Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Gordon Wayne Jelsma Sr.

April 2, 1929 - March 11, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI



Saturday, March 14, 2020
11:00 AM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263

friends may visit with his family beginning at 10 AM at the funeral home

Driving Directions


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.

Faith Hospice
2100 Raybrook Drive SE, Suite 300
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 235-5113
Driving Directions
Web Site

Standale Reformed Church
202 Cummings NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary



The Friday evening visitation with Gord's family has been cancelled. The service will continue to be held on Saturday (Location Pending). If you have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 such as coughing, fever, shortness of breath, please respect his family by not attending. You may alternatively participate by sharing a memory and condolence message on this site.

Anyone who knew Gordon would agree that his heart was dedicated to serving others with grace and kindness. In his 90 years in this life, he leaves us this moment to reflect on the wonderful memories we shared - which include his generosity, friendship, and love.

Gordon's life began in 1929. History books tell of a time in which the Wall Street Stock Market reached its peak creating an economic boom. However, the boom did not last, as the market began to fluctuate to an eventual crash. This uncertain time placed the United States into what was known as The Great Depression. Despite these difficult times, our country hit a new population record of 120 million people. Other notable events occurred as well such as Charles Lindberg flying 3,400 miles from Detroit to Cape Horn. Many citizens tuned to this excitement via their amazing new car radios.

The loved ones of Oscar and Jennie (VanderWoude) Jelsma also shared exciting news by word of mouth. The couple celebrated the birth of their precious baby boy on April 2, 1929. Gordon Wayne was the 5th child and joined his siblings: Florence, John, Doris, and Betty. Little brother, Norman, completed the family as the 6th child.The Jelsma's lived on the West Side of Grand Rapids, but they moved within that area often. His parents worked hard to support the family. His father was a furniture factory worker, and his mother stayed home to keep track of the children and the details of the family's well-being.

The family practiced their deep faith as members of Trinity Reformed Church. Gordon's early childhood was spent playing with his siblings and neighborhood friends. His favorite activity was baseball, and he played on a few of the local teams. As Gordon matured, he began working to help support the family, as times were tough. During the summers, he worked on a farm and as a pinsetter at Wengers Bowling Alley. Later he worked at Crystal Flash Gas Station and then as a milkman for Green Leaf Dairy. For schooling, the children attended various elementary schools, and Gordon eventually graduated from Union High School with the class of 1947.

Gordon's milkman job ultimately impacted the rest of his life. Her name was Nancy Westrate, and she lived in one of the many homes to which Gordon delivered cold delicious milk. The two became acquainted and their romance bloomed. Nancy was forced to say farewell to Gordon when he left for bootcamp when he was drafted into the US Army during the Korean War. Upon his return from bootcamp the happy couple married. They celebrated their nuptials on April 19, 1951, at Klise Memorial Chapel. The newlyweds returned to Grand Rapids after a 3-day honeymoon to Chicago, Illinois. Gordon then left for Korea where he served for 18 months.

They settled into a home on Franklin St. They began looking to the future which led them to the joyful anticipation of starting a family. The couple had three boys: Gordon Jr. in 1953, Daniel in 1956, and Tom in 1957. The family later moved to Rogers St. NW which was conveniently located near the Dairy, where Gordon continued to work.

Gordon and Nancy continued to practice their religious faith building a strong foundation for their family. They were members of Fairview Reformed Church which later merged with Bethany Reformed Church and later became Orchard Hill Church. Through all the transitions, the Jelsma family endured and embraced the goodness of the Lord. They also spent time vacationing as a family during the summers - mostly enjoying northern Michigan. They would often rent a cottage on Big Star Lake or Long Lake in Traverse City.

Gordon also transitioned to a couple of different jobs in his lifetime. After working in the Dairy industry, he chose to go to work for Gordon Food Service. From there, he worked for Sysco, where he finally retired after over 20 years of dedicated employment.

During Gordon's very active and full life, he experienced the joy of living in several different homes. In time, they made a move to a home on Jones St. NW. Eventually, they decided to build, and this led them to a home on 3890 Walker NW. Life then led them to make the move to 1190 Barrington NW. In 2012, enjoy condo living.

Luckily, Gordon was a very social being, so the moves were always a wonderful opportunity for him to meet new friends. His social calendar was often filled to the brim. He loved to play board and card games of all kinds (Pinochle, Bridge, and Cribbage were his favorites). He also frequented Sandy's Donuts and Mr. Burger every week to visit with friends.

Gordon enjoyed people, and in that spirit, he also dedicated much of his time helping others in need. He volunteered for the Walker Police Department doing police patrols for 10 years. He mentored for Kids Hope USA at Cummings Schools and served as a deacon and elder at Fairview Reformed Church. Many of his Wednesday nights were spent serving meals to the homeless. He also worked on the food truck at Standale Reformed Church. Gordon collected for the March of Dimes, was a member of the Rotary and the Exchange Club, while also helping the Gleaners of West Michigan. He was a true servant of the community.

In his free time, he adored spending time with his friends and family. Ten grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren also blessed Gordon and Nancy's lives. Aside from the time he cherished with his loved ones, he found time to sing in the choir (he loved Christian Hymns) and play golf. In fact, he played 3-4 times a week - mostly at Gracewil Country Club near his home. Also, he was a member of the Fairview Reformed Church Golf League, a senior's league, a willing player with his sons, and a partner to his wife on many golf trips enjoyed with friends. Polka music was another favorite of Gordon's, and he looked forward to weddings and West Side Hall chances to experience the thrill of the festive sounds.

Gordon's ultimate joy in life was spending time with his beautiful bride and best friend, Nancy. The love they shared was admirable and sweet. Their relationship was one of a kind. They did everything together and experienced the magic of an everlasting love through a lifetime. Their bond stands as a true testament of love. In their 68 years of married life together, they served as an inspiration to all.

Gordon was diagnosed with cancer just a few months ago. After long and prosperous life, Gordon passed away at his home on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. He was surrounded by his loving family. We will miss him dearly, but we will forever hold the memories we shared with him close to our hearts.

Gordon Wayne Jelsma Sr., aged 90, of Grand Rapids, passed away at his home on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, with his loving family at his side. He was preceded in death by 4 of his siblings. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Nancy Jelsma (Westrate); children, Gordon (Nancy) Jelsma Jr., Rev. Dan (Rev. Renee’) Jelsma. Tom (Rhonda) Jelsma; 10 grandchildren, Jonathan (Rachel) Jelsma, Steve (Shannon) Jelsma, Sara (Kevin) Freeman, Lindsey (James) Ackerson, Rev. Jessica (Rev. Matt) Shults, Melissa (Jason) Storevik, Venessa Jelsma, Rebekkah Jelsma, Jill Jelsma-Monte, Kristin (Ben) Frederick; 20 great-grandchildren; brother, Norm Jelsma; many nieces, nephews, and friends. Gordon honorably served his country in the US Army during the Korean War. He worked for Gordon Food Service and retired from Sysco Foods where he worked for over 20 years. He was an avid golfer and served his community in many ways. He was a loving and dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, uncle and friend to everyone who knew him. Gordon will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered. He was a longtime member of Fairview/Orchard Hill Church. A service to celebrate Gordon’s life will be held on Saturday, March 14, AT 11:00 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW with Rev. Ralph Robrahn officiating. Visitation begins at 10 AM. Burial in Rosedale Cemetery. To read more about Gordon’s life, to sign his guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.heritagelifestory.com