On a bright, sunny Tuesday morning, January 16th, 2018, at the age of 102, our mother, Jean Sheldon departed this Earth to join her heavenly family.
Mom was born as Jantje Dekkinga on April 24th, 1915 in a tidy little house in Zuurdijk, a small village in the Province of Gronigen in The Netherlands. It was there that she learned to skate on the canals, bargain with fish mongers, and ride her bike around the windmill that still stands to this day on the edge of town.
In early April of 1927, just before her 12th birthday, Jantje boarded the S. S. Volendam in Rotterdam with her parents, three of her four older brothers, and 4 year old sister and sailed for America. Had they waited a few days longer they may have even had the opportunity to wave at Charles Lindbergh as he was making his historic flight across the Atlantic. As it was, they landed in New York and quickly made their way to their intended destination, Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was there that she chose her Americanized name, Jean.
Having spent about a year living and working in Grand Rapids, her parents had saved enough money to pursue her father’s real goal in coming to America—owning his own farm. The family moved to an area south east of Grand Rapids near Gun Lake and began raising vegetable crops. And it was there, a few years later, that Jean was engaged to the young farmer across the road, Ray Sheldon.
Despite the natural handicap of Dad not being Dutch, they made a good match. They married in Indiana on October 25th on their way to a honeymoon at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. The following year they bought land outside of Grant, Michigan, built a home, and began raising onions there.
They welcomed their first daughter, Marilyn, into their family in October of 1934. Eleanor came along in 1935, Carol in 1941, and Steve in 1955.
Among the traits that wove their threads throughout Jean’s long life were those of hospitality, hard work, and perseverance in the face of challenges. Ray, Jean, and 4-year-old Steve moved to the rural Neshkoro area in 1959 to start yet another vegetable farm on a larger and completely undeveloped property. Even though she was now separated from most of her family by an eight-hour journey, she was able to turn a small house and a bare field into a welcoming home and a blossoming garden that her children and grandchildren will never forget.
Mom was preceded in death by her parents, her siblings, her husband, two of her sons-in-law, and her first granddaughter. Almost all of her many old friends are also gone. But her memory is cherished by her daughters: Marilyn (Alvin) Vander Woude, Eleanor (Howard) Witte, Carol (Jon) Schutter, and son: Steven (Barbara) Sheldon. She is further survived by 10 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, 17 great-great-grandchildren, many nephews and nieces, her oldest long-time friend, Lucille Doege, and the many members of her church family.
Funeral services will be held at 11 A.M. on Saturday, January 27, 2018 at Zion United Methodist Church, Neshkoro with burial to follow in the church cemetery. The family will greet relatives and friends at church on Saturday, January 27th from 9:30 A.M. until the time of service at 11:00 A.M.