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Life Story / Obituary
As her family and friends can surely attest, Marilyn Tanis truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times, and her primary focus was fostering deep and personal relationships with those around her each and every day. Nothing brought Marilyn greater joy than spending time with her loved ones, even in the everyday moments. She was always willing to go above and beyond to serve others, touching the lives of so many in the process. Forever loved, Marilyn will be dearly missed by those who knew her best.
The 1930s were some of the most trying days our nation has ever faced as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, and this one became more challenging when a drought crippled our nations’ heartland during this same time. Despite the growing trials in the world around them, Jacob and Mabel (VanderGiessen) Bouwer were filled with great joy as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Marilyn Ruth on August 6, 1939, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Growing up, Marilyn was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was raised in the family home on Walnut Street in Grand Rapids. Marilyn would spend her entire life on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids. She grew up alongside her three brothers, Jim, Don, and Edward, enduring many pranks at their hands. The Bouwer family attended Coldbrook Christian Reformed Church, where Marilyn began forming the foundation of the faith that would serve her well throughout her entire life. The family frequently enjoyed fishing and ice fishing together. Marilyn helped out with chores around the house from a young age. Though her mother usually ran the kitchen, Marilyn was able to learn how to can various fruits and vegetables and liked to can pears from her parents’ trees. She also enjoyed making applesauce and jelly. Marilyn would go on to look back on her childhood with fondness.
While pursuing her education, Marilyn attended local schools, including Creston Christian School. She then went to Grand Rapids Christian High School, where she enjoyed singing in the glee club. Following her high school graduation, Marilyn worked at a local bookstore for a short time before settling into a more permanent job with Old Kent Bank in downtown Grand Rapids. She was delighted to sing in a choir that had been organized within the bank.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Marilyn as she met the man who would soon become the love of her life. She would sometimes visit the coffee shop across the street from Old Kent Bank with coworkers. It was there that Marilyn first noticed James Tanis, a young man who worked in a nearby building. The two quickly found out that they had some mutual friends. Marilyn made it clear that she was interested, and Jim asked her out. Over time, their relationship blossomed into something truly wonderful. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Marilyn and Jim were married on June 11, 1965, at Coldbrook Christian Reformed Church. The newlyweds then enjoyed a honeymoon to various locations on the East coast, including Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and Niagara Falls.
All who knew Marilyn can surely agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her family above all else. She and Jim settled into their first home on Spencer Street NE, where they would live for about ten years before moving to a home on Carlton Avenue. While living on Carlton, Marilyn and Jim would welcome their two beloved daughters, Brenda and Jodi, into their hearts and home. From the time they adopted Brenda and Jodi, she dedicated herself to caring for her home and her family. Marilyn truly thrived as a mother and did her best to raise her daughters into kind and hardworking individuals. Though she was not a strong swimmer herself, she made sure Brenda and Jodi took swimming lessons. Marilyn made a lot of clothing for her daughters when they were young. The family enjoyed camping together, often at Mears State Park or the KOA campground near Cedar Springs. Eventually, Marilyn and Jim would move to a new home on Wakley Street NE. The two would often travel to Florida to visit Marilyn’s parents. Later in life, Marilyn was thrilled to become a grandmother and step-grandmother. She always considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
Marilyn was a very involved member of her community. Through the years, she liked to help out by watching the children of teachers. Marilyn’s yard had a pool, and children were always welcome. She would serve them snacks and Kool-Aid. Marilyn also worked with the girls’ Calvinettes program at her church, which later became Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church. She loved to do crafts as a leader at church and with the children in her home. Marilyn enjoyed interacting with people and could be very talkative when she was comfortable.
Never one to sit still for long, Marilyn pursued many hobbies to stay busy in her free time. She loved to visit Mackinac Island whenever she could. For years, Marilyn liked to watch her afternoon soap operas. She continued knitting for many years, making beautiful sweaters and scarves. Throughout their lives, Marilyn and her husband, Jim, enjoyed the company of many good friends. They would often go to one another’s homes and play card games, such as Hearts and Rummy. Marilyn was known to like the simpler things in life, and she was always content to be home with her loved ones.
When reflecting on the life of Marilyn Tanis, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. She was always willing to go above and beyond to serve others. Marilyn’s spirit of kindness allowed her to touch the lives of countless others. She was well known for her insatiable zest for life, and she truly strove to live each day to the fullest. Though Marilyn will be deeply missed, she leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.
Marilyn Tanis, age 83 of Grand Rapids, passed away on September 23, 2022. She is survived by her husband of 57 years, Jim; their children Brenda (Son) Vu and Jodi Tanis; grandchildren Aedian (Tyana) Nguyen, Tennyson (Konur) Nguyen, Keiyen Vu; and step-grandchildren; brother Jim (Jan) Bouwer; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law Judy (Norm) Cochrane, Tom Tanis; as well as nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Jacob and Mabel Bouwer; brothers Don and Edward Bouwer, and sister-in-law Jan Welmers.
The service to remember and celebrate Marilyn’s life will be held on Tuesday, September 27 at 12 Noon at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Van Strien Creston Chapel, where friends are invited to visit with her family beginning at 11 AM. For those who wish, memorial donations to Bethany Christian Services are appreciated. To read more about Marilyn, to share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com