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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Pearl Vander Molen, it is easy to see her servant’s heart that permeated everything she did. Through her selfless acts of service, she exemplified what it what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord she loved. Pearl was the rock of her family, and there was nothing she treasured more than the moments spent with the ones she loved. Life was not without times of trial for her, but she faced whatever came her way with strength, courage, and resilience that were only made possible through her faith. Life will never be the same without Pearl here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy that her loved ones will proudly carry on in her footsteps.
More than a century has passed since our nation faced the trials of the early 1900s. The growing disillusionment of the average American was only aggravated by unsafe working conditions and a lack of child labor laws. Amidst this eventful time was a time of great anticipation in the lives of Ralph and Marie (Van Loo) Teitsma as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the beauty of fall began to appear on the horizon in the bustling town of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in September of 1915. Their wait was finally over on September 11th when the baby girl they named Pearl Marie drew her first breath. She was the youngest of three as she was raised in the family home on Harding Street, NW, alongside her siblings, Caroline and George. Pearl’s father was a cattle buyer for Thomasma's Meats while her mother was a homemaker and seamstress.
In many ways Pearl was a young girl of her generation. She loved sports while growing up and was known as a tomboy. The Tietsmas were members of Fairview Reformed Church, which later became known as Orchard Hill Reformed Church, and this was her church home throughout her entire life. As a student, Pearl attended Fairview Elementary and Union High School, graduating in 1933. It was also as a young woman that she worked as a house cleaner, worked at Globe Knitting Works, and also for Stehouwer Frozen Foods.
New and exciting changes were in store for Pearl when she met the man of her dreams. His name was Leo Vander Molen, and they met because her parents and his parents were friends. Leo’s wife, Martina, had died of cancer after just a few years of marriage, and they had two young sons, David and Larry. Pearl and Leo began dating, fell in love, and were married on Sept. 30, 1945, in a small family wedding at the home of Roy Vander Molen. Pearl cherished her new family, and she loved the boys as though they were her own. The newlyweds moved to a home on McReynolds, NW, and continued to attend Fairview Reformed Church where she was active in the Ladies Society. A lifelong West Sider, Pearl and Leo later bought a home on Lankamp Street, NW. She was always very close to her family and to Leo’s family, and they regularly spent time together. Among her family and friends, Pearl was also known as a ruthless competitive board game and card player who took no prisoners as she played to win! She was also appreciated for her fantastic cooking and baking skills as everything she made was amazing. Among the family favorites were her pork roast, beef roast, potatoes and gravy, vegetables, salads, and pies. She was perhaps most famous for her “Ultimate Dessert.”
Throughout her life Pearl was a woman of many interests. She loved cross stitching on plastic canvas, which often turned into gifts for family and friends. Pearl loved Christian hymns, and was an avid reader whose favorites including her Bible, which she read on a daily basis, as well as various Christian novels. She did some traveling including when they took summer vacations at cottage on Whitefish Lake as a family when their children were younger. Many of their favorite family memories were made swimming, boating, and fishing there.. When relaxing, she enjoyed watching Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune when watching television. Generous with her time, Pearl also made time to take several friends and neighbors to daily appointments.
Later in life, Pearl faced both peaks and valleys. She devoted much of her time to caring for her husband after he was diagnosed with cancer. Pearl tenderly cared for him for 14 years until his death in 1971. Her faith and strong family ties sustained her through the days, weeks, and months both before and after Leo’s death. Pearl continued living in their home on Lankamp and frequently visited with her family and friends. She spent more than 30 years volunteering at the Kent Community Hospital and she was always at Christian Rest Home Sunday services handing out hymnals to attendees. Pearl took a couple of trips to California. In time, her niece, Barb Vander Molen, invited Pearl to move in with her. The two got along well together and were great companions. As she got older, Pearl decided to move to the Christian Rest Home, and since she knew everyone there it really felt like home. As she got older and needed a wheelchair, it never slowed Pearl down. In fact, she became known as “Speedy” at the rest home. As her health diminished further, she was the care of Faith Hospice.
All who knew Pearl Vander Molen would agree that she was one of the sweetest and most gracious people around. She has also been called a spitfire who had just the right amount of spunk mixed in that made her so much fun. Always thinking of others, Pearl’s faith was easy to see, and her devotion to her family was unmatched. Deeply loved, she will be forever missed.
Pearl Marie Vander Molen (Teitsma), aged 103, of Grand Rapids, went to be with her Lord and Savior, on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at Edison Christian Health Center. She was preceded in death by her husband, Leo Vander Molen and her son, Larry Vander Molen, her brother and sister-in-law, George (Eleanor) Teitsma. She is survived by her son, Dave (Carol) Vander Molen; grandchildren, Joan (David) Parks, Kathy (Rick) Uzarski, Linda (Russ) DeVries, David (Jeannie) Vander Molen; great grandchildren, Casey (Chris) Olson, Rick and Ryan Uzarski, , Lauren DeVries, Alexandra, Mekenzie and Karrington Vander Molen; great great grandchildren, Corbin and Carsyn Olson; very special niece, Barbara Vander Molen; other nieces and nephews, Bonnie Richards, Dr. Larry (Anne) Tietsma, Norma Krampe, Gary (Sue) Stehouwer, Bob (Mary) Stehouwer; and many friends. Pearl was a lifetime member of Orchard Hill Reformed Church. She was a loving and dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and a friend to all who knew her. She will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered The family wishes to thenk the Staff of Edison Christian Health Center and Faith Hospice for the loving care extended to Pearl and her family these past years.. A service to celebrate Pearl’s life will be held on Friday, June 7 at 11:00 am at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW with visitation from 10:00 am until the service begins at 11:00 am. Burial in Fairplains Cemetery. To read more about Pearl’s life, to sign her guest book and to leave your own memory of her, visit her web page at www.lifestorynet.com.