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Life Story / Obituary
Robert DeVries lived his life with great appreciation for his family. A loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many, he wanted nothing more than the very best for the family he loved. There is no doubt that he will be dearly missed by his many special friends and loved ones.
The year 1932 held many special marks in history. With the promise of a new election year waiting, Fred and Selena (Willetts) DeVries were eager to welcome home their newborn baby boy, Robert Keith, on July 6, 1932, in Sully, Iowa. Born the oldest of four boys, his birth brought great joy and happiness during an era of tough economic times.
Growing up, Robert was known to pitch in around the family home at a young age. With his father working as a general manager at Sully Co-Op and his mother working as a nurse, he would take his wagon to the local grocery store down the street for daily supplies at the tender age of four years old. He also enjoyed running down to the train tracks to watch them as they passed through town. His love of trains became a passion of his that carried on into adulthood. His parents raised him with a strong foundation of faith at Sully Community Church where they remained active members throughout their many years there.
Robert was also studious and excelled during his years in K-12 public education at Sully Public Schools. He played football and graduated at the top of his high school class in 1950. With an interest in geography, as well as his love of studying railroad routes, he left for Central college in Pella. After a year, he transferred to Wheaton College in Chicago where he made many lifelong friends and proudly graduated with the Class of 1954. Robert was called to serve and chose to attend Dallas Seminary in Dallas, Texas where he received his Master’s degree in theology in 1958. Whatever Robert set his mind to do, he always gave it his best and relied on his hard work to reach success!
He met his future bride, Carolyn Schroeder, while he was teaching at a Bible school and running the book store. They dated and joined in marriage in 1962. Together they raised two wonderful children; Steve and Suzanne. They settled in Naperville and Robert took a job with Moody Press, as the editor and chief for several years until Zondervan Publishing called and offered him a job as the Executive Director of the Book Division. Robert was delighted to join Zondervan as it was a dream of his to work for their company. They wanted him to pursue his Doctorate in Theology, so he went back and obtained it by 1969. Robert relocated his family to Alger Heights in Grand Rapids during his time at Zondervan Publishing as the director of publishing from 1968-1976 and later the executive vice-president of the book division from 1976-1985. They later built a home in Cascade.
Robert’s work was demanding and he often required him to travel throughout the US as well as Europe. When he had any amount of time, he enjoyed taking the kids to see trains as well as work in the yard and tend to his gardens. As a family, they attended the First Evangelical Covenant Church. Although he and Carolyn did their best as parents, their marriage ended in divorce and she and the kids moved back to Texas. Robert remained at First Evangelical Covenant Church where he met Carolyn Bergmans, another member of the church. Despite his busy work schedule, they managed to arrange their first date at the Thornapple Inn in Ada. Reluctant to date as a mother of two young children but once the love between them, and Bob's love for Staci and Keri was evident, it was clear to them both that God had brought them together for a purpose. The two of them dated for a short time, before joining in marriage on May 26, 1979 at First Evangelical Covenant Church where they met. They honeymooned in Boston and the New England area before returning back home to continue their careers. Robert was still at Zondervan and Carolyn was a neonatal nurse at Butterworth Hospital.
Robert poured himself into his work and through Radio Bible Class, started the publishing division of Our Daily Bread, which was called Discovery House Publications. He enjoyed regularly attending the Christian Booksellers Association Conventions and often Carolyn would join him. One year on a trip in beautiful Vail, Colorado, they heard trains nearby and took off in the dark to chase the train up the mountain! They also took trips as a family throughout the US as well as Canada often with the intention of spotting trains. Robert took countless pictures of train stations over the years. On most of these trips they would finish their excursion with a visit to the local ice cream store where Robert was sure to order a peanut butter parfait!
Retirement afforded he and Carolyn more time to enjoy their collective hobbies. Robert enjoyed listening to his classical old church hymns and reading history books especially autobiographies. The two of them continued their love of travel and toured many parts of Europe together. They savored their time with their grandchildren as well. Robert was always in close communication with all four of his kids, speaking nearly everyday. He was always encouraging and enjoyed celebrating their many successes. When Carolyn developed some health issues, Robert tenderly cared for her.
Sadly, in mid-July Robert experienced some numbness and was diagnosed at the hospital with a stroke and admitted into the ICU, leaving him with challenging options for surgery and extensive physical therapy. Robert was satisfied with the life he had lived and told Carolyn his wishes for comfort care. He died just a few days later. Known for his love of all people, his compassion and understanding, Robert leaves behind a beautiful example of living life selflessly. His wonderful sense of humor and his unending love and wisdom will surely be missed by his family and friends. May they always lean on the encouraging words that he gave them and may his memories live on in their hearts forevermore.
In the blink of an eye, July 19, 2020, Robert Keith (Bob) DeVries entered heaven's gates where he met his Savior Jesus Christ face to face in all of His glory. In that moment his hope in God and eternal life were realized through his faith in Jesus Christ his Savior. Bob was born in Sully, Iowa to Fred G. and Selena Irene Willitts DeVries on July 6,1932. Bob was a graduate of Wheaton College and Dallas Seminary, it was his privilege to be a publisher of Christian books and Bibles for Zondervan and Discovery House Publishers, the book arm of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Bob is survived by his wife and best friend (Carolyn Bergmans), brothers, Ted DeVries, Fred, (Arlene) and Carroll (Becky) DeVries, both of Des Moines, Iowa; his son, Steve (Jennifer) of Flower Mound, TX. and beloved daughters, Suzanne (John) Dahill of Johnson City, TX., Staci McKellar, Keri( Dan) Bailey, Grand Rapids, his 11 grandchildren, Justin (Elizabeth), Casey, and Brendan McKellar, Jesse, Ashley, and Ryan Bailey all of Grand Rapids, Shelby (Alonzo) DeVries Barraza, Dylan and Aubrey DeVries, John Taylor and Nathan Dahill; and great granddaughter, Penelope Rose McKellar (Justin and Elizabeth). A private family service will take place at First Evangelical Covenant Church. Public visitation will take place (masks and social distancing) on Thursday, July 30, 2020 from 2-5 PM at Grant Pavilion–Millennium Park, 1400 Maynard Ave SW, Grand Rapids. In lieu of flowers we would love and treasure your memories of Bob and donations in honor of his life and your love for him to Covenant Living of the Great Lakes Benevolent Fund, 2510 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 or Our Daily Bread Ministries, PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501-2222. Please visit heritagelifestory.com to submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook online.