Life Story / Obituary
Dick Doeden, age 83, of Holland, died in peace on July 15, 2021 at Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids with his wife of 57 years, Nancy, by his side.
Dick was born in Grundy Center, Iowa on July 12, 1938 to Henry and Frances (née Siemsen) Doeden, the youngest of three children. Dick learned to write letters from his mother, and he and his sister Margaret, who is 14 years his senior and lives in the Southeast, have remained close by writing letters all of Dick’s life. He first started “picking and grinning” with his older brother Gerald; Dick on guitar and singing tenor, Gerald on banjo, singing bass. He continued this love throughout his college and ministry years; his memory will live on in some old country gospel hymns sung in four-part harmony!
Dick grew up wanting to be a farmer just like his dad. He loved the work, and especially the horses. Land wasn’t available to him to become a farmer, so following graduation from Dike High School in 1956, he attended Central College in Pella, Iowa where he studied Education. During the summer of 1959, he served as a youth leader and Sunday School teacher, among other things, at the R.C.A. Winnebago Indian Shelter in Nebraska. He was recruited to the RCA ministry in Annville, Kentucky upon graduating from Central in 1960. Nancy Oonk of Oostburg, Wisconsin, who he met in college, agreed to marry him, even though he purchased a horse with his savings that were meant for an engagement ring. They were wed on August 3, 1963. She joined him at Annville Institute a month later and became his partner in life and ministry. Dick served first as a science teacher and then the farm manager until 1969. All three of Dick and Nancy’s children were born during this time in Kentucky: Kurt in 1964, Debbie in 1966, and Rick in 1969.
Dick continued his teaching in Wisconsin near Nancy’s folks from 1969-1971. The family spent the summers at Cran Hill Ranch, a camp with horses in Michigan where Dick served as the program director; counselors made lots of fun out of asking campers to find out the name of the city where Dick was born.
Heeding a call to ministry, Dick moved the family to Holland, Michigan to attend Western Theological Seminary (WTS). In 1975, having interned at Christ Memorial Church (CMC), he earned his Masters of Divinity degree. CMC called him to be their Associate Pastor of Congregational Care, a position he held until 1979. He credits CMC for opening his eyes to the blessings of team ministry. At their family home on Graafschap Road, Dick set up his father’s Stoughton wagon in their front yard. It became even more of a spectacle when their neighbor, the late Al Kindig, crafted a cowboy for the wagon and animals for the lawn out of plywood. The Doeden kids loved their new “play set,” especially Rick, a fellow horseman.
The next phase of ministry brought Dick adjacent to his beloved Iowa farm country; in 1979 he became the solo pastor of The Reformed Church in Dell Rapids, South Dakota. Dick served there from 1979-1985, where Rick acquired a horse and boarded at a friend’s place. Kurt and Deb completed high school in Dells, and both ended up attending Hope College in Holland, Michigan where Dick and Nancy have become big fans (like the windmill located here). Dick didn’t miss his two eldest for long, as he accepted a call to be the Associate Pastor of Congregational Care of Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1985.
Dick served in Grand Rapids for 15 years, during which time 4 of his 7 grandchildren (Henry, Steve, Grace, Charlie, Jack, Jacob, and Sage) were born. Nothing blesses his heart (his words, used often) more than his family. Dick is fondly known as “Opa” to his grandchildren and it brought him great joy to make pancakes for them, on demand: plain, gluten-free, blueberry, apple, granola, chocolate chip, or all/everything!
For his final ministry, Dick joined the staff of First Reformed Church in Holland in 2000 as the Associate Pastor of Assimilation and Congregational Care. Even after his retirement in 2006, the celebration for which included horses, Dick served behind the scenes at First Church, connecting new people to members who would help them belong at First and belong to Jesus.
What Dick wanted to share with everyone he met is that “Jesus loves me/us and Nothing! will ever separate us from the Love of God.” As his friend and pastor Dan Gillett wrote in 2011 on the occasion of Dick’s Distinguished Alum award from WTS, “He really was a farmer. He cultivated people instead of crops. He cared for people instead of animals. He went after the strays, took care of the hurting, fed and watered the flock.” You blessed our hearts, Dick/Dad/Opa/loving child of God!
Dick is survived by his loving wife, Nancy; three children and their families: Kurtis and Heather Doeden, Steven and Jacob; Deborah and Timothy DuMez, Henry (fiancé Kelsey King) and Grace; Richard and Amy Doeden, Charles, Jack, and Sage; his sister Margaret Lawless; his sister-in-law Dorothy Doeden; his brothers-in-law, Frederic Oonk and Rodney and Barbara Oonk; and many nieces, nephews and their families.
Dick was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Frances Doeden, brother, Gerald Doeden, brother-in-law Wilfred (Buddy) Lawless, sister-in-law Alice Oonk, and nephew James Lawless.
A visitation will take place on Thursday, July 22 from 6-8pm at Dykstra Funeral Home - Northwood Chapel. A memorial service will be on Friday, July 23 at 11am at First Reformed Church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to First Reformed Church, 630 State St, Holland, MI or a charity of your choice.