Life Story / Obituary
Wilma VandeKopple lived a very active life well into her later years. Blessed with an abundant and loving family, she relished her role as a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. Generous beyond measure, there simply wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for her family or a friend in need. Deeply loved, Wilma leaves behind a rich collection of warm memories for her special friends and loved ones to cherish forever.
Wilma Jane was born to William and Fanny (Wyma) Phillips in the family home on November 28, 1926, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The youngest of three children, her birth brought great joy and many blessings to the family home.
Growing up on the northeast side of town, Wilma lived a typical childhood of the times. She attended Baxter Christian Elementary and enjoyed special memories of her dad taking each of the kids on his sales route and stopping for ice cream along the way. She was raised with a strong foundation of faith and her family attended Netherlands Reformed Church for many years. Wilma was active as a kid and enjoyed playing sports as a teen. Volleyball and basketball were her favorites and she learned some of her athletic skills from watching her older brother play ball. Wilma met the love of her life during these high school years. She and Roger VandeKopple were introduced while they were both attending a service at Alpine Ave. Christian Reformed Church. From then on, they took notice of one another every day in the school hallways, yet didn’t talk much. She went on to study secretarial skills at Davis Tech and Roger enlisted in the United States Navy. When he later returned, the two of them began dating seriously. Wilma and Roger later joined in marriage on October 23, 1947. The happy couple took a wonderful honeymoon to New York City before settling back in their apartment on the northwest side of town.
Ambitious and driven, Wilma worked as a secretary and Roger worked in the tool and die industry. They provided a welcoming home for their four wonderful children; William, Robert, Bruce, and Barb. Once she became a mother, Wilma’s career was put on hold. She stayed home to raise the children and run the household. During these years, she developed a love of baking cookies, banana bread, cakes and brownies which make countless times over the years. She and Roger raised their children with a strong faith life at East Leonard Christian Reformed Church. Active and outgoing, Wilma enjoyed the ladies groups at church and the tea group at the kids’ school. Her love of reading led her to become the church librarian for many years, a job she truly loved. Each and every week before Labor Day and heading back to school, they camped with a large group from their church in Ludington making many special memories. Although Wilma's dreams of being a teacher and writing a book did not come to fruition, she instilled in her kids the importance of learning and reading.
When the children were grown and on their own, Wilma remained active in her community. She volunteered at the Welcome Wagon and at Kent Community Hospital. On Sunday nights after church, she and Roger often hosted dinner for church friends. They shared plenty of laughter and good discussion. No one was ever a stranger to Wilma, her infectious laughter made her many close friends over the years. Remarkable to note, she remained a loyal friend to several classmates from her school days. She and Roger also loved to travel. Each year during the holidays between Christmas and New Years, they would travel to Pellston as a large extended family to see their son, Bob at the U of M Biological Station. They enjoyed visiting Branson, Missouri, the Canadian Rockies and many other places. For several weeks at a time, they would vacation to Florida and soak up the sun! Whenever she and Roger were together, they shared the best of times.
Always willing to lend an ear or a helping hand, Wilma shared a love of all people. She wanted nothing more than to share in her children and grandchildren’s many successes. Wilma was always accepting of others and made everyone feel special in her presence. May the memory of her laughter warm the hearts of her loved ones whenever they are gathered. May they often reflect on the love she held for each and every one of them and may her memories be eternal.
Age 94, entered her heavenly home January 9, 2021. She was preceded in death by her husband, Roger VandeKopple; son, William VandeKopple; brother, Gerald (Geraldine) Phillips and sister, Gertrude (William) Mulder. Wilma was a long time member of East Leonard Christian Reformed Church. She is survived by her children, Robert (Meredy) VandeKopple of Alanson, Bruce (Judy) VandeKopple of Grand Rapids, Barb (Brian) Strayer of Casnovia; daughter-in-law, Wanda VandeKopple; grandchildren, Jon (Tiffany) VandeKopple, Joel VandeKopple, Jason (Angela) VandeKopple, Julie VandeKopple, Erica (Phil) Heimforth, Tim (Ashley) VandeKopple, Leah (Adam) Ploeg, Matt (Lindsay) VandeKopple, Zach Strayer, Scott Strayer; & 11 great grandchildren. Also surviving are her sister-in-law, Ruth Knott and brother-in-law, Harold (Jan) VandeKopple. A private family graveside was held in Fairplains Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Edison Christian Foundation. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Wilma’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook.