Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Barbara Ybema

October 18, 1923 - September 10, 2023
Grand Rapids, MI


Graveside Service

Wednesday, September 13, 2023
12:30 PM EDT
Fairplains Cemetery
2056 Diamond Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


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.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
24359 Northwestern Highway, Suite 125
Southfield, MI 48075
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Barbara Ybema lived a long life, rich in faith and family. Her persevering spirit, unwavering faith, and willingness to give of herself, even in times of hardship, proved an inspiration to those blessed to know her.

The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. The invention of washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and the first automobile with a combustion engine marked the decade with previously unknown comforts. This was a decade of tremendous confidence, when a person's success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and then work to make them a reality. Enter Arthur McKinley Thomson and Helen (Pangburn), a young couple from Grand Rapids, Michigan celebrating the birth of their second daughter, on October 18, 1923.

The second oldest of the four Thomson children, Barbara's early years were deeply impacted by the Great Depression. The family moved often during these bleak years to wherever they could be assured a roof over their heads as Barbara's father grew his business. Barbara changed schools often, but by the time she entered high school, the family had settled, and she graduated from Creston High School.

Barbara's high school sweetheart was Charles "Chuck" Peterlein. Like so many from their senior class Chuck entered military service in 1942. They kept in touch through letters, while Barbara worked as a secretary with the FBI in Grand Rapids. Armistice Day, 1945, Barbara was there, waiting to greet Chuck as he stepped off the train in Chicago. They married in March of 1946 in Grand Rapids and immediately started their family. Blessed with two children, tragedy struck when Chuck died from polio in 1951.

In time, Barbara was introduced by a friend to Elmer Ybema. They began dating and married March 12, 1952. Elmer embraced DaleAnn and Michael as his own. In January of 1953 Daniel was born and their family was complete. Elmer owned and operated several restaurants in the Grand Rapids area, his first being the Butterwagon on Monroe Avenue. Barbara dedicated herself to creating a loving and supportive home for her family. The family first lived on the southeast side of the city before moving to their longtime home on Borglum NE.

Barbara and Elmer owned a cottage on Silver Lake in Rockford, where many summers were spent from the day school dismissed until the day it started again. A wonderful mother, Barbara was also a gifted seamstress. She was quick to help others whether it be mending or a wedding dress. Her family and friends knew they could rely on her to create that new curtain for their house or skirt for a party in short order. She was an accomplished quilter who welcomed helping others to “make it right”. She loved to paint, wallpaper, craft and meticulously maintained the house. When their boys were active in table tennis, the family enjoyed traveling together to watch their tournaments.

The cornerstone of Barbara's life was her faith. The spirit and love with which the community of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cared for her and Chuck's family after his death solidified her commitment to the church. A longtime active member of the congregation in Grand Rapids, Barbara answered the call to serve, as teacher or a leader, in both Primary and Relief Society for many, many years.

Barbara loved spending time with her grandchildren, babysitting whenever she could. She was often accompanied on her Summer Trips to Stratford Canada by a grandchild or two. She and Elmer had some good years traveling; to Florida in the winter, as well as their scheduled visits to Nevada to see their son Daniel. With the kids out of the house, Barbara and Elmer made a new house on Silver Lake their permanent residence. There would be three more moves as a couple, all in NE Grand Rapids. In 2016, at the age of 95, Elmer passed away at home in the comforts of his family.

As we gather to celebrate Barbara's long and full life, may we find comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying her legacy of love and generosity forward in our own lives. Whenever we cheer on our loved one's endeavors, tend to our loving homes, make a home-cooked meal, or explore our faith, we share the many ways Barbara gifted and inspired our lives.

Barbara Jean (Peterlein) Ybema, passed away on September 10, 2023. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Charles Peterlein; her second husband, Elmer Ybema; her sons Michael Peterlein and Daniel Ybema; and sisters, Luella Horan and Alta Sorenson.

Barbara is survived by her daughter, Dale Ann (Patrick) Eaman; grandchildren, Marjorie (Craig) Nelson, Jennifer (Chuck Bauss) Wagner, Tammy Stephens, Allie (Dan) Hough; great-grandchildren Tyler Wizner, Andrew (Bailey) Scouller, Palmer England, Evan England, Gabriella Gallreins, Noah Hough; brother, Donald Thomson; daughter-in-law Sally Zokoe; as well as several step-grandchildren, her nieces, and nephews. Family and friends are invited to join together for a graveside service on Wednesday, September 13 at 12:30 PM at Fairplains Cemetery. To read more about Barbara, visit www.heritagelifestory.com