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Life Story / Obituary
With a servant's heart, Phyllis Mae Scharphorn lived a life rooted in love, compassion, and service. Phyllis embodied the principles of her faith and truly loved people. She had lots of friends and listened to each person as though they were the most important person in the world. Phyllis was selfless, thoughtful, attentive, and loving, always providing others with a safe harbor in life's storms and encouraging their every dream. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Phyllis will long be remembered and so very missed.
1927 found the nation continuing to ride the roaring wave of peace, prosperity, and hope. It proved a decade of many firsts, including the birth of motels, Sears Roebuck stores, broadcasts from the Grand Ole Opry, Chrysler Corporations, the 40-hour workweek, and the nation's first female governor. As the wave of sweeping social and economic growth rapidly increased, nowhere was there more hope for the future than in the home of Arthur and Katherine (Dreyer) Gritter, as they welcomed their daughter, Phyllis, to their family on December 26, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The fifth of the nine Gritter children, Phyllis grew up during the Great Depression. Her parents were poor, and her childhood was not great, but she was particularly close to her sisters Wilma and Jacqueline. Her father, who immigrated from the Netherlands, was a laborer, and her mother was a homemaker and cleaned homes on the side. The family lived at 1050 McReynolds Ave. NW in Grand Rapids before moving to 1707 Alpine Ave. NW. The family attended Alpine Ave. Christian Reformed Church.
Phyllis attended Harrison Park Middle School and graduated from Union High School in 1945. Though she was not a particularly good student and only talked a little about her school experience, she loved spelling and word games very much. Social in nature, she enjoyed good friendships while in school and remained friends for life with classmates Vivian and Dorothy. Phyllis was an excellent ice skater and enjoyed skating at Richmond Park Pond. She eventually gave her skates to her daughter. As a teen, Phyllis worked at a local market as a clerk.
As a seventh grader, Phyllis first met her classmate, Joe Scharphorn. Instantly smitten, she told her friends that she would marry Joe one day. After high school graduation and Joe safely returned from a year of service in the Navy, the two reconnected and began dating. About a year later, they married on August 27, 1948, at Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church, with her sister Jacqueline as one of her wedding attendants.
The newlyweds enjoyed a honeymoon at Big Star Lake during record temperatures that reached 107 degrees. Returning to Grand Rapids, the couple first lived in a home on Alpine and Richmond. After a few years, they moved to Temple, SE, followed by Charles, and eventually to their family home on Fountain Street, where they primarily raised their children. In time, they were blessed with six children over a period of 17 years, including Wayne, Jayne, Doug, Laura, Jeff, and Marc.
Phyllis was a very, very busy mother. She kept a pristine, ultra-clean house and how to make a dollar stretch. She would shop at the local farmer's market for produce, pumpkins, and the annual Christmas tree. She made simple and tasty meals for her large family: poached eggs for Joe's breakfast, Swiss steak, Spanish rice, liver and onions, and corned beef hash. Her potato salad was unrivaled, and her famous apple brownies were so sought after that one day, while at the beach for a family picnic, a stranger absconded with the whole tray of unattended brownies from the picnic table. One of her more embarrassing stories was when she became distracted and backed the family's gold Ford Galaxie 500 out of the driveway and continued across the street, slamming into the neighbor's front porch!
In addition to tending to her family and home, Phyllis was very involved in volunteering at the children's schools and at her church. She was always involved with the Church women's guild and helped with church weddings, funerals, and other special events. She was also on the church softball team, playing with such gusto that she broke her foot sliding into a base one day!
In time, Phyllis began working outside the house as a waitress at Lanning's Restaurant. She loved her job and was very good at it. Over the years, she made countless friends working at the restaurant, and her experience led her to become an excellent catering provider. She loved providing her catering services for her husband's bowling team and the Rapistan/Dematic Corporation at their "Little Red School House" event house.
Phyllis enjoyed many things, including word games, jigsaw puzzles, sewing, knitting, and macrame. She and Joe became very serious fans of the Grand Valley State University Lakers, regularly attending home athletic games and often making road trips to the away games. During quiet times at home, Phyllis liked to read, primarily books written by Christian authors. She also enjoyed classical music and always had Blue Lake Public Radio playing. Nothing filled her heart more than spending time with family, especially her grandchildren. She participated in all their special events and cheered on their every endeavor. Holidays with family were always cherished. She especially liked Halloween and dressed in costume at work and at home!
Though the world feels less certain in the absence of Phyllis' loving companionship, may we find comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying her loving legacy forward. In each moment we gather our loved ones for a meal, give of our time and talents in service of others, cheer on the Lakers, or welcome others with a warm and supportive heart, we celebrate the many ways Phyllis gifted our lives. In this way, she will continue to inspire others as she so inspired us.
Phyllis Mae Scharphorn, age 95, of Grand Rapids, passed away peacefully with family by her side on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.
Phyllis is preceded in death by her husband of 67 years, Joseph, "Joe," who passed away in 2016, as well as by all but one of her siblings.
She is survived by her children: Wayne Scharphorn, Jayne (Bob) Philipps, Doug (Pat) Scharphorn, Laura (Paul) Verbrugge, Jeff (Carol) Scharphorn, Marc (Jim Babb) Scharphorn, 13 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and by her sister Wilma Tumbling.
Phyllis had been a member of Seventh Reformed Church (950 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504), where her funeral service will be held on Monday, September 25, 2023, at 11 AM.
Friends are invited to visit with her family on Sunday, September 24, 2023, from 2-4 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home (2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW, Grand Rapids, MI, 49504) as well as at 10:00 AM Monday prior to the funeral service at church. Phyllis will be laid to rest next to Joe in Rosedale Memorial Park Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, Phyllis' family suggests memorial donations be made to Sunset Manor (725 Baldwin St. Jenison, MI 49428). The family would also like to express their appreciation for the compassionate and attentive care bestowed on Phyllis by Sunset Manor and Spectrum Health Hospice staff.
To read more about Phyllis' life, to share a memory, or sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com