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Life Story / Obituary
Loving, generous, and kind, Phyllis Mae DeSmit lived a life rich in family and faith. A woman who embodied the principles of her faith, Phyllis led with her heart and never hesitated to find ways to make life more pleasant for others. She was protective of those she loved and did all she could to ensure the good care of her family and friends. Whether gathering for a meal, knitting a special gift, or making a new friend, Phyllis welcomed each day as a gift. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Phyllis 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 resulted in a higher standard of living for most. 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. For Martin and Henrietta Vermaire of Grand Rapids, Michigan, this vibrant decade grew even brighter on May 20, 1929, when they welcomed their daughter Phyllis into their family.
Growing up on the westside at 1449 Fremont Street, Phyllis enjoyed a typical childhood of the times. While her father worked in logistics for American Seating Company, her mother was a homemaker. Phyllis shared a close bond with her siblings and grew even closer after losing their sister, Jean, at a young age. Raised with a strong Christian faith, Phyllis and her siblings attended the 12th Street Christian Reformed Church and West Side Christian School. Many treasured memories were made while swimming and skating at Richmond Park, picnicking at Lake Michigan, and gathering with extended family for Christmas. Sadly, Phyllis' mother died young, on Christmas Eve when Phyllis was just 25 years old.
After dating for two years, Phyllis married Jay Raymond DeSmit at East Leonard CRC on May 26, 1950. The newlyweds honeymooned by driving around Lake Michigan and settled into their life together in a home on Fremont Street. In August of 1952, they became parents when their son Thomas was born, and their family became complete in the spring of 1960 when their daughter Barbara was born. After the Army released him from military service, Jay began his career as a tool and die maker. Phyllis devoted herself to her family as a homemaker and worked as a personal shopper for Steketee's department store.
The family explored and celebrated their faith at 12th Street Christian Reformed Church and West Leonard CRC. They also enjoyed many friendships with fellow church members and neighbors. Cooking and baking were also things Phyllis enjoyed. Her meat, potatoes, and gravy were rivaled, and her baked goods were much appreciated. She was a member of a knitting club called Knit Wits and enjoyed knitting nice things and donating them to charity. Over the years, she lovingly made and gifted countless baby hats, mittens, afghans, sweaters, and blankets. Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan, and the Golden Girls were some of her favorite shows, and Bylsma's Early American Pancake House on Leonard St. and Mr. Burger were her favorite restaurants.
Vacations to Niagara Falls, Silver Lake, a cottage on Big Star Lake, Long Lake in Traverse City, and Florida all proved good times. But the best times were those spent with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who were her heart's delight. After Jay died in 1995, at the age of 68, Phyllis created a contented single life she grew to enjoy over the years. When Phyllis experienced the heartache of the unexpected loss of her daughter Barbara in 2000, she found much comfort in her faith and family.
Phyllis' made her final home at Edison Christian Assisted Living, where she made and enjoyed many friendships. Without a doubt, Phyllis' greatest joy was spending time with family. She especially enjoyed sharing a ride on a pontoon boat during the last big family event, when everyone gathered at a cottage to celebrate Tom's 70th birthday. There is no doubt that Phyllis' generous heart and legacy of love and care will continue to live in the hearts and lives of those she so dearly loved.
PHYLLIS MAE DE SMIT, Age 93, of Grand Rapids, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on Saturday, February 18, 2023. She was born in Grand Rapids in the spring of 1929 to the late Martin and Henrietta Vermaire. Along with her parents, Phyllis is preceded in death by her husband, Jay, and their daughter Barbara. Phyllis is survived by her son Thomas (Patty) DeSmit, grandchildren Joseph (Wendy) DeSmit, Amy Jo (Chris) LaMange, Brian (Danielle) DeSmit, and Katherine Alzamora, as well as by 10 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. The service to remember and celebrate Phyllis's life will be held on Monday, February 27, 2023, at 12 Noon at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel (2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW Grand Rapids, MI 49504). Friends are invited to visit with her family prior to the service beginning at 11 AM. Phyllis will be laid to rest next to Jay in Washington Park Memorial Gardens. For those who wish, memorial contributions to the Edison Christian Health Center (1000 Edison Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504) are appreciated. To read more about Phyllis, to share a memory, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com