Friday, September 20, 2019
11:00 AM EDT
First Evangelical Covenant Church
1933 Tremont NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Friends are invited to visit with Rev. Palma's family from 10 AM until 10:45 AM, prior to the 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.
Edison Christian Foundation
1000 Edison NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
By the year 1930, banks were still closed as a result of the stock market crash of October 1929. The beginning effects of the Great Depression were on the rise, yet there was a promise of a new election year awaiting. During the start of one of the toughest decades in American history, Peter and Adriana (VanOlden) Palma welcomed home the arrival of their newborn son, Jerry Gordon, on January 3rd in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Born the oldest of four children, his birth brought much joy to the family home. Sadly, one of his siblings died as an infant leaving Jerry with his younger sister, Ginger, and younger brother, Robert.
Growing up on the southeast side of town, Jerry lived a typical childhood of the times. His parents leaned on their strong faith to see them through the tough economic times of the era. They were active members at Calvary Baptist Church where Jerry developed his strong foundation of faith. Attending Grand Rapids Christian High, he was well-liked by his classmates. Studious as well as a voracious reader, Jerry excelled in school. He managed to balance his homework with his job at Colonial Bakery where his dad also worked. He met his sweetheart, Esther, at a church event. Jerry was charming as well as personable, so it was no surprise that the two of them took an interest in one another right from the start. After graduation, he made his way to Calvin College for one year before enlisting in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. While on leave, he and Esther joined in marriage at Calvary Baptist Church on November 16, 1951. It was a beautifully romantic ceremony before they returned to Bossier City, Louisiana, where he was stationed. During his time there, they welcomed home their first child, Steve, and Jerry made the rank of staff sergeant. These were exciting times for he and Esther as they worked hard to balance time together as a family.
When he was discharged four years later, they returned to Grand Rapids and welcomed three more wonderful children into their hearts and home. Jerry was a strong provider for his growing family working at Joppes Dairy, Grand Rapids Gravel, and as a night watchman for Michigan Christian Home while also enrolled at Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary. A hard worker, he graduated and found his first calling as a pastor at North Casnovia Baptist Church in Bailey, Michigan. Jerry enjoyed his role as a pastor often studying as well as teaching. He and Esther modeled for their children a lifetime of service, often pouring every ounce of energy into the work with the church. These years strengthened them as a couple as well as a family. Although Jerry’s time could be stretched very thin supporting the congregation, he kept their family mealtimes sacred. He looked forward to each breakfast and dinner time they shared. His children never questioned his love for them. He was stern with them, yet tender all the same. They enjoyed many camping trips throughout the state. A regular and memorable destination was the beautiful dunes of Silver Lake in Mears, Michigan. Close-knit as a family, they made many lasting memories.
In the following years, Jerry would pastor churches in Stanton, Indianapolis, Kentwood and finally Grand Rapids. In addition to his many roles as a pastor, he served on the board at Lake Ann Bible Camp in Benzie County. When his father passed away in 1999, Jerry decided it was time to retire and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. He continued to dabble some in his favorite hobbies of fishing and golf and he and Esther relocated to Florida where they wouldn’t be bothered with the harsh Michigan winters. They became active in their local church and made many lasting friendships. Jerry taught Sunday school and Esther loved entertaining guests to their home. They both treasured their time at the beach and watching sunsets together. After twelve years there, they moved back to Michigan to be closer to family. Again, they found new church homes and reconnected with many of their long-time friends. As their health declined, both of them moved to the Edison Christian Health Center where they received the best of care. Jerry enjoyed the company of others and continued his spirit of being a great conversationalist. Sadly about a year ago, Jerry learned that he had skin cancer. Although he received treatments, there simply was no cure and he succumbed to his illness. Known for his generous heart, beautiful spirit, and endless kindness, Jerry will undoubtedly be missed by all those whose lives he touched over the years.
Rev Jerry Gordon Palma, age 89 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on August 30, 2019. He is survived by his wife, Esther; their children Steve & Kim Palma, Laurie & Mike Vanden Akker, Cheryl & Terry Giles, Mary & Rick Blackford; grandchildren Kara (Leo) Delcarmen, Peter (Bo) Palma, Marc (Star) Palma, David (Rachel) Palma, Hans (Eliza) Palma, Lisa (Kevin) Carley, Matt Vanden Akker, Luke (Kristen Ray) Vanden Akker, Mark (Lauren) Vanden Akker, Ginny Giles, Will (Janice) Giles, Amy (Scott) Murdock, Jon McNeil, Andy (Caila) McNeil, Mallory (Roger) Dougan, John McNeil; and many great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his sister, Ginger Palma, and by his brothers Daniel Robert Palma and Robert Palma. Rev. Palma served as pastor for North Casnovia Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Stanton, University Heights Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Kentwood Baptist Church and Grand Valley Baptist Church before retiring in 1999. The service to remember and celebrate Jerry’s life will be held on Friday, September 20 at 11 AM at First Evangelical Covenant Church, where friends are invited to visit with his family from 10 AM until 10:45 AM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Edison Christian Health Foundation are appreciated. To read more about Jerry, to share a memory or photo or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com