Life Story / Obituary
Gelene Zoeterman was a wonderful person to know and to love. Generous, compassionate, loyal, fun, and ambitious, she lived her life giving most of her time and resources to the family and faith she loved. She will be lovingly remembered and greatly missed by her many special friends and family, for generations to come.
Gelene Audrey was born on February 6, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. She was the second child of six, born to Andrew and Susan (Molter) Lenderink. Her father operated an IGA grocery store and her mother was a homemaker. There is no doubt that her birth brought them much joy and happiness.
During her childhood, Gelene experienced the typical wonders of the time. She attended a Christian elementary and high school (Chicago Christian) in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. During her sophomore year in high school she met George Zoeterman and fell in love. Honoring her father’s wishes (he was dealing with terminal lung cancer), Gelene and George married before he passed away. After their ceremony on February 11, 1949, she and George honeymooned, first at the Drake Hotel in Chicago and then Niagara Falls. They settled back in Evergreen Park, Illinois. George had been signed by the White Sox in high school, but was eventually picked up by the Cubs. He soon left for Spring Training and the baseball season. The schedule was demanding and included pressure to play on Sundays, so, after five seasons, George decided the baseball life wasn’t for him. He got work as a union glazier, and later opened Beverly Glass, a glass repair shop in Chicago. Gelene and George raised five wonderful children; Sandra, Timothy, Denise, Debra, and George.
Most of Gelene’s mothering years were centered around teaching her children strong Christian values and having fun. As a family, they would circle up by the front door and recite a morning prayer. On Sundays, they attended worship regularly and had coffee afterward by Gelene’s mother. Later that day, they shared a large family meal of meat and potatoes. At bedtime, she never missed nightly prayers to end the day with her children. Although Gelene was a homemaker, she did drive the bus for the kids' school for a short time. Always an excellent cook, she served a good hot meal every night. Her “shipwreck” casserole was a family favorite! Gelene also loved to bake bars and cookies and no one ever complained! Easy-going and approachable, she built lasting relationships with her children. They recall Gelene being an early prototype of today’s storm chasers, herding her excited children into the car, chasing storms all throughout southwest Chicago. Additionally, she was an animated and expressive storyteller, who read through two newspapers everyday. Before her children were old enough to be interested in reading the news, she would relate to them what she had read about, often including the lurid details. Ultimately, though, nothing warmed Gelene’s heart more than knowing that her children were living their lives with Jesus as the center. She felt blessed to know that they were good Christian people in their adult lives.
She and George modeled a beautiful marriage right up until he passed in 2001 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Each and every Friday or Saturday they saved for “date night.” Most often they would share a dinner out at the Branding Iron or Gibbons Gardens restaurants. These special moments, in addition to their faith, held their marriage together over the years. She and George were always looking for ways to support others in need. At Christmas one year, her children recall her buying presents for a neighbor whose husband was in the hospital. They also enjoyed making and handing out cookies during the holiday season. Based largely on their experiences in the South during George’s baseball career, the family was on the leading edge of racial justice. They wouldn’t stand for derogatory terms, and modeled equality and acceptance in their daily lives. In 1968, while dropping off Sandy at the airport, Gelene met Martin Luther King Jr. Boldly, Gelene marched right up to Dr. King and shared her appreciation of his work. Active in their faith, she and George were members of two churches through the years: Park Lane CRC and Palos Heights CRC. While at those churches, Gelene was involved with Friendship Club and Calvinettes, along with many other programs. Gelene and George also shared a love of music. For many years they sang with various choral groups, with good friends Clarene and Janet Vanderlaan. Often, the kids would be seated in the front row at their concerts, whether they liked it or not! Additionally Gelene’s infectious laugh was well known to her family and friends, particularly her friends Pearl Bandstra and Marian Agema. She and George also enjoyed traveling, taking trips to Scandinavia, Europe, and France. They also visited Alaska and Canada. Anytime they were together, others could witness their deep commitment to one another.
Gelene lived a full life with many blessings. She enjoyed aerobics and volunteering at the OB unit at Christ Hospital where she loved holding the newborns. For many years, she wintered in LongBoat Key and stayed long enough for the kids and grandkids to visit during their spring recess from school. Gelene was the epitome of a loving mother. Always there for her family, she never missed a special event or celebration over the years. She remained very active throughout her life and enjoyed each day to the fullest. Known for her sincere compassion for others, her warm spirit, and fun-loving ways she will be fondly remembered by the many lives she touched during her lifetime.
Gelene A. Zoeterman (nee Lenderink), age 92, peacefully passed away on July 19, 2022. Beloved wife of the late George; loving mother of Sandra (Dale) Van Kley, Timothy (Jennifer) Zoeterman, Denise (Therese Reilly) Zoeterman, Debra (Ronald) Haan, and George (Jane) Zoeterman. Cherished grandmother of Annique Van Kley, Erik Van Kley, Kristin (Martin Spierings) Van Kley, Sara (Isaac Galatzer-Levy) Zoeterman, Rachel (the late Josh Higginson) Zoeterman, Phillip (Betsie) Haan, Craig (Erin) Haan, Matthew (Teray) Haan, the late Leah (Mark) Koldenhoven, Rebekah Zoeterman, Timothy Zoeterman, and Christopher Zoeterman, as well as 19 great-grandchildren. Gelene was born and raised in the Chicago area, wed her husband George in 1949, and together they raised their five children in Evergreen Park, Illinois. In 2015, Gelene moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan which was where she resided upon her death. Gelene's life was always one of devotion to faith and family, attributes she has passed on to her children. Her loss leaves a large void, but her family celebrates her lifelong devotion to them, as well as her arrival at her heavenly home.