Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

David Zylstra

July 15, 1924 - December 30, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI



Wednesday, January 6, 2021
1:00 PM EST
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Life Story / Obituary


David Byron Zylstra lived a life rich in faith and family. A man who centered his life in his unwavering faith, David embraced each day and person as a gift. Naturally called to a life of service, David devoted himself to his family, community, and country, never hesitating to give of his talents and resources. David embodied the principles of his faith; in doing so, he proved a powerful role model. Revered by many, David’s legacy will continue to live in the hearts of those he loved.

The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. Post-war peace, a booming economy, rising wages for most Americans, and falling consumer prices gave rise to a higher standard of living for most. The world quickly changed with the inventions of wash machines, vacuum cleaners, the band-aid, and the first automobile with a combustion engine. Tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts marked this roaring decade when a person’s success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and then work to make them a reality. In East Grand Rapids, Michigan, this vibrant decade grew even brighter for Albert and Luwenda (DenHartigh) Zylstra as they welcomed their son David into their family on July 15, 1924, at Blodgett Hospital.

The third eldest of the eight Zylstra children, David grew up in a loving and busy home. His father, who had immigrated from the Netherlands, owned a sheet metal shop, and his mother devoted herself to homemaking. David’s siblings, Paul, Lucille, Thomas, Jonathan, James, Carol, and Mary Lou, shared close bonds and proved good company for one another as they grew up in the house their father built in 1917 on Muskegon St NW. This was especially true when four of the children had scarlet fever within a single year. Memorial Day festivities were especially memorable as they were spent with his father’s family. The extended family, which included over 100 cousins, usually gathered at David’s Uncle Gerrit’s 40-acre farm on the corner of Clyde Park and 54th. The family also made great memories at the cottage they rented on Silver Lake in Rockford each summer.

Blessed with an abundance of musical talent, the family formed an orchestra; the Zylstra Family Orchestra performed more than 325 times, mostly at local churches, including their home church, Broadway Christian Reformed. From the age of 11, David played trombone while attending each school and also with a gospel ensemble. He also enjoyed fishing, playing softball for Crystal Flash, and swimming at Richmond Park City Pool. David attended West Side Christian School, Grand Rapids Christian High, Brooklyn College, BIARRITZ University in France, Calvin College and the University of Michigan, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree.

From 1943 through 1946, David served in the US Army, 75th Division. He proudly served in four battles, including the Battle of the Bulge. He suffered a back injury during his service when the Jeep he was riding in was hit with a shell hole, and he was thrown from the vehicle.

In 1941, David was blessed to be set up on a blind date with Carolyn “Cookie” Mulder, a band director and teacher at Hagars School of Music in Grand Rapids. The pair dated for five years, during which time they played at a Youth For Christ Hymn Sing on the Ramona Boat on Ramona Lake. On June 7, 1946, David and Carolyn married at Bethel Christian Reformed Church. After exchanging their vows and celebrating their nuptials with friends and family, they borrowed Cookie’s father’s new 1936 Chevy and took a trip around Lake Michigan.

After returning home from their honeymoon, the newlyweds settled in a home on Thomas SE and joined Highland Hills CRC, which later became Westend CRC. As their family grew to include six children, David and Cookie consciously built their home upon the firm foundation of their faith. Judith, Mark, Randall, Scott, Timothy, and Jeffrey were the centers of their lives, and they worked together to create a loving and supportive home. David worked as an insurance adjuster for eight years before establishing his own business, the Dave Zylstra Insurance Agency. He was well suited to a role as mediator, making both sides of an issue feel as though they were well represented. David’s work afforded the family many opportunities, including trips he’d earned through his sales. Over the years, the family enjoyed many travel adventures, including a memorable 6000-mile adventure to the West Coast. Summers found the family taking an annual vacation to Spider or Glen Lake near Traverse City. Throughout his life, David had the good fortune of traveling to all 50 states and 49 countries worldwide. David also dearly loved playing his trombone, often accompanied by Carolyn "Cookie" on piano or keyboards, for church services, hymn sings, and other gatherings, attended over the decades by thousands of listeners.

Always willing to give of his time and talents in service of his community, David was very active in many organizations. He served on many boards, including West YMCA, Grand Rapids Christian High School, Christian Counseling Center, Mission India, Christian School International, Mel Trotter, and Wedgewood Christian Services.

Sadly, Carolyn was diagnosed with Leukemia and died on October 11, 2001. In time, David was set up on a blind date with Bea Grotenhuis. The couple dated and married on December 27, 2003, at Calvary Church. After honeymooning by train to Vancouver, they moved to Raybrook. For many years, they enjoyed traveling and being active in their community.

A man who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, David liked to eat at Bylsma Pancake House and later Red Lobster. He was proud of the German Mauser rifle he took off a German prisoner, his 1928 Ashland and 1937 Dodge, and his roll-up desk. By far, his favorite activity was spending time with his loved ones, especially his grandkids, whom he adored. He loved attending their activities and encouraged each of their endeavors.

David Byron Zylstra, age 96, of Grand Rapids, went to be with his Lord and Savior on December 30, 2020, while in the company of his wife, Bea. Preceded in death by his first wife, Carolyn “Cookie” Zylstra; Dave is survived by his wife, Beatrice “Bea” (Grotenhuis) Zylstra; children, Judith (Dr. Ronald) Warners, Mark (Urszula) Zylstra, Randall (Beth) Zylstra, Scott Zylstra, and Marlene Wood, Timothy Zylstra and Jeffrey (Renee) Zylstra; Bea’s children, Judy (Dana) Sommers and W. Frank (Tami) Grotenhuis; 20 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; and brother, James (Marilyn) Zylstra.

Due to COVID attendance restrictions, a private family funeral will take place. Burial in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. Contributions in his memory may be made to either Mission India, Mel Trotter Ministries, or West Side Christian School. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Dave’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook online.