Life Story / Obituary
Mary Louise Zimmerman was a beautiful, heart-centered woman who lived a life rich in family and friends. With grace and gratitude, Mary embraced each moment as a gift and every person as a friend. She quietly gave of her love and care, often affording support, healing balm, and safe harbor for those she loved. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Mary was a treasure for all who shared time with her. She will long be remembered and so very missed.
The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. Post-war peace, a booming economy, rising wages for most Americans, and falling consumer prices gave rise to a higher standard of living for most. The world quickly changed with the inventions of wash machines, vacuum cleaners, the band-aid, and the first automobile with a combustion engine. Tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts marked this roaring decade when a person’s success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and then work to make them a reality. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, this vibrant decade grew even brighter for Glen and Hazel (Harrison) Wilson as they welcomed their daughter Mary into their hearts and home on August 28, 1927.
The youngest child in the Wilson family, Mary grew up on a chicken farm in Middleville, where she learned the values of hard work, resilience, and resourcefulness. Like many farm kids, Mary’s days centered around completing her chores, including tending to her pet pig. Mary was raised by dedicated parents who provided a good environment that supported her learning and developing the moral foundation upon which she built the rest of her life.
As a young adult, Mary moved to Grand Rapids and started working at Holland American Wafer Company. She also attended beauty school and worked at a beauty shop for a time. While living in Grand Rapids, Mary was blessed to meet the love of her life while watching a street game of basketball. Robert “Bob” Zimmerman took one look at Mary and said to himself, “I’m going to marry her someday.” Before he could fulfill his promise, Bob was called to serve in the Navy, and Mary returned to her parents’ home.
Once Bob safely returned home, the happy couple married at Smith Congregational Church, officially beginning their nearly 60-year adventure together. The newlyweds made their first home in Middleville, where they ran the farm. In time, they returned to the Grand Rapids area, moving into a house on Van Allen Street in Wyoming. They would later build their family home in Kentwood, where they raised their three children.
Mary devoted herself to caring for her family. Never one to demand the spotlight, she was content to work behind the scenes to ensure a loving and supportive home that afforded her husband and children every possible opportunity for a better life. She did a lot of baking and learned to pluck the feathers from the ducks and clean the fish Bob hunted and caught. The family enjoyed vacationing at a rental cabin in the Upper Peninsula, where Bob spent hours at the fishing hole. No matter what time she had to wake up, she made sure her husband and children woke to a delicious breakfast. She kept this tradition even once her children were grown and living on their own; they always found a delicious meal waiting for them when they visited.
A terrific team, Mary’s quiet nature was balanced by Bob’s much more social personality. While Bob came up with all sorts of creative ideas, Mary was the one who quietly made sure his ideas actually came to fruition. With humility and grace, she helped organize activities and many meals for the local Shriners and Masons.
In time, Mary returned to working outside the home. She worked at Lescoa, where her great care and nurturing of others quickly inspired her coworkers to nickname her “Nurse Mary.” Regardless of her many responsibilities, she always treated people with love and acceptance. Nursing would have been a perfect fit for her.
Mary enjoyed the simple things in life, like reading and jigsaw puzzles. She was a lifelong card player who relished playing cards with her children and grandchildren. She knitted booties for each of her grandkids and later made many scrubbies. She adored her grandchildren and especially enjoyed taking them camping and fishing.
For about two years, she and Bob lived in their motorhome, traveling much of the country east of the Mississippi River. After these years of adventure, she and Bob lived at Marsh Ridge, where Mary was able to live independently for a few years after Bob’s death in 2005. In time, as she needed more support, she moved in with her daughter Sallie. During her last year, she spent time living with her son Craig. Though quiet and perhaps shy, Mary enjoyed conversation best in one-on-one situations, and her sweet personality and love were apparent to all who were lucky to share time with her.
Clearly, life feels less certain in the absence of Mary’s steadfast loving presence. As we grieve the beautiful woman we were so blessed to know, may we find much comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying her legacy forward. In each moment we quietly support our loved ones, gather for a game of cards, listen with our whole hearts, and freely give of our talents, we celebrate the many ways Mary gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Mary Louise Zimmerman, age 94, of Grand Rapids, passed away on January 3, 2022. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Zimmerman in 2005; sisters and brother, Blanche Stoneburner, Harrison Wilson, Evelyn Mitchell, and Doris Campbell. Mary is survived by her children Craig (Pat) Zimmerman, Sallie (Christopher) Graves, Janice (Douglas) Bond; grandchildren Heather Getson, Seth Bond, Mary Armock, Jason Zimmerman, Leia Zimmerman, Sarah Jankowski, Joel Graves, Barbara Graves, and Roy Graves; many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. Entombment in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens.