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.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Research Foundation
1829 Reisterstown Road, Suite 100
Pikesville, MD 21208
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Life Story / Obituary
As family and friends can surely attest, Shirley Steimel truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times, and she always had an encouraging word to say. Nothing brought Shirley greater joy than surrounding herself with her loved ones, no matter how simple the moments. Her faith formed the unshakeable foundation of her life, and she was a shining example of kindness and generosity. Deeply loved, Shirley will be forever missed by those who knew her best.
The 1930s are remembered as a decade of great struggle for the United States as the Great Depression wore on. Families struggled to make ends meet, and there were dark years for many. It was during this tumultuous time that Garrett and Lavina (Longstreet) Zylema were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their baby. On May 16, 1936, they welcomed a pair of twins, who they named Shirley and Bob, into the world.
Growing up, Shirley was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was raised in the family home near Leonard Street and Fuller Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, alongside her siblings, Bob, Jean, and Carol. The Zylema siblings were nearly inseparable. Shirley’s father, Garrett, supported the family by working as a window and door builder and installer while her mother, Lavina, dedicated herself to caring for her family and her home. Throughout Shirley’s childhood, holidays were spent with relatives. She loved playing around the church across the street from her home and in her father’s raspberry patch, where she usually ate more berries than she picked. Shirley enjoyed roller skating and ice skating. When she was 13 years old, she was able to see Billy Graham at the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, an experience she always looked back on fondly.
As she grew older, Shirley began working as a model for Herpolsheimers and Wurzburg’s Department Store, forming the foundation of her solid work ethic. She attended local public schools all throughout her childhood, balancing her education with the beginnings of her career. Shirley also worked at Riley’s hardware store, Gantos clothing store, and Meijers.
Before long, Shirley’s life was about to change for the better as she met the man who would soon become the love of her life. His name was Gerald Steimel, and the two first met at the roller rink near Ramona Park. There was an instant spark between them. Shirley would walk with Gerald at Gracewell Country Club and search for golf balls. She would then clean them up and sell them by the hundreds at the flea market. Shirley and Jerry would go on to date for five years; however, during this time, Jerry was called to serve in the Army during the Korean Conflict. Throughout his training at Fort Knox and his time serving in Europe, the couple remained in touch by exchanging letters. When Jerry finally returned home, he and Shirley knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Shirley and Jerry were married on August 29, 1956, at St. Mary’s Church. The newlyweds then took a honeymoon up North and to the Mackinac Bridge before settling down in a home off Plainfield Ave. in Grand Rapids, ready to begin their future together.
All who knew Shirley can certainly agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her family above all else. She and Jerry were overjoyed to welcome their daughter, Sherilyn, in 1957, followed by their son, Scott, in 1962. Shirley stepped into her role as a mother and devoted herself to her children. She was always willing to go above and beyond when it came to her family. Later in life, Shirley was thrilled to become a grandmother and even a great-grandmother as well. She adored her grandchildren and doted on them whenever she could. Shirley always considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
Shirley considered her church her second home. She served in various roles at Northland Baptist Church. Shirley enjoyed being a Sunday school teacher, and was also a church secretary and sang in the church choir. She especially loved singing duets with her friend, Dan. Shirley’s most prized possession was her Bible, and she relied on her faith at all times. She poured her heart and soul into her church and her community.
Never one to sit still for long, Shirley pursued many hobbies to stay busy in her free time. She enjoyed eating out at her favorite restaurants, including Fables Restaurant, Swan Inn, Red Hot Inn, Fred’s Pizza, Burger Chef, Russ’s, and Cheers. Shirley liked steak, hamburgers, fish, wet burritos, ice cream, and angel food cake. At home, she would eat TV dinners or cook steak, roast beef, fried chicken, and apple pie. Over the years, Shirley and her family enjoyed many vacations to locations such as the Upper Peninsula, Suttons Bay, Kings Island, and many Detroit Tigers games. In her retirement, she was able to visit the Upper Peninsula several times. Shirley also traveled to Niagara Falls, Disney World with her friend Joyce, and Las Vegas to visit her granddaughter, Kelli, and her great-grandchildren.
When reflecting on the life of Shirley Steimel, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. She was well known for her sense of humor, which brought light to every room she walked into, and her steadfast faith. A devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, Shirley was a friend to many and beloved by all. She exemplified what it means to live a life of kindness and service to others. Though she will be dearly missed, Shirley leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.
Shirley Ann Steimel, [Zylema], age 87 of Grand Rapids, went to be with her Lord and Savior on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, while in the comfort of her home and in the company of her family.
She was born in the spring of 1936 to the late Garrett and Lavina, [Longstreet] Zylema.
Along with her parents, Shirley is preceded in death by her husband of over 60 years, Gerald (Jerry) Steimel as well as by her twin brother Bob Zylema and two sisters, Jean Williams and Carol Berger.
She is survived by her children Sherilyn (Tom) Schulke, Scott (Suzy) Steimel and son-in-law, Jim Brockschmidt; grandchildren Kyle Brockschmidt, Kelli (Eric) Luchs, Corey (Arielle) Steimel, Eric Steimel, Weston and Amy Holst; great -grandchildren Brody, Breanna, Brooklyn, Maize, Ella Grace, Kerith, Charley, and Genevieve; brother-in-law Chuck Steimel and sisters-in-law Marie Tanis and Barbara (Bill) Beukema as well as by several nieces and nephews.
Friends are invited to visit with Shirley's family on Tuesday, January 30, 2024 from 10-11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Van Strien Creston Chapel, (1833 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505). Her funeral service will follow the visitation beginning at 11 AM.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Research Foundation, (1829 Reisterstown Road, Suite 100, Pikesville, MD 21208) are appreciated.
Shirley's family would like to express their appreciation to the staff at Visiting Angels for the loving and compassionate care bestowed upon Shirley and to friends and caregivers Mary, John and Lynne, and Gloria.
To read more about Shirley to share a memory or photo, or to sign her guestbook, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com