyed traveling the world, their favorite place to spend time together was at their cottage on Big Star Lake in Newaygo County. The cottage was their sanctuary, and Evelyn loved it so much she continued to stay there by herself after Bill died in 2005.
As Evelyn's family grew to include grandchildren, so too did her joy. She was a doting grandmother who relished in enveloping Jeffery and Melissa in unconditional love and unwavering support. In their grandmother's eyes, it was always easy to see their worth and know her love.
In recent years, Evelyn struggled with Dementia. By her own choice, as not to be a burden for her family, she decided to move into the Edison Christian Rest Home. For those who knew her best, it came as no surprise that Evelyn was well-liked at Edison. With her signature smile and infectious spirit, she quickly made many friends with both fellow residents and staff.
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Evelyn's steadfast presence. And while she will long be missed, may we find comfort in knowing that Evelyn has been reunited with her beloved husband "Bill" and their daughter Debbie. May we also be comforted to know that we carry the best of Evelyn's legacy in our hearts and lives. With each moment we meet a stranger as a friend, enjoy a sunset over the lake, bowl a strike, or sing a hymn, we celebrate the many gifts Evelyn gave us. In so doing, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Evelyn Mae Groters, age 95, went to be with her Heavenly Father and to be reunited with her husband of 59 years, William "Bill" Groters and their daughter Deborah "Debbie" Groters on Monday, February 10, 2020. Evelyn was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, William "Bill" Groters, as well as by their daughter, Deborah Groters. She is survived by her daughter Suzanne (Robert) Steensma, of Whitehall; grandchildren: Jeffery Steensma and Melissa (Robert) Gezon; great-grandchildren: Benjamin Gezon, Sara (Max) Cobb and Mariada Gezon as well as by many nieces, nephews, and friends. Evelyn was a longtime member of Remembrance Reformed Church. Relatives and friends are invited to meet with her family at the HERITAGE LIFE STORY FUNERAL HOMES – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, (2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49503) on Friday, February 14, 2020, at 10 AM for visitation followed by a funeral service at 11 AM officiated by Rev. Vernon Van Der Werff. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to a charity of your choice or save a favorite memory of Bill and Evelyn. Please visit Evelyn's personal memory page at www.heritagelifestory.com, where you may share a favorite memory or photograph.