Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Raymond VanPortfliet

March 25, 1934 - May 18, 2024
Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, May 28, 2024
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263
Driving Directions


Wednesday, May 29, 2024
11:00 AM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263
Driving Directions


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.

Gideons International


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With a warm smile, a great sense of humor, and a ready story, Raymond VanPortfliet lived a life rich in faith, family, and friends. Ray embodied the principles of his faith, embracing each day as a gift and every person as a friend. He was a natural storyteller, captivating listeners with interesting details and an engaging delivery, and countless one-liners masterfully delivered for much-appreciated comedic relief. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Ray led with his heart in all things, proving a powerful role model for all who were blessed to know him.

Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1934 gave birth to many celebrated firsts. Flash Gordon made his debut while Fuji Photo Film first captured memories. The Three Stooges took center stage in their first short while the nation also met Donald Duck. The rays of hope peeked through the clouds of despair in America when unemployment decreased to 22%, marking the turning point of the Great Depression. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in the hearts and home of Bert and Leona (Reyers) VanPortfliet welcomed their son Ray to their family on March 25 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Along with his older brother Robert, Ray enjoyed growing up on the lower west side of Grand Rapids, at 1061 White Street NW. The VanPortfliets were members of Richmond Reformed Church, and the church family played a significant part in their lives. As a lifelong member of the church, the fellowship proved to be the firm foundation for many longtime friendships and activities, as well as for building and nourishing Ray’s faith. Ray had a paper route as a kid. He long recalled skipping it once to go fishing and the consequences that came with that decision. He attended West Leonard Elementary, then Harrison Park, before graduating from Union High School.

While in high school, Ray had the good fortune of being introduced to Mary Yvonne "Eve" Driver, meeting at their senior Class Night. Instantly smitten, the young couple began dating. After Ray enlisted in the United States Army. While he served the country over the next two years, he and Mary stayed in touch. When Ray safely returned home, the happy couple married on May 11, 1956, at the chapel of Trinity Reformed Church by Rev. Burt VanZoost with a reception at Mary’s aunt and uncle’s home.

Following an enjoyable honeymoon to Niagara Falls, the newlyweds returned to Grand Rapids, where they settled into an apartment on Walker Avenue. Six months later, they bought a house at 1641 Seventh Street, NW. Their home for the 33 years that followed, Ray and Mary were delighted to welcome and raise their three children there. Timothy Ray, Jodi Lynn, and Paul Jay were the centers of their lives, and Ray and Mary worked to provide them with loving and supportive childhoods. Though not burdensome, Ray could discipline when needed. He and Mary raised their family in the good company of their community at Richmond Reformed Church, and they loved taking family vacations to visit Yvonne’s family in Texas as well as making trips to Florida.

For a few years, Ray provided for his family by working as a milkman with a residential route for Buth Dairy before becoming a salesman for Metropolitan Life Insurance for 13 years. He completed his career with over twenty years as the Audio Visual department manager for Commercial Equipment Company, where he reported to the Vice President, Jim Dole, who became one of his best friends and golf partners. His time with the company started with demonstrations from his van, but in time, he became a trainer for others in the company. Anyone who knew him can attest that his pleasant demeanor and gregarious personality made him a great salesman. Over the years, he earned many incentive trips, allowing him and Mary to travel throughout the world.

Once the kids were older, Ray and Mary moved to English Hills, living alongside the golf course they played for over 30 years. Golf was a longtime passion for Ray, for years hitting the course every Saturday with friends. He loved the game, and eventually, his wife and children joined him in the sport. He and Mary also enjoyed playing tennis and spent a lot of time playing card games and trivia games with friends.

In retirement, Ray and Mary spent several winters in Nevada, and Ray golfed often. Back home in Michigan, they were a social couple, many friends through church and from his work. At home, Ray enjoyed picking up the newspaper or a copy of Golf Digest. He always loved watching sports as well, particularly the University of Michigan Football or anything on the Golf Channel. For a number of years, he dabbled in photography, collecting a lot of equipment and creating a dark room in the house. It was a hobby that could have become more if he had wanted. Ray also became interested in making wine and created his own labels. Many treasured memories were made with his treasured grandchildren. With Mary at his side, Ray entertained the grandkids by taking them golfing, playing cards and games, and telling stories.

Throughout life, Ray’s faith was always important to him. As a longtime member of Richmond, he also participated in the church by teaching Sunday School and serving numerous times as an elder or deacon. In retirement, he became involved with Gideons International, meeting on Saturdays and traveling to deliver Bibles and speak at churches or organizations about the work of the Gideons.

Proud of his years in the Army, Ray had fond memories of his time in the service, socializing with the guys and spending time in Germany. He was especially happy to be able to participate in the Veterans Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., where he and fellow veterans spent the day being honored at the nation’s memorials.

Sadly, Mary passed away in 2015. After sharing the gift of their 58-year marriage, it was challenging for Ray to learn the roles that Mary filled throughout his life. With support from family and friends, he continued living at home, learning, and being active in his church community. He continued to spend time with family and spent a month or so each winter in Florida with them. In time, his memory started to cloud, and he needed additional care. Just a few weeks ago, he enjoyed golfing with his family before experiencing a few health events in the following weeks.

Though the world feels far less certain in the absence of Ray’s steadfast companionship, we find much comfort in our many treasured memories and in the honor of carrying his beautiful legacy of faith, hope, and love forward. Whenever we explore and celebrate our faith, sink a putt, enjoy a good story, cheer on our loved one’s endeavors, or gather with friends and family, we celebrate the countless ways Ray made life better. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.

Raymond Jay VanPortfliet, age 90, of Grand Rapids, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on May 18, 2024, passing away in Port Charlotte, Florida. Ray was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Mary Yvonne “Eve,” in 2015; his brother, Robert VanPortfliet; daughter-in-law, Devri VanPortfliet.

He is survived by their children: Timothy (Gloria) VanPortfliet, Jodi Smith, Paul (Nikki) VanPortfliet; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; as well as sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.

The service to remember and celebrate Ray’s life will be held on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel. Friends are invited to visit with his family on Tuesday, May 28, from 5-7 PM and on Wednesday, beginning at 10 AM.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Gideons International.

To read more about Ray, to share a memory or photo, or to sign his guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com