Thursday, June 17, 2021
12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Heritage Reformed Congregation
540 Crescent Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Visitation will end approximately 1:15 PM to allow the family a brief private time before the service begins.
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Gilbert Vander Male lived a life of purpose while holding his loved ones near. He was hardworking and driven with an unending desire to help others in ways both great and small. Gilbert treasured his roles as a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and he was happiest when surrounded by the love of his family. Although he will be deeply missed, he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever treasure.
Nearly a century has passed since the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties was covering our nation. It was in December of 1923 that Andrew and Lillian (Parchert) Vander Male were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Gilbert Henry on the 11th of that month in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was one of six children in his family and the youngest boy to be raised in the family homes on Pine Street and Tamarack on the West Side of the city.
In many ways Gilbert was a typical young boy of his generation. He enjoyed playing in the nearby Richmond Park, being in the woods, and walking along the nearby railroad tracks. In the winter he enjoyed sledding, and they all shared an old pair of skis. In most things, Gilbert was trying to keep up with his brothers. When he got a bit older he caddied at Gracewil Golf Course, and as a student at Union High School he played on the school golf team, even earning his varsity letter through the sport. Later, as a father, Gilbert would take his kids to Gracewil to pick walnuts from the ground so they could bring them home to process.
As a young man Gilbert was eager for all that life had in store. He became a tool and die apprentice. However, before he could finish Gilbert was drafted into the Army in February of 1943. Throughout his time in the military Gilbert served in France, Germany, and Austria with Company K of the 114th Regiment of the 44th Division. They arrived in Europe in September of 1944. His unit was primarily a National Guard unit from New Jersey that they were building with draftees. Gilbert saw active combat for five-and-a-half months. During his time on the front lines, the Lord graciously spared his life while many others were lost. Gilbert left Europe with his troop, sailing back to America aboard the Queen Elizabeth. They were then scheduled to head to Japan, although they never went as they had received word that World War II had ended. Gilbert finished his military duties by working in the recruiting office in Grand Rapids until December of 1945. He also continued his apprenticeship and became a tool & die maker. Over the years Gilbert worked at a few die shops until retiring in 1986.
Not to be forgotten during his younger years was Gilbert’s introduction to his future wife. Her name was Agatha Uitvlugt, and they were set up on a blind date by his sister. Sparks flew, and it didn’t take them long to fall in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Gilbert and Agatha were married in November of 1948. The newlyweds first built a house on the corner of Parkhurst and Milford, paying cash for it. They soon added a garage and driveway, but since it was only two bedrooms they outgrew their home after the births of their first two children, Bob and Laurie. They were able to trade for a three-bedroom home on Whitmore, NW before they moved to a home on Westend. Their family also grew to include three more children, Norma, John, and Anne. Finally, they built a home on Woodgate, which is where they called home for over 40 years.
There was nothing Gilbert treasured more than his family. As a father he was easygoing and wasn’t one to use strong discipline. Gilbert was active in the lives of his children, frequently doing things like playing ball with them in the yard or taking them ice skating. He would usually lie down on the living room floor and have the kids walk on his back when he got home from work. When their children were younger they vacationed at Fife Lake for a week, and they later stayed at their own cottage on Indian Lake. The church, Heritage Reformed, provided their spiritual guidance but also was a large part of their social interaction. In addition, Gilbert was also close with his siblings as well as his parents and Agatha’s family.
Gilbert was very organized and meticulous when it came to his garden and yard, but also in other areas around the home as well. The boys often helped him with the vegetable garden while the girls helped indoors with all the canning that was done. With so many fresh ingredients their meals were beyond delicious, especially their Sunday dinners. The car was washed every Saturday without fail, and during the summer months he listened to the Tigers game while he was washing. To extend the life of a car, Gilbert became pretty good with Bondo and a quick paint job on those earlier cars. He worked hard and expected others to do the same, and he regularly used his time and talents to help others behind the scenes. When he had time to relax, he liked reading the newspaper.
Later in life, Gilbert loved spending time with his grandchildren. He especially loved holding the young babies, and going for walks whether in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon or longer walks through Aman Park. Gilbert and Agatha enjoyed traveling and took many trips within the contiguous United States as well as trips to Alaska and Europe. They also enjoyed spending several weeks on Anna Maria Island in Florida each winter. Gilbert even played golf with his brother until he was 90. He had an amazing memory and could remember names and dates of all kinds, and he also had a keen sense of direction. Gilbert started and ended each day on his knees in prayer alongside his bed. Although he was deeply saddened with Agatha’s death in 2010, he was able to remain in his home. Gilbert lived independently until just a few months ago when a medical event brought him to Edison Christian Assisted Living.
With faith as a cornerstone in his life, Gilbert Vander Male was an inspiration to all who were near. He worked hard, but he also took the time to enjoy life along the way. Gilbert was generous beyond compare, and his humble spirit was such a blessing in the lives of many. Deeply loved, he will never be forgotten.
Gilbert H. Vander Male, age 97 of Grand Rapids, passed June 12, 2021. Gilbert served in Co. K, 114th Infantry Regiment of the 44th Division, U.S. Army during World War II. He was preceded in death by his wife, Agatha; brothers, William and Carl Vander Male; and sister, Helene Vander Male. Gilbert is survived by his children Robert & Cathy Vander Male, Laurie & Steven Stoutjesdyk, Norma & Rob Ver Heulen, John & Duffy Vander Male, Anne Wierenga (Scott Berry); 15 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren; sisters Beatrice Potter and Emily (Jay) Lugthart; sisters-in-law Donna Uitvlugt, Virgil Uitvlugt and Anna Harvey; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. His funeral service will be held on Thursday, June 17 at 1:30 PM at Heritage Reformed Congregation, 540 Crescent Street NE with Dr. Maartin Kuivenhoven officiating. Family and friends are invited to visit at the church from 12 Noon until 1:15 PM. Interment in Rosedale Memorial Park. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Faith Hospice are appreciated. To sign his online guestbook or to share a memory, visit www.heritagelifestory.com.