Saturday, May 25, 2019

Sister Trip to Michigan: Part I

In early May of this year, my younger sister and I took a one-week-long trip to Western Michigan to visit family, do a little genealogy, and sight-see.  Both of our parents are from Western Michigan: Mom is from the City of Grand Rapids in Kent County, and Dad was raised in Coopersville, a small town in Ottawa County about 20 miles west of Grand Rapids.

While not everything we did was related to genealogy, and what research we did was minimal, I am sharing our journey here, since we did a lot of follow up to some of the stories I have written about here in my blog.

A little background about our parents' families:  Our dad is the second child and first son of a family of five children.  His oldest sister lives in Spokane, near us.  The younger three siblings, an uncle and two aunts, live in Western Michigan.  Our mom was the only child of the marriage of her parents.  Her dad had been married before and had a disabled son from that marriage who died in his late teens.  Our grandmother was his second wife and he was her first husband.  Our mom was raised in her mother and step-dad's home with a younger brother and sister.  Our grandfather had three sons and a daughter with his third wife.  All of my mom's living siblings live in Western Michigan, except for her maternal half-sister who lives near Detroit.

The first day of our sister trip was Saturday, May 4th.  Our flight from Spokane to Grand Rapids through Denver arrived late in the afternoon, and after picking up our rental car and checking into our hotel, we met up with our uncle's family (our mom's maternal half-brother with whom she was raised) at a restaurant for an early dinner.  Attending was our uncle's wife, their daughter (our cousin) with two of her children, and their daughter's fiance.  After dinner, we headed to our cousin's house for more visiting, but on the way, we stopped at Fairplains Cemetery to visit our grandparents' graves.  It was my sister's first visit to their graves since they had passed away in 2001 and 2007.  I had visited the cemetery when I came to Michigan in 2012 for our paternal grandmother's memorial service.

Our maternal grandmother was born Ruth Lillian DeVries on 16 January 1919 in Blodgett Memorial Hospital, the Village of East Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan to John Martin and Lillian Fern (Strong) Hoekstra.  She was the eldest of three daughters.  She first married our grandfather, William Valk, on 11 September 1943 in Junction City, Geary County, Kansas, having traveled to marry him where he was stationed in the U.S. Army during World War II at Fort Riley.  After their divorce in 1946, she met and later married my step-grandfather, Adrian "Ed" DeVries on 3 October 1947 in Wyoming Township, Kent County.  Grandma died 25 August 2001 in Grand Rapids and was buried at Fairplains four days later.  Today, both the Village of East Grand Rapids and the area in Wyoming Township where she married Grandpa, are now a part of the City of Grand Rapids.

Our maternal (step) grandfather, Adrian "Ed" DeVries, was born 10 June 1916 in Grand Rapids to Jarig Egbert Binnes DeVries and his wife Johanna Bos (their names were Anglicized to George Edward Benjamin DeVries and Josephine Bush).  Ed was the third child and third son of five children.  He attended South High School in Grand Rapids just a few grades behind Gerald R. Ford, Jr., and eventually followed him to the University of Michigan, although the Great Depression cut his college education short.  He joined the U.S. Army during World War II and served as a military postal clerk in North Africa.  After the war, he met our grandmother on a blind date with mutual friends, and soon they were courting.  Our mother started calling him "Daddy" before Grandma even married him!  He raised our mother along with his own two biological children and never treated her any differently than if she were his own.  He was the only maternal grandfather we knew well, having met our Grandpa Valk only a few times.  In fact, of the six grandchildren Grandpa DeVries had, only one was biological, due to step-families and adoption.  He loved us all equally.  Adrian died 6 January 2007 in Grand Rapids, and was buried four days later at Fairplains.

After a nice visit at my cousin's house for a couple of hours, we headed back to our hotel, where I enjoyed the previous week's episode of Game of Thrones, having missed it, and then wrapped up the evening with a couple of drinks from room service.

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