Life Story / Obituary
Generous, kind, and loving, Judy Westra lived a life rich in faith, family, and friends. A social butterfly, Judy enjoyed being busy and lending her time and talents in service of others. Particular and committed to excellence, Judy liked to be involved and take charge. She preferred smaller group settings, was quite funny, and had a smile that could light up a room. A loving wife, mother, grandmother, "grandma-great," sister, and friend, Judy will long be remembered and 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 Ireton, Iowa, as Gerrit and Adriana (DeGraaff) DeHaan welcomed their daughter Judy to their family on March 7, 1935.
The fourth of eight children, Judy grew up in the good company of her twin sister Tilly and their siblings John, Cornie, Tony, twins Betty and Marie, and Gary. Spanning 16 years, from oldest to youngest, Judy was nine when her youngest sibling was born. Despite the gap in years, the siblings were close their entire lives. Judy's father was a farmer, and her mother was a homemaker. Judy had severe asthma and was often home and inside when the weather was cold; working with her mother proved a comfort and helped them develop a close relationship.
Judy attended a one-room country school through the eighth grade and was very helpful to her mother around the house, as were all her sisters. Judy was a timid and shy girl, and would often have Tilly try new things out first. The family remembers hearing the story of Judy wanting Tilly to try soda pop first at a grade school picnic before she was willing to give it a try. A similar story was shared about riding a horse for the first time. Following the completion of eighth grade, Judy began working weekdays as a "mother's helper" for various families in the community. Her favorite job was working for John & Ann Wiechers. Ann was an excellent baker, and Judy's mom asked her to teach Judy how to bake pies, which in turn, Judy would bring home to share with her family. Ann also taught Judy how to drive a car.
In 1953, Judy met Marvin Westra. Marv's friend Bill and Judy's twin sister Tilly were dating at the time, but Bill had wrecked his car. As the story goes, Bill so desperately wanted to see Tilly, he convinced Marv to drive him and go on a double date with Tilly’s twin sister, Judy. Convinced by the fourth date that she really wasn’t all that interested in Marv, Judy was ready to stop accepting dates with him. However, the relationship continued and the couple married on June 9, 1955, at Lebanon Christian Reformed Church in Lebanon, Iowa. They celebrated with a one-day honeymoon at the Shrine of the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, and the happy couple returned home so Marv could continue his work on the farm. Only five months into their marriage, Marv was drafted into the Army. After completing his Basic training, Judy joined him in Ft. Bliss, Texas. In 1956, while still in Texas, Judy and Marv became parents when their son Herlan was born.
Once Marv completed his service in the Army, living in El Paso, the young family returned to northwest Iowa with their son, Herlan, and settled into farm life. Having grown up on a farm and working as a "hired girl" on neighboring farms as a teenager, Judy understood the hard work that went along with being a farmer's wife. The family welcomed two more children, Marlys (1958) and Terry (1963). In 1966, when farming was no longer profitable, Marv sold the farm in Hull and moved the family to Sioux Center. Judy enjoyed in-town life over farm life - she was closer to her parents and enjoyed living in a newer house with her growing family.
In 1968, the family moved from northwest Iowa to Jenison, Michigan. Judy's sister, Tilly, had attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, married, started her teaching career, and was now raising a family there. The move not only provided the opportunity to live near Tilly, Orv and their family, but it also afforded Marv the opportunity to work in commercial plumbing.
Shortly after moving, the family joined Fair Haven Church. During their first week at church, Marv felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned to see who wanted his attention, he recognized an old Army buddy. He and his wife helped Marv and Judy get connected at church and in the community, and became close family friends. Judy enjoyed church fellowship and participating in the Ladies' Bible Study, Sunday School, and the quilting group. The family was completed in 1973 when daughter Jodi was born, and Judy helped support her family by providing childcare at her home for many years. In 1981, Judy was hired by the Beel family and worked as a nanny and housekeeper for them for many years. Judy loved the children she cared for as if they were her own, and they fondly called her “Grandma Judy”. After moving to Hudsonville, Judy and Marv transferred their membership to Hudsonville Reformed Church in 2000, where Judy continued quilting with a group there.
A talented seamstress and avid crafter, Judy lovingly created over 600 pillowcase dolls, denim quilts, and various other crafts, which she gave away as gifts and sold at local craft fairs. The pillowcase dolls proved a loving tribute to her mom. Well known for her love of cooking and baking, kind heart, and generous care of those in the community who needed extra encouragement, Judy often provided homemade chicken soup to those who were ill.
Judy and Marv enjoyed camping and traveling to visit family and friends. They purchased an RV to make their treks to Iowa easier. Judy always liked to be on the “main drag” in the campgrounds so she could see what was happening and visit with anyone who might be walking by. They anticipated camping at Cran-Hill Ranch (Rodney, MI) and Woods & Waters (Newaygo, MI) in the summers, where their daughter Jodi and granddaughter Jessica often joined them. In 1994, Marlys and Jessica joined them on a two-week RV trip to Colorado where special memories were made. When RV travel was no longer an option for them, Judy and Marv started going on bus trips and cruises with family and friends.
Judy enjoyed being involved in her family's activities and looked forward to sharing in her children's and grandchildren's special events. She hosted Wednesday evening dinners and Sunday noon meals where the family would gather weekly. Whether getting together to celebrate holidays or birthdays, camping, hosting huge annual garage sales, or cheering on her loved one's endeavors, Judy was always delighted to share time with her family.
In 2015, Judy and Marv moved into Sunset Manor, where they enjoyed many activities and outings with a close group of friends. Sadly, in February of 2022, Marv was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Judy lovingly helped care for Marv until his death on June 16, 2023. Just three months later, during a visit to the ER after having been ill for a couple weeks, Judy was diagnosed with a mass on her spine. Contented with her long life, Judy declined treatment and entered hospice.
Judy Westra (DeHaan) passed away peacefully in her sleep on Friday, October 27, 2023.
While Judy will surely be missed by all who were blessed to know her, we are comforted and reassured by the faith and belief that she is now home with her Heavenly Father and has been reunited with Marv and loved ones who have gone before. May we also find comfort in our many treasured memories and the honor of carrying Judy's beautiful legacy of faith, love, and hope forward.
Judy is preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, Marvin Westra. She is survived by her children Herlan (Harriet) Westra, Marlys Materson, Terry (Szilvia) Westra, and Jodi (Earl) Smith; granddaughters Jessica (Andrew) DeYoung and Tena (Jeremy) Nobis; great-grandchildren Will and Raela DeYoung; her siblings Cornie DeHaan, Betty Valentine, Marie Ekdom, and Gary DeHaan; and a large extended family.
A celebration of life service will take place at 11:00 AM on Thursday, November 9, 2023, at Hudsonville Reformed Church (3950 Highland Dr., Hudsonville, MI 49426), with visitation prior from 9:30-10:30 and a luncheon to follow the service.