Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Laurie Thomas

July 5, 1956 - September 7, 2021
Grand Rapids, MI



Friday, September 10, 2021
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Van Strien Creston Chapel
1833 Plainfield Ave., N.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
(616) 361-2613
Driving Directions


Saturday, September 11, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
Heritage Reformed Congregation
540 Crescent Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503


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.

Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids - Chapel Fund
3000 Monroe NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
(616) 364-5300

If making a contribution online, please complete the In Memory of (Laurie Thomas) and the Donation Usage (Chapel Fund) in order to properly route your contribution.

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


Everyone that knew and loved Laurie Thomas could agree that she was full of love, joy, and everything Jesus. Faith was a pillar in her life and she was not afraid to share the word of God with everyone she crossed paths with. Laurie lived her life putting everyone else’s needs above her own; especially the needs of her two daughters. Life threw many challenges Laurie’s way, but she faced them head on and took them in stride. Laurie leaves behind a family that loved her dearly and countless friends and acquaintances; her memories will be cherished forever.

During the 1950s, crime was low, and Elvis was rocking and rolling through the decade. Color TVs were introduced during this time and Dwight D. Eishenhower was the president. Medical advances were made that forever changed the course of history. In 1955 the Polio vaccine was invented and in 1950 the first organ transplant took place at a hospital in Illinois. For parents, Daniel & Elizabeth (DeMaagd) VanRee, July 5, 1956, was a memorable day as they had just welcomed twin girls, Laurie & Nancy. In total there were nine VanRee children born to Daniel & Elizabeth. Growing up in Grand Rapids, there was never a dull moment for Laurie. She lived with her family on a farm on Eastern Avenue on the SE side of Grand Rapids. Chores were at the forefront of each day—especially during vegetable growing season. Laurie would help her mother and siblings can and freeze their crops as well as selling them at a roadside stand. Being a member in a family of eleven people meant there was always an abundance of laundry to be done; Laurie used to help take all the clothes off the clothesline.

Faith was instilled at a young age for Laurie and that faith stayed with her for the entirety of her life. The VanRee family was members of First Netherlands Reformed Church. Laurie’s father, Daniel, would always help the kids with their Bible studies and verses. As a child, Laurie took piano and organ lessons. She enjoyed playing both throughout her life, all by ear. Later in life, if there was a keyboard in the room, Laurie would begin to play and everyone would come around her and sing. Laurie attended Plymouth Christian School, and then Ken-O-Sha for Middle School, and finally graduated from Ottawa Hills High School. Laurie was a part of Junior Achievement when she was in school. Having a lot of children and a farm to run meant that there wasn’t a lot of spare time for family vacations, but the family did enjoy a few getaways. When Laurie was young, they enjoyed a week during the summer at either Intermediate Lake or Silver Lake. After Laurie graduated high school, she held a few different jobs; she worked at the local zoo and spent some time working for the city of Grand Rapids.

Bowling was an activity that Laurie enjoyed after she graduated. She was on a bowling league at Northfield Lanes where she met her first husband, Robert Perales. Although the marriage only lasted eight years, she was blessed with her two beloved daughters, Rebecca & Melissa. Laurie worked extremely hard to make sure that her two daughters had everything they needed. After the marriage with Robert ended, Laurie worked several jobs and poured her heart and soul into caring for the girls. Laurie’s whole life was dedicated to her daughters; she made many sacrifices to ensure they had a Christian education. With all her time devoted to her daughters, there wasn’t much time for anything else, but that didn’t bother Laurie one bit. Laurie worked as a Certified Nurses Aid, and for several years worked at an Allendale nursing home. She loved being able to care for the residents. Eventually Laurie transitioned to cleaning services and spent most of the rest of her working days cleaning houses and commercial buildings. Over the years Laurie built several relationships with the families whom she cleaned for. Life was not full of material things for Laurie, but she was very proud to be able to buy her home on the NE side of Grand Rapids.

In 2007 Laurie spent time volunteering at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. During this time Laurie met a man named, William “Bill” Thomas. The two served as chaplain assistants together, and over time a relationship formed. Bill and Laurie worked well together, complimenting the thoughts of each other with their own insights. After several years, the happy couple became official and got married on July 21, 2012, at Alger Heights Christian Reformed Church. They traveled up north for their honeymoon visiting popular places such as Mackinac Island and the Upper Peninsula. Laurie loved sharing parts of Michigan with Bill that he had never seen before. Bill began working with Laurie at her cleaning jobs and therefore the couple spent every moment of the day together.

Laurie was always a talkative woman. As she got older, she was more direct and not afraid to say what she was thinking. Unlike some people though, Laurie had the tact to only share her opinion when asked but would speak up if she saw something she didn’t like. One subject she was always very open about was her sharing her faith. Not having many hobbies, one thing Laurie always made time for was reading her Bible. Laurie was proud to become a grandma and spent a lot of time with her grandkids. She knew just how to talk to them and made sure that she attended as many of their events as possible. Family remained an integral part of Laurie’s life throughout her years.

After falling ill and entering the hospital, Laurie battled for several days before passing away with her family by her side. Laurie went to be home with her Lord and Savior on September 7, 2021. She left this world far too soon, but her profound faith gave her all the peace she needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Laurie worked hard for her entire life, providing for her children and pouring love into her marriage to Bill. Her family and friends will forever remember Laurie’s quiet authority and her never ending love for Jesus. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Laurie lived her life close to God and was never discouraged by the challenges she faced, rather, she professed her faith even more and shared that faith with everyone around her.

Laurie Lou Thomas, age 65 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on September 7, 2021. She is survived by her husband, Bill; children Rebecca (Tom) Bishop and Melissa (Shannon) Shambeau; grandchildren Gabrielle, Elizabeth, Jacob, Hannah, Liberty, Connor, and Jackson; her twin sister, Nancy Van Ree; brothers and sisters Janice (Alan)Supran, Tom (Mary) Van Ree, Susan (Brian) Ring, Priscilla Staal, Bob (Lesa) Van Ree; sisters-in-law Sally Van Ree and Candace Van Ree; as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Laurie was preceded in death by her parents Daniel and Elizabeth Van Ree, and her brothers, Dan and Tim Van Ree; and her brother-in-law Don Staal. Her funeral service will be held on Saturday, September 11 at 11 AM at Heritage Reformed Congregation, 540 Crescent Street NE. Friends are invited to visit with her family on Friday from 5-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE and at church beginning at 10 AM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to the ministry at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans are appreciated. To read more about Laurie’s life, to share a memory or photo, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com