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Life Story / Obituary
Dorothy Winkel was a warm and loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her life was a beautiful tapestry of selflessly serving others. Dorothy lived her life to the fullest and loved to celebrate the many successes of her close-knit family over the years. Her sincere compassion and endless love will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by all who were privileged to know and love her.
Although the Thirties were marked by tough economic times, the decade also saw an expansion of new technologies, especially in the areas of radio and film. Anko and Alice (Yonkman) Slachter, immigrants from the Netherlands, welcomed home their newborn baby girl, Dorothy Jean, on November 12, 1933. Following her four older siblings, and later joined by her younger brother, Dorothy’s birth brought great joy to the family home.
Growing up, Dorothy remembers hard times. The Great Depression left her family struggling in poverty. Her father worked through the “Works Progress Association” building roads and bridges while her mother was a nurse’s aide in a hospital in Cadillac. Despite their employment, they relied on government supplements of cheese, flour, and other staples to get by. Dorothy’s mother also made the children’s clothes and they grew accustomed to hand-me-down clothing. Without many resources, the siblings were very close and built fond memories that lasted throughout their lives. From a young age, Dorothy showed her nurturing side. She lovingly cared for her dolls and even the chickens. They would congregate on the back porch to wait for her and peck at the door when they grew impatient.
When Dorothy’s father landed a solid job with B.F. Goodrich, her parents transferred the children to Lucas Westside Christian Elementary. It was there, that Dorothy fell in love with reading. She was known to read anything she could get her hands on! At Northern Michigan Christian High School, she thrived in her Biology courses where the instructor taught her about the different types of birds and their songs. Leaning towards an interest in nursing, Dorothy chose to take Latin classes to help prepare her for her career path.
After graduating with the Class of 1952, she and her school friend, Julie Austin, moved into a girls’ dormitory at Esther Hall on the campus of St. Mary’s in Grand Rapids. A natural in the nursing field, Dorothy landed her first job at St. Mary’s Hospital after obtaining her LPN certificate. “She remained close with Julie, Carol Van Ess, and other nursing school friends throughout their lives. On weekends, Dorothy and her friend rode back home with a young man who had family in the same area. Sometimes he took along a friend, Ray Winkel, who had recently returned from serving in Korea. Ray made Dorothy laugh and she was interested from the very start. Sharing many commonalities, soon a romance began. The happy couple joined in marriage on November 18, 1955, at Dorothy’s parent’s home in Lucas. They held a small reception in Cadillac before heading home to Grand Rapids. On the way, they were caught in a terrible snowstorm and had to stop in Big Rapids. Later in the week, they traveled to warmer weather in sunny Florida for their honeymoon. The newlyweds settled in a small apartment on Crescent Street before purchasing their home at 1256 Kelsey Street NE. This was the home where they also welcomed their four wonderful children; Bonnie, John, Nancy, and Amy.
Dorothy and Ray provided for their growing family. Once Ray taught her how to drive, she would head to work part-time at the Villa Elizabeth, a local nursing home as soon as Ray pulled in from his job at the Post Office. About every six weeks, when Ray had a weekend off, the whole family would pack up and go to visit Dorothy’s mother. Ray and Dorothy taught their children a strong foundation of faith and worshipped at East Leonard Christian Reformed Church. As a family, they cherished their vacations together. Some favorite family trips were to Florida, Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, and renting a cottage at Lake Missaukee in Lake City. Each summer, they also grew a large garden and took pleasure in nurturing the colorful fruits and vegetables together as a family. While she preferred fresh fruit and veggies, Dorothy loved to spoil her family with her delicious pies, cookies, and bars. A family favorite was her roast beef and mashed potatoes. As a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, Dorothy was always patient and self-sacrificing. The value of her family was shown in the way she cared for all of them by sending birthday cards to three generations of her family, as well as many nieces and nephews. Ray and Dorothy taught their children to love the Lord, serve others, and care for each other by their example.
After working at Villa Elizabeth for twenty years, Dorothy worked for Holland Home in a facility that served only women. She was grateful for her years of caring for others, yet wanted to enjoy her special interests as well. Life did not slow down for Ray and Dorothy after retirement. While Ray was busy with his painting business, Dorothy and a group of women from church joined Hope for You, a ministry that provides Bible lessons and correspondence to prisoners. The women shared the message of God’s love and forgiveness. Dorothy found her calling in listening to their stories and offering her support. Her strong beliefs enabled her to help others and see their goodness despite their weaknesses. In addition to these hobbies, they also enjoyed traveling. She and Ray visited Hawaii and Acapulco and spent many of their winters in Florida. They never took a single day for granted.
In 2011, Ray developed Parkinson’s and they sold their family home and moved to Sunset Manor. Active and outgoing, they attended a wide variety of programs and events. She and Ray enjoyed the talent from church choirs to Grand Rapids Symphony groups. They even brought birds into the auditorium for programs. Sunset became their sanctuary and a perfect spot for meeting new friends. When not at a special event, Dorothy enjoyed passing the time reading her Bible as well as all sorts of books. Reading was a consistent passion throughout her life. As Ray’s health declined, they stayed together yet moved to Sunset’s Rose Garden where he could receive more care. Nature lovers, the two of them appreciated their view of the property and enjoyed visits from finches and songbirds to their feeders outside the windows. They especially enjoyed days when the blue sky collided with the billowing white clouds. There was no greater testimony of their love for one another than the tender way she cared for Ray until he passed away in October of 2018.
Described as loving, considerate, and generous, Dorothy was deeply loved by her many special friends and family. Her wonderful ability to share so much of her time and resources will be a lasting gift to her family. They never doubted the special love she had for each of them, and she will always be held in their hearts and memories.
Dorothy Jean Winkel, age 89, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was welcomed into her heavenly home on Monday, May 30, 2023. She was born in Lucas, Michigan in the fall of 1933 to the late Anko and Alice [Yonkman] Slachter. Along with her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband of 62 years, Raymond Winkel as well as by her siblings, John, Angeline, Eleanor, and Adrian. Dorothy is survived by her children, Bonnie (Bob) McGinnis, John (Sharon) Winkel, Nancy Markosky, and Amy (Tom) Adams; Grandchildren, Colleen (Mark) Bolek, Rachel (Ben) Gurk, Jonathan (Charlotte) Winkel, Amber (Garrett) Westfall, Jenna (Nate) Fatum, Brianna Winkel, Andrea Winkel, Dan (Roxanne) Markosky, Ben (Carmen) Markosky, Jack (Mandi) Markosky, Joel Adams and Elise Adams; Great-grandchildren, Evan, Claire, Emily, Nathan, Isaac, Adalyn, Waylon, Walker, and Millie, as well as by her bother Marv Slachter and many nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held Monday, June 5, 2023, at 11:30 AM at East Leonard Christian Reformed Church, (1027 Leonard Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505). Friends may visit with the family prior to the service beginning at 10:00 AM. Dorothy will be laid to rest next to Ray in Fairplains Cemetery. Please consider making a memorial contribution in Dorothy’s memory to East Leonard CRC, Christian Education Trust Fund, (1027 Leonard Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Visit Dorothy's personal web page to leave a memory or condolence at www.heritagelifestory.com