Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Bessie VanDyke would agree that she truly understood the secret to a life well lived. It is easy to see that her family was her greatest treasure, and it was when surrounded by their love that she experienced life’s greatest moments. Bessie had a giving spirit that was unmatched, and she loved to help others and make their day brighter. Dearly loved, Bessie will be forever missed.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of our nation were focused overseas as World War II raged on. Although America had not yet become involved as the decade dawned, our hopes to remain neutral were soon dashed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Bessie Ann was welcomed into the world on February 14, 1940, as winter held the city of Gaylord, Michigan, firmly it its grip. She was raised in the family home by her mother, June Bates, and her “Daddy,” John Biermaker, who was her father in all the ways that counted.
Growing up, Bessie was a typical young girl of her generation. Her family grew to include ten siblings including Mervin, Osmon, Charlotte, Alice, John, Bertha, Matthew, Jeanette, Diana, and Florence. Their home on Scribner in Grand Rapids was never a quiet one, but Bessie became best friends with each of her siblings and had so much fun. Her mother worked as a bartender part time, and she also worked cleaning offices as well as raising her children. John also supported the family by working in a factory. Bessie and her family attended Salvation Army Church where the foundation of the faith that would serve her well for her entire life was established. Some of her fondest childhood memories included trips to her Grandma Pedrin’s house. Bessie’s grandma lived just over the bridge in a two room shack, and the family all came to enjoy the wonderful food and company as often as they could. As a student, Bessie attended Harrison Park School and then went on to Union High School for a time until she dropped out to help care for her siblings. She especially enjoyed making dolls to match people and places during history class as a child.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Bessie when she met the man of her dreams. His name was Edward VanDyke, and the two met at the Red Lion where they played pinball. At the time, Edward worked as a grinder at Wolverine Bass. The two dated for about a year before before they realized they desired to spend the rest of their lives together. Deeply in love, they were married at the Justice of the Peace in Wyoming, Michigan, on July 14, 1960. After the wedding, they enjoyed spending time in Chicago bars with their best man, Dewey, and Bessie’s sister, Alice. The newlyweds started their married lives together in their home at 346 Gran Street in Grand Rapids. Over the years, Bessie and Edward welcomed ten children, Eileen, Donald, Loretta, Tracy, Edward, Glenn, William, Sarie, Berdeana, and Monica, into their hearts and home. From the moment she became a mother, Bessie’s children became her pride and joy.
Bessie considered it her highest calling to raise and provide for her family. She worked at Karagon Plastics and Bryson Industries, as well as cleaning banks and offices at the Waters Building. However, Bessie’s career never took precedence over her children, and she was a fantastic role model when it came to working hard. Camping trips at Ludington State Park for two weeks each July became a family tradition and the source of many treasured memories. One such memory was when her son, Glenn, caught a dogfish and threw it at a girl!
As her family and friends can attest, Bessie loved to spend her free time in the kitchen. While she could cook anything and liked to try new things, dumplings were always her specialty. Edward took Bessie out to Sung Sai every Friday night, which was a nice treat as she didn’t need to cook. Chop suey quickly became her favorite food on the menu.
In her fee time, Bessie enjoyed many things including fishing, needlepoint, crocheting, and canning food. The plants and flowers that filled her garden could always cheer her up. Her favorite book was Cinderella. Bessie loved music, especially songs by Elvis, Hank Williams, and Freddy Fender. The song “Walking Piece of Heaven” by Marty Robbins always reminded her of Edward.
Family was always Bessie’s most valuable treasure, and she was overjoyed to become a grandmother later in life. She loved taking her grandchildren on camping trips, just as she had done with her own children. Bessie even had the privilege of meeting her great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
As family and friends can attest, Bessie knew what was important in life. She had a heart of gold, and she found fulfillment in serving others in ways both great and small. Bessie’s work ethic served her well for her entire life, and her life was truly inspiring. While she will be deeply missed, Bessie leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will carry on forever.
VANDYKE, Bessie Ann
Age 80, passed away September 3, 2020 with her loving family at her side. Bessie was born February 14, 1940 in Grand Rapids to the late John and June (Bates) Biermaker Sr. She was also preceded in death by her husband of 40 years, Edward VanDyke Sr; son, Glenn VanDyke, who passed away 15 years to the exact day of Bessie's passing; brother, John Biermaker II; sisters, Alice Roelofs, Bertha Brenner, and Jeannette Roelofs. Bessie is survived by her children, Eileen House, Don (Deb) VanDyke, Loretta “Kay” (Rick Hicks) VanDyke, Tracy VanDyke, Ed VanDyke II, William “Billy” VanDyke, Sarie (Rob) Marvin, Berdeana (Kevin) Matthews, and Monica Youngs; many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. She is also survived by her brothers and sisters, Florence Loonsfoot, Diana Roe, Charlotte Bolger, Matthew Biermaker, Mervin “Sonny” Kasper, Osmon Kasper; and numerous nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held outdoors, under a tent Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at 1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends may visit beginning at Noon. Interment will be in Rosedale Memorial Park. Memorials may be made to Spectrum Hospice. www.heritagelifestory.com