Private Family Service
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 Raybrook Campus
2121 Raybrook SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Louis Van Vels would agree that he made it no secret that his greatest joy was found in his family. He found his greatest fulfillment in being a husband, father, and grandfather, and later in life he was so blessed to become a great-grandfather as well. Lou worked hard in everything he did, but he also took the time to enjoy life along the way. Faith was a cornerstone throughout his life, and it was easy to see that it was his faith that guided his steps. He treasured his loved ones more than anything on this side of heaven, and the memories his loved ones have of Lou will be forever cherished.
The year 1929 is often recalled as the year of the historic crash of the stock market on October 29th. The years that followed were cloaked in great hardship as the 1930s were covered by the dark cloud of the Great Depression. The silver lining during this time was the endurance of the American spirit as cities, communities, and families came together to help one another as much as they could. Despite the trials around them, Thys and Anna Van Vels, who both immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands as young people, were filled with great anticipation as they awaited the birth of their new baby as the promise of summer appeared on the horizon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in June of 1929. Their wait was finally over when the baby boy they named Louis Allen drew his first breath on June 27th. He was the oldest of five as he was joined in his family by his siblings, Sarah, Arthur, Alex, and Ted. The siblings were close while growing up, and they remained that way for the rest of their lives. Lou’s father worked at American Seating while his mother had more than enough to keep her busy at home.
Raised in the family home on Leonard Street, NW, Lou was a typical young boy of his generation. He and his family attended Walker United Reformed Church, which is where Lou learned the fundamentals of the faith he held so dear throughout his life. As a student he attended Oakley School through the eighth grade. As was common during that time, Lou left school to go to work to help support the family.
Life was forever changed for Lou when he met the woman who would forever change the course of his life. Her name was Dorothy Snip, and she was a young gal from the neighborhood. They struck up a romance, and Lou and Dorothy were married. Although their marriage ended in divorce after 27 years, he was forever grateful for the four children they shared: Darlene, Janice, Roger and Cynthia. Lou was a strict father, but at the same time he was sweet and kind. Although work often kept him away from home as he even took side jobs at times, he made the most of the times they were together. Dinner every night around the table was a must, and there was nothing better than eating Lou’s fresh produce from the garden. In addition to tending to the garden, he also took great care in taking care of the yard work. Lou loved spending free time with his children, and together they enjoyed fishing, snowmobiling, and memorable trips up North to places like Mackinaw and Wilderness State Park. They even took a three-and-a-half week trip out West in a station wagon pulling a camper.
To support his family, Lou was one to work hard. He made his career as a tile setter, which were skills he learned on the job from seasoned men as well as by just putting in the time and gaining experience. Lou worked for Grand Rapids Marble, Burton Interiors, and later as a subcontractor for Standale Lumber. In time he became an expert tile setter. Lou spent time working with his brother, Art, and then later with his son, Roger. Many side jobs came his way to take up his free time.
Later on, great changes were in store for Lou when he met Betty on a blind date through a mutual friend. Sparks flew right from the start, and the rest is history as they say. Eager to spend their lives together, Lou and Betty joined in marriage on February 28, 1991, at the Eastmanville United Reformed Church. Lou worked while Betty was a homemaker at their home on Leonard Street in Tallmadge, Michigan. They both held a passion for fishing as well as camping, and together they enjoyed their summers at East Lake Campground for many years. They were true sweethearts in every sense of the word, and no one ever had to question their love for one another. Later in life, they moved to a condo in Ironwood Estates. They loved spending time with grandkids, and Lou played an important part in the lives of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He had special relationships with them all, and they will forever cherish memories of fishing, riding in his speed boat, and dinners on the lake.
In addition to spending time with his family, Lou enjoyed many other things. He and his family were members of Walker United Reformed where he served as an elder, was always in the choir, and was part of the men's society. Lou also graded tests from the Bible correspondence course offered through the church to jail inmates as part of the local jail ministry. During his retirement years Lou liked attending the pancake breakfast for the Grandville Senior Center as well as playing shuffleboard. As someone who remained close with his siblings, Lou regularly met his siblings for Saturday morning breakfast and also looked forward to family birthday parties. In his free time, he could often be found fishing. As his family and friends can attest, Lou loved his cookies and snacks, and he was also known for his candy drawer - one only needs to ask his grandchildren about that!
When reflecting on the life of Louis Van Vels, it is easy to see the love he had for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He reflected that love onto his love for others including the family he adored more than life itself. Lou was never one to complain, rather, he faced whatever came his way head on. He leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
VAN VELS, Louis A., Grand Rapids, MI, Age 90, entered his heavenly home, May 14, 2020. Louis was born June 27, 1929 in Grand Rapids to the late Thys and Anna (Koster) Van Vels. He was also preceded in death by his wife, Betty Van Vels; and his brother, Arthur Van Vels. Louis was a lifetime member of Walker United Reformed Church. He will be remembered for his love of fishing, camping and he was always singing or whistling. Louis is survived by his children, Darlene (Robert) Nawrocki of Cutlerville, Janice (David) Borst of Jenison, Roger Van Vels of Grand Rapids, Cynthia (Ken) Ryskamp of Caledonia; 13 grandchildren; 8 great grandchildren; sister, Sarah Sikkema of Wyoming; brothers, Alex and Vera Van Vels of Grand Rapids, Ted and Nancy Van Vels of Sparta; and sister-in-law, Barb Van Vels. A private service will be held with interment at Rosedale Memorial Park. A public celebration of life will be held in June on Louis' birthday. Memorials may be made to Holland Home Raybrook Campus. To read more of Louis' life story, link to Live Stream service, leave a memory or condolence please visit www.heritagelifestory.com.