Life Story / Obituary
With infinite warmth and kindness, Doloris "Dee" Kramer lived a joyful life rich in family and friends. Dee possessed a love for life that was evident in everything she did; her laugh was infectious, and her style incomparable. She carried herself with grace and confidence, embracing each day as a gift. She welcomed every moment with happiness and joy that inspired her family and friends to do so as well. Dee greeted every person as a friend and loved to entertain and share the beauty in the world with her loved ones. Truly an original, her kindness was only exceeded by her terrific sense of humor. Dee was an inspiration to all who were blessed to know her, and her sparkling spirit will surely continue to live in the hearts of those she loved.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1929 beheld a power of hope that undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Frank and Thelma Zenk welcomed their daughter Doloris into their hearts and home on July 13.
Growing up on the west side of Grand Rapids during the 30s and 40s, Dee enjoyed a childhood centered on family values. Her older brother, Frank Jr, who was affectionately known as Jim, was her first friend. Though she was far more social than her quiet parents, she always enjoyed their good company. The family attended church, where the seeds of Dee's faith were first sown. Over the years, these seeds took root, grew, and then blossomed into the beautiful guideposts she tended to for the rest of her life.
When she was in her later years of high school, Dee's family followed the trend of moving to the country. They settled in Cedar Springs, where they had the opportunity to do some of their own farming. Dee had always loved animals, and moving allowed her to have a horse. She loved her horse, but she was not so keen on farming or small-town life. Her naturally vivacious personality and spunk needed a larger community to shine fully.
Dee possessed a natural zest for life that included a love of a good prank. Whether she was the instigator or recipient, she always found great humor in a well-planned prank. People were naturally drawn to Dee. Her bright and beautiful energy made everyone feel better, especially when facing life's challenges. She eagerly welcomed people into her joyful heart and was a terrific conversationalist. It never took long for Dee to inspire a smile that often led to a hearty laugh. Simply put, life was better when shared with Dee. When in her company, there was no hardship that couldn't be lessened, and life's delights were even richer.
In time, Dee found work as a soda jerk at a store in town. While working there, she had the good fortune of meeting the love of her life, Louis "Lou" Kramer. As the handsome young man, who had recently returned home from his service in WWII, walked into the store, sparks flew. Instantly smitten, the pair were soon dating and setting their hearts on sharing the future. On June 17, 1949, the happy couple exchanged their marriage vows at the local Methodist church. They officially began their 71-year adventure by honeymooning in the Upper Penninsula.
The newlyweds lived near Hillsboro before moving to Howard City, where Lou taught and coached basketball. While in Howard City, Dee and Lou were blessed to welcome their first child, Kim, into their family. Eventually, the family settled in Grand Rapids, where their family was soon complete when daughter Korrine was born. They built their forever home on Byers Street NE and settled into family life. While Lou continued to teach, Dee devoted herself to creating a loving and supportive home for her family. She relished in motherhood and enjoyed creating wonderful traditions and memories with her children. When the kids were young, the family enjoyed an annual two-week summer vacation, often spending time with church friends at Bakers Acres in Traverse City. The family also spent a goodly amount of time camping. They began by exploring their home state and then branched out to other states. They enjoyed traveling west as far as California.
Once settled in Grand Rapids, the Kramer family became lifelong members of Berean Baptist Church. Dee and Lou were very invested in their church community and often shared their time and talents in service. Dee gave back to the church by singing in the choir, and for many years, helping provide the flowers that adorned the church on Sundays.
Dee's keen eye and artistic talents led to many beautiful endeavors. She had a flair for decorating and enjoyed painting. She was particularly skilled in Roemaling painting (decorative folk art from Norway) and even taught some classes at Fruitbasket Flowerland. Many conventions were attended where Dee enjoyed selling her artwork and meeting other artists. Dee also loved working with flowers. Her careful and creative work in her gardens resulted in stunning flower arrangements in her home and in church. Dee's attention to detail was also evident in her appearance. She sparkled wherever she went, with her perfectly styled hair and makeup and carefully coordinated clothing and jewelry. She loved to dress up and did so with signature flair and charisma.
A woman who found joy in everything, Dee's love of animals often found her enjoying Nature's splendor in the back yard. She enjoyed feeding and tracking the birds who visited her and also enjoyed the special love of many canine companions over the years. She often had a toy poodle or min Pomeranian at her side, the last of which was Mitzie. As her family grew, Dee welcomed her role as grandmother with enthusiasm and love. She so enjoyed being a grandma and spending time with her grandkids. She took the time to really connect with each child and acknowledged each of their unique gifts. She always had something to give them, often a stick of gum.
Dee and Lou took up the game of tennis and played the game together for decades. They enjoyed the competition, friendship, and the sport itself. Not only did they love taking to the courts themselves, but they also enjoyed watching matches on TV and attending local tournaments. Dee enjoyed watching many sports, especially those her grandchildren chose to play. She was always thrilled to attend their games and cheer for her favorite players.
After being involved in a major car accident in her 40s, Dee required a bit of help. Her daughter Korrine quickly became her go-to helper. The two spent quite a bit of time together running errands and having special lunches with the granddaughters. Dee loved family gatherings. As her mother died young, in her absence, Dee grew especially close to Lou's aunts and cousins, who were very loving and supportive of Dee.
As Dee's health required more support, she and Lou moved into Cascade Trails Assisted Living. Even in the face of the challenges that came with dementia, Dee quickly drew people to her. Sadly, Lou passed away in November. After spending a few more minutes with those she loved, Dee reunited with her beloved.
Regardless of Life's trials and tribulations, Dee met each day with style, grace, gratitude, and love. In so doing, she proved a powerful role model for how to live a wholehearted life! While it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Dee's bright and beautiful presence, may we find much comfort in the privilege of carrying her loving and joyful legacy forward. As we greet each day with gratitude, welcome a stranger as a friend, carefully coordinate our outfit, play the slot machines at the local casino, and say "yes" to the next adventure, we celebrate the many ways Dee gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Doloris Ann Kramer, age 91, of Grand Rapids, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on March 13, 2021. She was preceded in death by her beloved Louis "Lou" in November of 2020 and by her brother, Frank "Jim" Zenk. Doloris is survived by their children Kim (Edith) Kramer and Korrine (Phillip) Rogers; grandchildren Nicholas Kramer, Kari (Jeremy) Jones, Troy (Sarah) VanWingen, Tara (Ted) Westbrook, Alex VanWingen, Amanda Rogers, Jessica Rogers, and Kevin (Abbie) Rogers; great-grandchildren Sienna, Sawyer, Charlotte, Grey, Laura, Gene, Zelda, Josephine, and Sully; her sister-in-law Barbara Zenk; nieces Michele (Mark) Justema, Molly (Randy) Heemstra, Mari (Dan) Smith. A service to celebrate Doloris and Lou's lives will be held at a later date. A private graveside service was held at Blythefield Memorial Gardens. To read more about Doloris, to share a memory or photo, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com