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.
401 Hall St. SW, Suite 263
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
West Side Christian School Foundation
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
With a bright and beautiful smile and a happy heart, Joan "Jo" Wilma (Postma) Nanninga lived a life rich in faith, family, and friends. Jo embodied the principles of her faith, welcoming every day as a gift and every person as a friend. Loyal, humble, and selfless, Jo never hesitated to give her time and talents in service to others, volunteering countless hours over her lifetime. With unwavering faith, Jo radiated joy and confidence, proving a powerful role model for all who were blessed to know her. Everything was better for sharing it with Jo. In Jo's good company, every hardship was lessened and every happiness magnified. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend, Jo will long be remembered and so dearly missed.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, the power of hope undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there more hope for the future than in the home of Samuel and Johanna (Vander Jagt) Postma as they welcomed their daughter Joan to their family on February 20, 1933, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The third of the four Postma kids, Jo grew up on Courtney Street on the northwest side of the city. Her father was a baker for Postma Biscuit Co., the family company, and her mother was a homemaker. A natural tomboy, Jo loved to play ball in the streets, and her father taught her to be a hard worker. She attended West Side Christian. Her grade had a very small number of students, and the classmates were very close, forming friendships that lasted their entire lives. Jo and her family also attended Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church.
Jo worked for her father after graduating from Grand Rapids Christian High with the class of 1951. Jo's friend from high school, Arlaine Nanninga, introduced Jo to her brother, Ray, who was a few years older. The couple immediately hit it off and began dating. On June 4, 1953, the happy couple married at Alpine Avenue CRC and honeymooned in the Upper Peninsula. Arlaine and Jo's brother, Donald, would also marry, a couple years prior to Jo and Ray.
The newlyweds made their first home in an upstairs apartment on Muskegon St NW. Ray worked in construction, and Jo worked for Michigan National Bank. In 1954, Jo and Ray became parents when their daughter Jan was born, and Jo became a full-time homemaker. Over the next sixteen years, their family grew to include five more children: Betsy, Carol, Todd, Amy, and Mark. The family lived on Parkhurst NW, until they outgrew the house when Amy was 2, and they moved to Van Ess St. NW.
An excellent seamstress, Jo made many of the kids' clothes. She loved canning, baking, and packing her children's lunches. Her banana bread and Meringue cookies were unrivaled, and she always wrapped food in wax paper with folded corners. The family attended Highland Hills Christian Reformed Church and enjoyed camping. While they began their camping adventures in a tent; eventually, Ray and his brother-in-law built a custom fold-out camper for each of their families.
Jo was a very active volunteer. She filled any need at West Side Christian School, including working as a lunch lady. An Energizer bunny, her children remember their mom working at the sewing machine. She'd often be sewing when they went to bed and waking up to fully made clothes. She used her gift for sewing to run a 4H sewing class at her home. Later on, Jo worked as a secretary for Highland Hills CRC and then at Mission India for 20 years. Jo's "take charge" and get things done attitude and skills were evident in every endeavor, including her volunteer positions at Stephens Ministry, Forgotten Man Ministry, and Our Daily Bread. With great admiration and appreciation, a fellow volunteer once called her a "machine." For many years, she and her husband Ray, volunteered at Wycliffe Bible Translators for several weeks in the winter months.
In time, Jo and Ray became members of Westview CRC before spending their final years at First Evangelical Covenant Church. They retired in the 1990s and embarked on many years of travel. They loved seeing the world together. Some of their favorite trips included exploring Europe four times and spending time in Acapulco, Mexico, for many years. Every other summer, the entire family would travel to North Carolina together.
As her children grew into adults, Jo was very intentional about staying connected. She prayed for her family every day and even prayed for her kids' spouses before they even knew each other. She and the kids shared the same devotional reader for a few years, and she talked with her daughter Jan every Saturday at 10 AM. Jo welcomed every grandchild and great-grandchild with a handmade afghan. Lots of knitted dish clothes and hand towels were gifted at Christmas time. Jo and Ray loved attending the grandkids' events and cheered them on with great enthusiasm. And while she enjoyed a good steak or burger, she preferred to have her family over for meals rather than eating out. A happy woman, Jo frequently had a song in her heart and seemed to always be humming a favorite tune. She loved classical music and listening to church choirs and concerts.
Sadly, Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer about five years ago, and the treatments she endured were quite hard on her. About six months ago, Jo learned that the disease had metastasized and chose to decline further treatment. Never wanting to be a burden, Jo "took charge" of her death. On Saturday, October 7, Jo went about her usual day, enjoying her breakfast, talking with her daughter, and shopping routines. However, by the end of the day, she felt very weak. She spent most of Sunday in bed and peacefully died in her sleep on Monday, October 9.
Though the world feels far less certain in the absence of Jo's steadfast love and companionship, may we find much comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying Jo's legacy of faith, love, and hope forward. Each time we confidently face life's challenges, hum a happy tune, use our gifts and talents to serve others, cheer on our loved one's endeavors, and share the day's blessings with our beloved, we celebrate the many ways Jo made the world a better place. In this way, we keep her beautiful spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Joan "Jo" W. (Postma) Nanninga, age 90, of Grand Rapids, crossed into the promised land on October 9, 2023. She was preceded in death by her son-in-law, Mike Ruiter; brother, Don Postma; sister-in-law, Barbara Postma; and brothers-in-law, Gerard Huissen and Jack Kosten. Jo is survived by her husband of 70 years, Ray; children, Jan (Oscar) Van Ee, Betsy (David Huyser) Ruiter; Carol (Phil) Brondsema, Todd (Mary Jo) Nanninga, Amy (Phil) Slachter, and Mark (Christina) Nanninga; 18 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her siblings, Harold Postma and June Huissen; sisters-in-law, Arlaine Postma and Lois Kosten; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
The funeral service will take place at 2 PM on Friday, October 13, 2023, at First Evangelical Covenant Church, 1933 Tremont Blvd NW. The family will gather for visitation from 2-4 and 6-8 PM on Thursday at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt and Shawmut Hills Chapel 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW and for one hour prior to the service at church. Interment in Rosedale Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to Emmanuel Hospice or 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.