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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Generous beyond measure, there simply wasn’t anything Mary Jean Van Kampen wouldn’t do for her family or a friend in need. She lived her life in service to others and delighted in supporting her community. She lived a very active life well into her later years. Although she will be deeply missed, Mary Jean leaves behind a rich collection of warm memories for her loved ones to cherish forever.
Looking back on the 1920s, it was a period of sustained economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge. By 1926, the Ford Motor Company announced the creation of the 40-hour work week! With the media focused on jazz music and celebrities, Cornelius and Marguerite (Kitzinger) Knoll welcomed home their newborn baby girl, Mary Jean on May 6, 1926, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. An only child, her birth brought great joy to the family home.
Growing up on the NW side on Valley Avenue, Mary Jean lived a typical childhood of the times. Her father worked as an IRS agent and her mother was a homemaker as well as a school teacher. Mary Jean was studious and loved books from an early age making schoolwork a breeze. Attending Sibley Elementary and graduating from Union High she was well-liked by her classmates and known for her quick ability to recall information on any topic, a life long skill that served her well over the years. What she lacked in street smarts, she gained in her intellect. Her book smarts led her to membership with Mensa, an international high IQ society known for its elite members who represented only the top two percent of the world’s population. Regardless of her smarts, Mary Jean remained grounded in her values of the importance of family and being accepting of all others.
Not to be forgotten, however, was the meeting of Morry Van Kampen, who would change the course of her life forever. The two of them were introduced by his brother, John and the rest was history! While Morry was on leave with the United States Navy they dated and joined in marriage returning to Florida where he was stationed. With their firstborn son on the way, Mary Jean took the train back to Michigan to welcome Rick home in 1952. Just two years later, they were blessed with their son, Tom. When Morry was discharged they relocated to a home they built on Fremont NW. As a family, they shared many special memories camping all over the United States in their Volkswagon van. These trips bonded them together and kept them close-knit over the years. Mary Jean was immensely proud of her children and there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for the two of them.
When the boys were younger, Mary Jean worked as a substitute teacher so that she had the flexibility to stay home if they were sick and to manage the family household. By the time they were old enough, however, she returned to work teaching English at South High and later Ottawa High. Always one to stay abreast of education as well as pursue higher education, Mary Jean went back to school earning masters degrees in Education and in Library Science from both the University of Michigan as well as Michigan State University. She later left teaching and became a mainstay at the Grand Rapids Library for many years, where everyone knew her by name and relied on her endless wisdom. She was so well known throughout the community for her quick wit and knowledge, even local bartenders were known to call upon her to settle disputes between patrons. There wasn’t much that Mary Jean didn’t know, and if not, she definitely knew where to find the answers long before Google came around!
Retiring by the early 90s afforded she and Morry the opportunity to explore their special interests. Mary Jean continued her love of reading and could pass the day away curled up with a book or two! She also loved to cook as well as bake and had perfected her pumpkin pie and chocolate square recipes. Her family had grown to expect them at special gatherings over the years. Active and outgoing, Mary Jean enjoyed her years as a member of the Women’s City Club. She cherished many years attending the vibrant and interesting programs, community engagement, and social activities. Above all else, Mary Jean developed many rewarding relationships with a large group of women who valued education and professionalism. Mary Jean lived a full life and yet it was simple. With the exception of her family, her only other treasure was her extensive collection of Royal Daulton figurines and her books. Mary Jean was a beautiful person and there is no doubt that she loved her family unconditionally. May all who knew and loved her be touched by her special memories and reflect on her caring ways for generations to come.
Mary Jean Van Kampen age 93, of Grand Rapids, Michigan passed away on July 10, 2019. She was preceded in death by her loving husband, Morry. Mary Jean is survived by her two sons, Rick (Micki) Van Kampen and Tom (Sandy) Van Kampen; grandchildren, Ric (Ka-ci) Van Kampen, Chris Van Kampen, and Jackie (Matt) Casares; great-grandchildren, Zeth, Zak, Jason, and Mason and her nieces and nephews. Mary Jean was an English teacher at South High School and then a long-time librarian for the City of Grand Rapids. She earned a Masters Degrees from both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. The funeral service will be held at 11 AM on Saturday, July 13, 2019, at Trinity Congregational Church, 2725 Four Mile Rd NW. Visitation will be held from 10 am until the time of the service. Interment in Greenwood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook.