Life Story / Obituary
Ann Marie (Townsend) Molhoek - September 5, 1934 to April 24, 2021
The end of an era has arrived. After 86+ trips around the sun, Ann died unexpectedly but peacefully in her favorite season of dogwoods and daffodils on Saturday afternoon. We would like to thank her wonderful team of care providers at Samaritas in Grand Rapids, her residence for the last several years. We take comfort in the knowledge of her sharing with staff that morning “I’m going home today,” that indeed she passed knowing something only she could know, on her terms and in peace that she and we wished for her.
The daughter of George Ralph & Aneta May (Moore) Townsend, Ann was preceded in death by her parents, her brother, Ralph “Bud” Townsend Jr.; her sisters, Nancy (Jerry) O’Neal and Linda Kalin; her ex-husband, James W. Molhoek; her son, John Allen Molhoek; son-in-law Jay Harring; niece Pattie Jo O’Neal; and nephew, Kevin O’Neal.
Ann is survived by her son, James “Aaron” (Cheryl) Molhoek; daughters, Sara Harring and Paula (Peter) Roelands; grandchildren Kati Molhoek, Brian Molhoek, Michelle (Kevin) Bravo, Anika (Devin) Horvat, Pagiel (Zach) Zingery, Tyan (Lisa) Roelands; great grandchildren Harper Bravo and Liam Roelands; sister-in-law, Ruth Bolthouse, and her daughters, Vicky, Cheryl and Suzanne; Nancy’s children, Jerry Lee, Stephen and Laurie; and Linda’s daughter, Dresden Kalin.
Cremation has taken place, and an outdoor Celebration of Life is planned for June 28, 2021 at Townsend Park from 3pm to dusk. A la Ann, come dressed in her favorite colors, enjoy a scavenger hunt, games, puzzles, painting, and likely some version of gourmet appetizer-salad-entree-dessert - on the hour (wink). The family would love to see you and share memories, stories (oh, the stories!!) and celebrate together. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive details and updates. In the meantime, the family welcomes and encourages you to visit and share photos, memories and stories on this page. In lieu of bringing or sending flowers, Ann would have appreciated you planting flowers or making a contribution in her memory to:
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - https://www.lls.org/ways-to-give
Land Conservancy of West Michigan - https://naturenearby.org/
NAMI Michigan - https://www.nami.org/home
Kendall College of Art & Design - https://kcad.ferris.edu/giving.html
More About Ann
While her last few years may not have reflected the degree of vitality and spirit with which she lived most of her life, there is no denying she left an impression on all those that she encountered. Ann demonstrated that she was one of a kind early on, creating ripples in her wake in her hometown of Lowell, MI. Here she exercised her original personality and affinity for nature and animals, eating ants in the cherry tree and bringing home wildlife to foster and nurture -- including picking up an abandoned litter of skunks while on a date. It’s suspected that she cultivated her creativity in explaining her way out of her youthful exploits. A true ambassador to Lowell, she served as one of the Showboat Queens, promoting Showboat events with local dignitaries, including an invitation to then Gov. Williams to serve as honorary captain. Not one to go unnoticed, she and other cast members also provided entertainment on show nights with water-ski stunts on the Flat River.
Commitment and hard work were a given at home and at her parent’s store, The House of Townsend, where she helped with the wide variety of merchandise from sporting goods, fishing bait, shotguns and Sorel boots to silverware, wringer washers, refrigerators, and fine furniture. It was there that she first discovered her innate artistic creativity by convincing her parents to expand the storefront to a third adjoining building and improve the lines of fine furniture and art available to Lowell area shoppers. She was also adept at assisting customers with decorating ideas, arranging showroom staging, and designing window displays. With her creativity piqued and practiced, Ann pursued and completed her Interior Design degree at Kendall School of Design, continuing to apply her skills at the family store.
Ann met and married Jim Molhoek and they leapt into life together, quickly becoming known as the ‘fun, can do’ couple. Buying their first home, they gathered a group of friends and ‘popped’ the roof up, creating a 2nd story on their Cape Ann home to make room for their growing family. Organizing block parties and card nights ensued, and they innovated a special neighborhood intercom system so couples with young kids could socialize and play cards while their kids slept “within earshot” next door. Both avid skiers, Ann and Jim also became founding members of the Grand Rapids Ski Club, and they somehow found time to take the family out to hit the slopes. With her competitive spirit on full display, this is where Ann would challenge anyone to a ski race and ‘shake her tail’ in the lead down to the bottom. Both aspiring to more, with a few friends they sought a wooded parcel, bought and divided it, and began building their modern dream home with a LOT of sweat equity. Their first year in the home they even lived in the basement with their four children age six and younger while working to complete the house in their “spare” time.
Ann had great energy and enthusiasm for life, loved to laugh and have fun, and dressed and entertained in style, including hosting wine tastings and dinner parties of all types. Her gourmet culinary wizardry offered a taste of other cultures before it was popular and exposed her family to the most unusual (and mostly edible) cuisine - Euell Gibbons’ “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” had nothing on her. One of the special features in building the house was a custom built and fully stocked pantry and literally four cupboards filled with recipes; and at least one of her original creations was featured in the Grand Rapids Press.
A talented sculptor and painter in her own right, Ann had an eye and passion for art and nature and she thrived on sharing her artistic talent and creativity with others. She energetically inspired esthetic exploration and filled the walls with her children’s creations. She arranged scavenger hunts and decorated birthday cakes with edible flowers and was dubbed by her children’s friends the ‘fun, interesting mom.’ While her family’s upbringing was far from conventional, perhaps it was quietly envied by some.
She further displayed her enthusiasm and love of the arts with her volunteer and co-coordinating efforts in the first six years of Festival of The Arts (Calder Festival), even hosting a “clay encounter” booth one year. For many years she was a very active member of Fountain Street Church, particularly in the arts - with the gift shop, the monthly art rental, art committee endeavors and the Great Speakers offerings during the Duncan Littlefair years. Later, Ann also became certified in Transactional Analysis and combined that with art to provide volunteer support for inmates with the Kent County Correctional Facility.
Ann took her talents and enterprising nature into the business realm as an accomplished interior designer, working in high-end residential and commercial interior design at Business Interiors. From the sixth floor of the Waters Building, with its inspiring “high rise” view in the “big city” of Grand Rapids, she thrived in creating home and workspaces with the latest mod fabrics and materials of the 60’s and 70’s as well as innovative and trend-setting Herman Miller furniture. She later expanded her impact in her successful landscape business, where she did everything from design conceptualization to installation. She was tough and strong, had a truck with a lift, a ball cart, dozens of rakes, shovels and pruners and she knew how to use them. She was proud to say she could out-work her male colleagues more than 20 years younger; and some of us can attest that it was true!
She was highly competitive in everything she did and suffered no fools in Gin Rummy or Scrabble. Who knew that doing a jigsaw puzzle could be a contact sport? And when the opportunity presented itself she raced to the top of her design firm in sales. The rewards of this success coalesced with her adventurous spirit and she celebrated with a family vacation, taking her children to the wilds of South America, including riding on top of a train across Ecuador and Peru, hiking up to Machu Picchu and exploring the Galapagos Islands. Later, she adventured to China alone and to the interior of Mexico with her childhood friend Rene Watson, exploring nature and the arts she loved along the way.
Ann was smart like a fox and a formidable force, although early signs portended to challenges ahead. By the time she was ten she sensed something was different about her and as she grew older an unease developed that her mental state was not quite right, to the point that she initially was unsure about becoming a parent. From the very beginning the house in the woods was an intentional respite from her ‘dis-ease,’ ultimately transitioning to an integral place of peace following the loss of her six-year-old son John to leukemia and later when she received confirmation of Bi-Polar Disorder (and its wily co-conspirators anxiety and alcohol). This made matters both clearer and more complicated and she expended tremendous energy to making positive things happen, refusing defeat whenever possible. In many ways she overcame much of her condition to achieve professional success and she was an incredibly dedicated parent to her highest capacity.
Though in her determined strength she was often seen as difficult, she blessed her children and many others by opening-up creativity and possibility, helping to form who they are today. It is not an overstatement to suggest that all those that she touched gained some greater measure of character and strength. Her last few years were a calm, medicated and cared for reality, rather than the vibrant, hectic and independent life that she loved, yet she maintained her witty personality to the end. It appears that her last restless night may have been one of clarity and decision; her time, challenges, struggles, and purpose on this earth had been served and she was ready for what lay ahead for her. She did love making her own choices.