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Life Story / Obituary
Dick Ter Maat was a genuine, loving, and joyful man. He was an enthusiastic minister who spent his life sharing the love and joy of God with those who need it most. He was creative, filled with integrity, and shining with vibrant authenticity.
In 1938, as the United States was beginning to step out of the Great Depression, John and Margaret Ter Maat welcomed their second child, Richard, into the world on September 21, 1938, in Vesper, Wisconsin.
Dick’s father was a farmer and his mother was a homemaker. When Dick was young, the family shifted locations to Sheboygan County. He and his family were present at Hingham Reformed Church every Sunday.
Dick was blessed with four siblings: Harriet, Helen, David, and Cindy. He attended Liberty Grade School before moving on to Oostburg High School, where he graduated in 1956. Dick played drums and enjoyed performing in dramas. In high school, Dick met Helen Meylink, who was two years younger. He asked her to go on a hayride with him and that magical night marked their first date and the beginning of a lifelong romance.
As an avid scholar, Dick went on to study at Central College in Pella, Iowa. Dick and Helen kept dating throughout this time, until their bond was so great, they wanted to have it sanctified. On August 20th, 1960, Dick and Helen married. Their honeymoon was a winding trip over and around Lake Michigan as they moved to Holland, Michigan. Dick enrolled at Western Theological Seminary, and Helen was able to complete her final two years of college at Hope.
Just prior to his graduation, Dick received a call from Ninth Reformed Church on the West Side of Grand Rapids. Dick and Helen discerned that God was calling them to the City, and settled into the parsonage in June of 1964, in what would become a lifelong ministry within a parish they fondly named “Westown.” In 1967, Dick founded The Other Way Ministries. When Dick and Helen saw and felt that many of their neighbors within their community were in a difficult place, God gave Dick a vision to rent a storefront on behalf of the church where they could reach out to help struggling boys. This was the first home for The Other Way, whose motto proclaimed, “Jesus Christ, the Hope of the City.” Beginning as a simple idea to give vulnerable and struggling young men off the street, through mentoring and by providing bike repair jobs, it blossomed into a thriving ministry, a community center, and a valuable space where people could gather and feel included, a place where hospitality was always offered, and new relationships could be fostered and flourish. He remained at Ninth Reformed until 1973, shifting to focus more on directing and growing The Other Way.
The dream of a safe and prosperous neighborhood continued to develop when Dick began Westown Jubilee Housing in 1990 as a way to provide affordable housing, allowing over 50 families to secure a home in Westown who likely would have been unable to do so on their own. Dick retired from The Other Way in 2003, remaining as executive director of Westown until the late 2000s. Dick was also the founding pastor of Servant’s Community Church where he served for five years and remained a member for the remainder of his life.
Dick and Helen have three children: Kris, Tom, and Lisa. He cherished their arrival and loved raising them. He never skipped a single sporting event, concert, or awards ceremony; if his children were involved, he had to be there. Together, the family traveled all over the country with their pop-up camper. One summer, Dick took a three-month sabbatical and they drove across the country to California, stopping along the way to camp, sight-see, and to visit old friends.
In his retirement, Dick enjoyed working on home repair projects, woodworking, making stained-glass windows, and spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved attending his grandchildren’s concerts and games and cooking his famous blueberry pancakes for them on Saturday mornings. He and Helen were regulars at the Calvin January Series and were avid fans of the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs. They continued to travel together, participating in the “Road Scholar” educational travel program across the country and the two of them have visited every State in the nation and several foreign countries.
Dick never stopped learning. In addition to earning his Master of Divinity degree from Western Seminary, he also received a Master of Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1981 and a Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1995. He loved reading biographies and historical novels and always enjoyed completing a new jigsaw puzzle.
In January of 2022, Dick was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Despite this difficult news, he never lost his passion for ministry. He was present when engaging with others, and he never once stopped uplifting the lives of those around him. He was always ready to ask others how they were doing and enriched the lives of all those with whom he came into contact.
Richard John Ter Maat, age 84, peacefully joined his Lord and Savior on September 13, 2023 in Grand Rapids, 20 months after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He was born on September 21, 1938 in Vesper, Wisconsin to John and Margaret Ter Maat. Dick married Helen Meylink on August 20, 1960. They have lived on the west side of Grand Rapids since 1964 when he accepted a call from Ninth Reformed Church after graduation from Western Theological Seminary. In 1967 he established The Other Way Ministries and served as executive director until his retirement in 2003. In 1981 Dick and Helen and their three children Kristin, Thomas, and Lisa became charter members of Servant’s Community Reformed Church where Dick led the new congregation as part time pastor for five years and remained a member throughout his life. In 1990 Dick founded Westown Jubilee Housing and served as executive director until the late 2000’s when he retired.
Dick was a lifelong learner. In addition to earning his Master of Divinity degree from Western Seminary, he also received a Master of Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1981 and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1995.
Dick was preceded in death by his parents John and Margaret Ter Maat, his in-laws Harold and Elizabeth Meylink, his sister and brother-in-law Harriet and Lloyd Debbink, and his brother-in-law Roger Sandee.
Dick is survived by his wife of 63 years, Helen, his siblings Helen (Gordy) Veldboom, David (Mary) Ter Maat, Cindy (Steve) Heinen, sister-in-law Marilyn Sandee and many nieces and nephews; his children Kristin (Dave) DeVries, Thomas (Vivian) Ter Maat, and Lisa (Jeramie) Rigsby; grandchildren Lukas (Kelli) Duimstra, Abigail (Nicholas) Wagner, Korinne (Brian) Pupel, and Benjamin (Lorretta) Duimstra, Lauren, Brooke, and Ingrid Ter Maat, Michael, Nathanael, and Joseph Rigsby and great grandchildren Ryan and Emerson Duimstra, Maisie and Audra Wagner, and baby girl Pupel to be born in November. He is also survived by step grandchildren David, Rita, and Jenee DeVries and step great grandchildren Eden and Sullivan Pupel.
Dick’s life verse was 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you.”
Visitation for Dick Ter Maat will be held on Saturday, September 23rd 2023 from 4pm- 6pm at Heritage Funeral Home on Lake Michigan Drive. A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, September 24th 2023 at 4pm at Orchard Hill Reformed Church on 3 Mile Rd in Walker.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be given to The Other Way Ministries, Westown Jubilee Housing, or Servant’s Community Reformed Church.