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Life Story / Obituary
With a warm smile, loving heart, and steady faith, Elizabeth "Betty" Vriend lived a life rich in family and friends. Betty focused her life on God; she loved the Word and teaching it to others. By nature she was more quiet and shy, but that didn’t keep her from mentoring many young women and touching their lives in powerful ways. While she never demanded the spotlight, Betty was feisty and funny. She was a great listener, and her kindness and compassion were evidenced by how easily people found it to talk with her. Betty was a classy lady, which probably earned her the nickname “Queenie”. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend, Betty proved an inspiration to all who were blessed to know her.
On April 20, 1938 Reverend Adam and Dora Persenaire welcomed their daughter Elizabeth Christine, born at home in Eastmanville Michigan where her dad served as the pastor at the Eastmanville CRC church for many years. Betty was the seventh of the eleven Persenaire children. From there her family moved to Canada where her father served as a home missionary to the Dutch immigrants arriving in Canada after the war. Her school years were mainly in St. Catherines and Stony Creek near Niagara Falls, until her dad became the pastor of Dundas CRC in Ontario Canada.
Betty left Canada to complete her high school senior year at Grand Rapids Christian High School, class of 1956. During this year she lived with her sister Jess and other Calvin College girls. She then attended Calvin College for a year before moving to Hamilton, Ontario, where she worked as an aide at the local Christian school. It was here that Betty became interested in Harry Vriend who was also a teaching aide at the school.
While living in Dundas, Ontario the interest between Harry and Betty became love, and after dating awhile they decided to get married. On August 11, 1961, at Dundas Christian Reformed Church, they shared their special day with her sister Dorothy and Harry’s best friend Art. Their dad, Adam Persenaire officiated the wedding for the couples. Harry planned the honeymoon in a remote cabin in the woods of Northern Canada. Queenie wasn’t thrilled, making this a fun cautionary honeymoon family story.
They started their married lives in Lamont Michigan where both Harry and Betty were teachers. Within a short time, they welcomed daughter Kathleen in 1962. In 1966 daughter Donna joined the family, and in 1970 their family was completed when daughter Janet arrived. By this time the family had settled in Grand Rapids.
Betty was an active member of Highland Hills (Westend) CRC. Betty led Coffee Break Bible study for decades. She also worked as the coffee lady at Christian Rest Home for many years. The money she earned became her fun money, financing her annual "Ladies Trip". For many memorable years this trip, she and her mother, aunt, sisters and sisters in laws would rent a van and travel south for a week. Later, this became a tradition with her daughters as well.
Family traditions were important to her. These included Friday night Family get-togethers. Also, for fifty years the Persenaire family reunited for two wonderful weeks at “The Cottage” on Diamond Lake, Michigan. There were also annual camping trips with the Vriend extended family. Christmas and New Year’s were also important times for creating memories. Playing games were a big part of all family events and being competitive seems to be a hereditary trait. Beating her husband Harry in games was a great source of pleasure for her. The game of Wizard became a family favorite.
After Harry retired they traveled a lot more, both in the US and abroad. A trip with their children and grandchildren to Colorado was a special memory, and a few years ago they traveled with their daughters and sons-in-law to Europe. She didn’t have to travel far to enjoy herself because Betty also enjoyed day trips with many of her friends from Coffee Break.
When home, Betty practiced much hospitality. She especially enjoyed having college nieces, nephews and their friends over for Sunday dinner. Sometimes, they would even have students spend the summer months with them. Her daughters especially remember that when they moved or had a baby, their mom was always the first to arrive to help. She always knew how to quietly put things in order and lovingly model being a great mom.
With signature grace, Betty embodied the principles of her faith. In doing so, she showed each of us how to love wholly, encourage spiritual growth, serve those who are suffering, and give gratitude for every moment. This was never more evident than how Betty faced life's hardships, including the deaths of her loved ones, her uterine cancer, and how she chose to live her final months. Without complaint and with complete trust in God Betty lived every moment fully and died at home in the comfort of her beloved family.
Elizabeth "Betty" C. Vriend (nee Persenaire), of Grand Rapids, MI, went to be with her Lord and Savior after a short, grace-filled battle with cancer at age 85 on June 4, 2023. She was the beloved wife of Harry Vriend for 62 years and dear mother of Kathleen (Del) DeHart, Donna (David) Kuipers, and Janet (Gerald) Mack. She will be lovingly remembered by her grandchildren, Abigail (Eric Fleddermann) DeHart, Luke (Miranda) DeHart, Ben (Jess Sattler) DeHart, Maggie "Riley" DeHart, Joshua Kuipers, Alexandra (Joshua) Stephenson, Steven Kuipers, Danielle Mack, Aiden Mack and Noah Mack, and great granddaughter Sophia (Luke and Miranda). She was preceded in death by brothers and in-laws Case (Jean) Persenaire, Ted (Gladys) Persenaire, Dave (Joyce) Persenaire, Robert Persenaire, Neal Helmus, and Betty (Al) Mennega. She will be fondly remembered by Adrian (Delia) Persenaire, Phil (Lois) Persenaire, Jess Helmus, Paul (Iris) Persenaire, Dorothy (Art) Vander Kruk, Carol Persenaire, Helen Persenaire, Nellie Okema-Guetter, Willy (Bruce) VanderKooi, Maryanne (Mel) Elzinga, Grace (Bill) Van Staalduinen, Joanne (Dave) Tigchelaar, and many nieces and nephews.
The family will receive visitors on Friday, June 9, from 6-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – VanStrien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505. The funeral service will be held at 11 AM on Saturday, June 10, at Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church, 2100 Chelsea Rd NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505. There will be visitation at the church from 10-11 AM prior to the service. Contributions in her memory may be made to West Side Christian School Foundation. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read her life story, submit a favorite memory or photo, or sign the guestbook online.