Life Story / Obituary
As her family and friends can certainly attest, Kathryn "Kitty" Bouwman truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times. Nothing brought Kitty greater joy than spending time with her loved ones, even in the simplest of moments. She was well known for her generosity and kindness towards all, and she dedicated her life to serving her family and her community. Deeply loved, Kitty will be forever missed by those who knew her best.
During the vibrant decades of the 1920s, there countless ways in which the everyday lives of average Americans were transformed like never before. Cars were more affordable thanks to the assembly line, and with washing machines and refrigerators our everyday lives inside our homes were certainly made easier. There was much to celebrate in the lives of Cornelius “Neal” and Sadie (Hoekstra) Tuinstra as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Kathryn "Kitty"Emma on August 28, 1926.
Growing up, Kitty was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was raised in the family home in the country near Standale alongside her siblings, Meine, Robert, Arthur, Edward, and Ruth. Kitty’s father supported the family by working as an electrician, while her mother remained home to care for her children. Throughout her childhood, Kitty enjoyed playing the accordion and gardening. Together Kitty and her family were members of Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church and later Highland Hills Christian Reformed Church. In addition, she attended local schools and graduated from high school in 1944, ready to move on to bigger and better things.
With the vicious attack on our naval base in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our nation was forever changed. Our nation declared war the next day, and Kitty felt the impact of WWII then, and for the rest of her life. Their family moved to Philadelphia for a time in order to aid in the war effort.
After moving back to Michigan, new and exciting changes were on the horizon for Kitty as she met the man who would quickly become the love of her life. His name was Al Bouwman, and he was a die maker. The two first met while bowling and only dated for three months before realizing that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Kitty and Al were married in the presence of family and friends at St. Cecilia Auditorium on February 14, 1946. The newlyweds then took a honeymoon to Florida. They brought Al’s parents with them as they had never been to Florida before. After returning home, Kitty and Al settled down with Al’s parents, living in a renovated three-stall garage.
All who knew Kitty can surely agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her loved ones above all else. She and Al were overjoyed to welcome their beloved children, Joyce, Linda, Kathy, Doug, and David, into their hearts and home. Kitty truly thrived in her role as a mother, and she was always protective of her children. The Bouwman family traveled all over the United States and Canada. Later in life, Kitty was thrilled to become a grandmother and even a great-grandmother. She adored her grandchildren and doted on them whenever she could.
Al passed away in 2012, and though Kitty was devastated by the loss, she was always grateful for the life they had built together. She considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
Never one to sit still for long, Kitty pursued many hobbies to stay busy in her free time. For a time, she worked as a timekeeper for Winters and Crampton, then eventually left the workforce in order to care for her children. Once they were older, Kitty worked in admission at Grand Valley State University. She nurtured her love for gardening throughout her entire life, and she also enjoyed crocheting, going to the movies, and baking pies. Kitty’s favorite color was purple, and she was an avid fan of music from the 40s and 50s. She was known for her sweet tooth and her love for ice cream, especially mint chocolate chip and butter pecan. Kitty’s favorite place to eat was Longhorn Steakhouse, where she would get chopped steak and mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, but it has also been said that she was always up for a Frosty from Wendy’s.
From a young age, Kitty loved spending her time outdoors. While she was married, they lived on the Bouwman’s dairy farm and raised her children. In the 1960’s they purchased 160 acres in Bitely, where they built a cabin. It was there she enjoyed watching the bears and the deer and the family would go deer hunting. She would eventually sell the property in 2020. They also had a motorhome, which they used to travel the country for 10 years. Kitty enjoyed spending her winters at her villa in Naples, Florida, for nearly 30 years. In 2020, she moved to Oakes at Belmont, where she went on to achieve her goal of living until her 97th birthday.
When reflecting on the life of Kitty Bouwman, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and unconditional love for her family. She was a shining example of kindness and charity to all those around her. A loving wife, mother, and grandmother, Kittyy was devoted to her family and was a friend to many. Her faith formed the unshakeable foundation of all that she did, and her overflowing heart allowed her to touch the lives of countless others. Though she will be dearly missed, Kitty leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.
BOUWMAN – Mrs. Kathryn "Kitty" E. Bouwman, aged 97 of Grand Rapids, went to be with her Lord on August 31, 2023. She was preceded in death by her husband, Herman “Al” Bouwman. Kathryn is survived by her children, Joyce (Robert) Bouma, Linda Bouwman, Kathy Jones, Douglas (Jane) Bouwman, and David (Kathleen) Bouwman; grandchildren, James (Kayla) Bouwman, Daniel (Anna) Bouwman, Danielle (Zach Trainer) Bouwman, Nichole (Taylor) Smith, Natalie (Josh) Kritzler, Mitchell Jones, and Leah Jones; 10 great-grandchildren; sister, Ruth (Leon) Whetstone; and nieces and nephews. The Funeral service will be held at 12 PM on Thursday, September 7, 2023 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt and Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Visitation will be from 10 AM until the start of the service. Interment in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Kathryn’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo, or to sign the guestbook online.