At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Aberdeen Reformed Church
1000 Aberdeen Street NE
Grand RApids, MI 49505
Friends of Michigan Veterans Homes
PO Box 805
Grandville, MI 49468-0805
Life Story / Obituary
Intelligent, generous, and persevering, Gerald Bax lived a life rich in faith and service. A man who embodied the principles of his faith, Gerald embraced each day as a gift and continuously strove to be his very best. He gave his life to the work of ensuring excellent care of others and was a significant contributor to the advancements in quality health care across the state. A devoted husband and community servant, Gerald proved a powerful role model for all who were blessed to know him.
With the Great War behind us, 1920 gave birth to many firsts that helped pave the way for a decade of abundance and much celebration for our nation. The year began with high hopes as The Great Steel Strike ended, and the US census proved for the first time in history that more Americans lived in urban areas than rural areas. With the inventions of the hairdryer, Qtips, and traffic lights, greater ease and comfort for many became the new normal. Hope grew exponentially later in the year with the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote, millions of women were working white-collar jobs. While riding the post-war quiet and the nation’s feelings of high hope and good fortune, Gerrit and Bessie (Vande Vusse) Bax welcomed their son, Gerald, into their hearts and lives on January 15, in Holland, Michigan.
Growing up in Holland, during the 20s and 30s, Gerald witnessed times of both great abundance and terrible strife. The seeds of his faith were planted within his home and through his family’s membership at Bethel Reformed Church in Holland. Over his lifetime, these seeds rooted deeply and grew into an unwavering faith that became the firm foundation upon which he consciously built the rest of his life.
Gerald attended Van Raalte Elementary School and then went on to Holland High School, graduating with the class of 1938. During his youth, he began a stamp collection he continued the rest of his life. He also began honing his musical talents as both a member of the choir and a skilled organist.
After graduating from high school, Gerald attended Hope College and earned his Bachelor’s degree. During his senior year at Hope, Gerald began dating Eleanor Ligtvoet. Gerald and Eleanor had grown up as neighbors, playmates, schoolmates, and fellow church members. One of Gerald’s earliest memories of her was when he was about four years old, and their mothers took them out for a walk. Eleanor rode in a stroller as she was two years younger than Gerald. Drafted into the Army in 1942, Gerald and Eleanor became engaged just before he left for the service.
Though he was initially trained as a medic, once the Army discovered he could type, Gerald was immediately transferred to a job as a company clerk. Assigned to overseas duty in North Africa and France, Gerald’s hospital and administration skills resulted in promotion in rank to an officer. Discharged from the Army in 1945, Gerald safely arrived home and promptly married his beloved Eleanor on July 6, 1945. The happy newlyweds settled in Grand Rapids, officially beginning their 73-year adventure together.
Gerald found work with Droste-Ferguson Hospital in Grand Rapids, where he worked in the administrative office for nearly three years. Then, he and Eleanor moved to Ann Arbor, and Gerald worked for the University of Michigan. Following his time with the university, Gerald began working for the state of Michigan, inspecting hospitals and making recommendations for improvements based on needs and conditions. It was a particularly challenging job as this was when tuberculosis was most prevalent. In 1951, Gerald went to work as the director of the Pontiac State Hospital. While there, Gerald had influence in starting the Lafayette Clinic, a state of the art mental health clinic in Detroit. The clinic was on the foreground of research into the treatment of mental illnesses, and many new medicines and cutting-edge therapies were studied there. During this time, Gerald also earned his Master’s degree in Hospital Administration from the University of Michigan.
In 1970, Gerald and Eleanor returned to Grand Rapids, and he became the commandant of the Grand Rapids Veterans Home. In 1979, Gerald officially retired from State Service. Never one to sit idle, and a man who loved working, Gerald went on, with a partner, to establish Grand Valley Health Plan, an HMO which, over the years, expanded into many other areas of health care.
When not working, Gerald enjoyed the art of stained glass, creating many beautiful pieces over the years. He continued working with stained glass well into his late 80’s, only giving it up when his hands grew too unsteady for the delicate work. Gerald and Eleanor were also longtime members of Aberdeen Reformed Church, where Gerald sang in the choir and played the church organ for services.
As they aged, Gerald and Eleanor grew to require additional daily help and moved to Vista Springs, an assisted living community. Less than two years ago, in August of 2018, Eleanor passed away, and Gerald’s life grew more difficult in her absence.
Gerald A. Bax, age 100, of Grand Rapids, having sung in church choirs all his life, has now joined the heavenly choir after passing away on May 27, 2020. Gerald was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor; his sisters Ruth (Tony) Kempker; Phyllis Swierenga; and brother-in-law John (Arlene) Ligtvoet. Jerry is survived by his nephews and nieces Garry (Gloria) Kempker, Steven (Nancy) Kempker, Jon (Colleen) Ligtvoet, and Pamela Ligtvoet; and friend Kathy O’Breen. Mr. Bax honorably served his country during World War II in the US Army Medical Administration Corps. He was a graduate of both Hope College and University of Michigan and went on to serve as a hospital administrator at Ferguson Hospital, Pontiac State Hospital and the Michigan Veterans Facility. He was also a founding partner of the Grand Valley Health Plan. A private graveside service will be held at Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either Aberdeen Reformed Church or the Friends of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans are appreciated.
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122.
To read more about Gerald’s life, share a memory or sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com