Saturday, April 27, 2019
2:00 PM EDT
2100 Remembrance Drive
Muskegon, MI 49442
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.
Salvation Army Fulton Heights Citadel
1235 East Fulton Street
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Sycamore United Methodist Church
160 Johnson Ave
Sycamore, IL 60178
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the journey of Major Emory Forrest Bell, it is easy to see that he lived of life of service to others. He worked hard in everything he did, and he worked tirelessly to make an impact in the world around him. Emory was a loving husband and father who was filled with great joy to become a grandfather, and he savored every moment spent with his grandchildren. Wherever he lived, together with his wife, they touched the lives of so many in such a special way. Deeply loved, Emory will be forever missed.
The 1920s were an exciting time in America. Innovation was leading the way to new technology that brought us things like washing machines, refrigerators, and cars that were widely mass produced on assembly lines. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great joy in the lives of Emory and Daisey Dorothy (Reinsmith) Bell as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Emory Forrest on December 1, 1929, in Cadillac, Michigan. He was the seventh of eight children and he was the only boy raised in the family home alongside his sisters. Emory attended Cadillac High School where he played the cornet in the marching band with his sister Dorla. At a young age, he and his sisters became involved with the Salvation Army, also playing his cornet in the local corps band. Emory always spoke fondly of his childhood and was a typical young boy of his generation. His days were often filled with family including when they went to visit their family on farms in Evart. Emory later went on to graduate from high school.
It was when he was just a young boy of 14 that Emory met the woman who would forever hold the key to his heart. Her name was Margaret Verhoeven, and they met at the Salvation Army Youth Council. They were smitten with one another right from the start, and he went to visit her in Muskegon. Emory took his younger sister along with him so she could help keep him awake on the way home! After graduating, they were married on June 19, 1948 in Cadillac. They spent a year living there and it was also where their family grew to include their son, Michael. Emory worked in a factory while there, and they then moved to Muskegon where he started working in a lumber mill. In Muskegon, they were blessed with the births of two more children, George and Ronald, although Ronald died shortly after birth.
In time, both Emory and Margaret felt called into full time service with the Salvation Army. They then began training in Chicago in 1954. Their first appointment was to command the Virginia, Minnesota, Corps, and while living there, the family grew to include their only daughter, Peggy. Emory and Margaret continued appointments in Brainerd and St. Cloud. In 1961, Emory left officership and returned to Muskegon where he started working in quality control in aluminum coil anodizing. He did stay involved with the Salvation Army as he continued to play in the band. Emory also led corps Boy Scout troop. He excelled at his work and he followed followed opportunities by moving with Margaret and Peggy to Illinois in 1969.
Emory’s family was always of the utmost importance. As a father he was strict and enforced the rules, but at times he also made incentives available when his kids stayed within the rules. With his own love for music, Emory encouraged his children in all of their musical interests. They traveled some as a family and would often sing what they called “through the alphabet,” where they sang a song or major phrase from a song through each letter of the alphabet. Through his own strong work ethic, Emory made sure his children knew the value of hard work, and he made sure they worked, too. Frugal minded, he also taught his children to value what they earn. He and Margaret were thrilled to become grandparents, and although he didn’t see his grandchildren nearly enough, he made an impact in their lives. Emory’s grandchildren will remember him giving them $1 bills and the change from his pocket.
When Peggy graduated from high school in 1975, Emory and Margaret returned to active duty as officers in the Salvation Army. They continued in these roles for the 19 years that followed. Over the years they served in Evansville, Indiana; Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; and then in Flint, Michigan, before retiring in 1995. In each appointment, Emory and Margaret were appointed to Administrators for the Men’s Social Service Centers, also called Adult Rehabilitation Centers. For years they worked side by side. When Emory preached, his sermons were short. In fact, he was known for saying, “If you can’t strike oil in 15 minutes, stop boring.” Emory always treated those in the rehabilitation homes with respect and as though they were family.
Throughout his life Emory was one to keep busy. He was very musical from the time he was growing up. Emory was always singing, even during his sunset years as he would sing along and tap his foot to songs. He had a very distinguished tenor voice that always resonated in the gatherings. For years he loved going back to Cadillac each fall for deer hunting season. Emory also liked smelt fishing in Muskegon and Waukegon. He was happy just going for drives, often on back country roads, and he also enjoyed exploring. All throughout their married life, Emory and Margaret had an open door at their home and would frequently have visitors over. They also regularly dropped in to visit family and friends. During their retirement years, Emory and Margaret lived in Grand Rapids. There they were able to visit their family throughout western Michigan while enjoying the musical ministry and fellowship of other retired officers in the Fulton Heights Corps. Emory loved his children and even when they lived in different states and couldn't be together, he always made sure to check on them.
Later in life Emory experienced some challenges. In 2004, he was deeply saddened with his son Michael’s death during an outpatient surgery in Grand Rapids. Michael’s death continued to be something that was difficult for him. He also experienced the loss of his beloved Margaret in 2010, and despite beginning to become clouded with dementia he did miss her deeply. He moved to DeKalb, and while there Emory enjoyed watching game shows. He continued to remember the hymns he had known from the time he was young, and he sang them often.
A kind, compassionate, and generous man, Emory Bell was an extraordinary man to know and love. He could be emotional and expressive at times as he deeply cared for others. Friendly and outgoing, he made friends with ease, and a friend of Emory’s was a friend for life. It was easy to see that he shared his life with his true love, and it was when surrounded by his loved ones that Emory was happiest. He loved God with all of his tender heart, and he strived to express God's love through his devotion to family and through service to others. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
There will be a visitation on Friday, April 26, from 5-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - 1833 Plainfield Ave NE in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His Celebration of Life will be at 10:30 AM on Saturday, April 27 at the Fulton Heights Corps, 1235 East Fulton in Grand Rapids. The service will be officiated by Majors Dan and Laura Leisher. After a luncheon provided by the corps, the graveside service will be at 2 PM at Sunrise Memorial Gardens, 2100 Remembrance Drive in Muskegon.