Gathering to Celebrate Marilyn's Life
Monday, November 23, 2020
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Van Strien Creston Chapel
1833 Plainfield Ave., N.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Masks will be required and capacity limits enforced. Please sign her guestbook online before attending.
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.
Words of Hope
700 Ball Avenue NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
5081 14 Mile Ct NE
Rockford, MI 49341
Life Story / Obituary
With a warm smile and a loving heart, Marilyn Irene Sweers lived a life rich in faith and family. Naturally quiet, Marilyn never required the spotlight and was easily contented to work behind the scenes in care of those she loved. She welcomed each day as a gift and every person as a friend, embodying the principles of her faith. A devoted daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Marilyn’s legacy of love and generosity inspired all who were blessed to know her. Cherished by many, Marilyn will long be remembered and ever so missed.
The beginning of 1929 continued to ride the decade’s roaring wave of peace, prosperity, and hope. The nation celebrated the recent inventions of Penicillin, the iron lung, bubble gum, and the Yo-Yo, as well as Charles Lindbergh’s Congressional Medal of Honor and Amelia Earhart becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. As the wave of sweeping social and economic growth rapidly increased, nowhere was their more hope for the future than in the home of Martin and Olga (Hansen) Mieras as they welcomed their daughter Marilyn into their family on May 18.
Growing up on Dale Street on the NE side of Grand Rapids, Marilyn’s childhood was built upon the firm foundation of faith and family values. Members of Bethel Reformed Church, the roots of Marilyn’s faith were firmly planted and nourished during these early years. Though she missed the companionship of her sister Virginia, who died just a few days after being born, Marilyn enjoyed the company of her older brother, Russell, and younger brother, Richard "Jim". Despite the challenges of the Depression, her father’s work with the railroad ensured the family’s needs were met, and the family enjoyed taking local trips. Marilyn fondly remembered spending a lot of time at her cousins’ cottage on Lake Michigan near Grand Haven during the summer months.
As a result of her fragile health, Marilyn was unable to participate in many typical childhood activities. She never learned to ride a bike or swim, but rather, she played with dolls and had an extensive collection. Always quite reserved, she was most comfortable with a small group of people she knew. Around the age of 11, Marilyn was diagnosed with nephritis and not expected to live more than 2 years. This adversely impacted her kidney function and she spent eight days in the hospital in Ann Arbor without her family. The experience left an indelible mark on Marilyn and contributed to her lifelong drive to envelop her loved ones with loving care and company.
Marilyn possessed a beautiful soprano voice, which she shared through her participation with her school and church choirs. She also sang with the City-Wide Choir. The City-Wide Choir not only afforded her the opportunity to sing with a larger community, but it was also where she met the love of her life, Kenneth Sweers. For a first date, Kenneth took her to a boxing match. She often wondered why she accepted another date after that, but it worked for the best. She and Kenneth were soon a couple setting their eyes on a future together.
Ken left for time to serve in the Navy. In his absence, Marilyn continued her studies. After graduating from high school, she found work as a telephone operator at Michigan Bell. When Ken safely returned home, the happy couple married on June 6, 1950, and honeymooned in Mackinaw and the Upper Peninsula.
The couple made their first home in student housing at Michigan State University, where Ken was an engineering student. Once Ken graduated with his degree, they returned to Grand Rapids, where they first lived in an apartment on Eureka, before moving to Elmwood NE. It was on Elmwood where they first became parents, joyfully welcoming their daughters Susan and Kristen into their family. Marilyn relished in motherhood and working to create a wonderful home for her family. Several years later, the family moved to Pembroke SE. As the girls were nine years apart, they each had their mother in very different parts of her life.
With a keen eye for detail, Marilyn kept a meticulous home. She and Sue shared in the house chores, following a strict weekly routine. Wherever she went, she was always well put together. Well dressed, well kept, and well accessorized, she always looked great, even on her way to her weekly salon appointments. She was also a fantastic cook who filled her home each Sunday with the aroma of a well-prepared roast. The family enjoyed towing a travel trailer in the summer for a couple of weeks, often out west exploring areas Marilyn had read about and set her eyes on exploring. She really enjoyed these trips. In 1959, she and Ken bought a cottage on Brooks Lake. They carefully worked together to transform the cottage into their sanctuary and lovingly tended to it over the years. During the summer, they would live there, returning home one night each week to do laundry and clean the house. The cottage became a treasure trove of many fond memories for the rest of Marilyn’s life, and as recently as this past September when she was able to spend a week there.
While Ken was much more outgoing, Marilyn enjoyed the company of friends as well. She preferred small, intimate gatherings that often centered on her gracious hosting. She was quick to host a luncheon, shower, or gathering. With a flair for creating a warm, hospitable environment, her guests always felt welcome and cared for. Marilyn and Ken enjoyed one another’s company and exploring the world together. Whether sharing a meal and symphony performance, taking tennis lessons, hitting the courts, traveling, or seeking solace at the cottage, everything was better for experiencing it together.
They enjoyed many treasured friendships with neighbors and church friends. They spent a couple of weeks each winter visiting friends at Jensen Beach, and Marilyn especially enjoyed hosting their friends at the cottage. Marilyn was a life long learner who never hesitated to welcome an opportunity to grow. For a while, Marilyn took some classes and learned to make doll furniture for her collection. She also continued to read. She especially enjoyed learning about Native American culture and about the places she wanted to visit. When Kristen left for college, her dog, Keesha, became Marilyn’s beloved canine companion and best friend. She still missed him.
Marilyn had a wonderful sense of humor. Witty and fun, Marilyn naturally made everything better. She and Ken shared many laughs, especially in response to her favorite hobby--shopping. Each time she returned home with her bounty, she would playfully exclaim, “Guess how much money I saved you today?” before showing him the great deals she found. She enjoyed seeing grandchildren, and they will always remember how she welcomed them to her home and cottage. She carefully created many wonderful Christmas memories with signature grace and generosity and always demonstrated her unconditional love and unwavering support.
As they neared retirement, Ken began getting sick. Without hesitation, she devotedly cared for him. For nearly five years, Marilyn made sure Ken was well supported. As a result of her excellent care, Kenneth was able to pass away in the comfort of their home in 1996. While she missed Ken dearly, Marilyn found comfort in sharing time with her family. She enjoyed many wonderful adventures traveling with Sue and tour groups. She made several trips to Europe, where she explored her Danish roots. She also had the chance to travel with Kristen and her family and enjoyed trips to Florida.
Five years ago, Marilyn began to experience significant health challenges, including signs of dementia. In time, as she required more assistance, she moved to First & Main. She later moved to Byron Center Manor, where she spent her final days.
Without a doubt, life feels significantly duller in the absence of Marilyn’s bright and beautiful presence. May we find comfort in knowing she has been reunited with her beloved and in the privilege of carrying her legacy forward. With each moment we choose to live a wholehearted life and envelop others with love and care, we celebrated the many ways Marilyn gifted each of us. In so doing, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Marilyn I. Sweers, age 91, most recently of Byron Center but a long-time resident of Kentwood, passed away November 7, 2020 into the loving arms of Jesus. She was preceded in death by her husband Kenneth, in 1996; her brothers, Russell and Richard Mieras, and her sister, Virginia. Marilyn is survived by her children Sue (Jim) Walker and Kristen (Ron) Aidif; grandchildren Jennifer (Brennan) Summers, Shelly (Ross) VandeWege, Justin, Tori and Lance Aidif; great grandchildren Clara and Jacob VandeWege; sister-in-law Marylin DeGroot, and many nieces and nephews.
A private graveside service was held on Tuesday at Fairplains Cemetery. A public gathering to remember and celebrate Marilyn’s life is expected to be held on Monday, November 23 from 5-7 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either Words of Hope or Lifeline Ministries (5081 14 Mile Ct NE, Rockford, MI 49341) are appreciated. To read more about Marilyn, to share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com