Life Story / Obituary
On July 6, 2020 George D. Zuidema MD passed on to his eternal reward after battling a rare blood disorder. He was 92 years of age. George was the son of Jacob and Reka Zuidema. He was born in Holland, MI and graduated from Holland High School and Hope College, where he graduated with honors. He also worked with Dr. Gerrit Van Zyl and with Eugene Van Tamelen as students carrying out early undergraduate research.
He and Joan Houtman met shortly before leaving for graduate school, Joan entering the Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing, and George beginning Medical School at Johns Hopkins. George graduated from Johns Hopkins and Joan received her nursing degree in 1953. They were married and George took his general Surgical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
He served for two years in the U.S. Air Force at the Aeromedical Laboratory, Wright-Patterson AFB at the Human Centrifuge. His work on gravitational stress was later useful in NASA’s Apollo program and he was privileged to be present in Mission Control in Houston as the Astronauts first set step on the moon.
George was visionary in his understanding of the future of the profession of surgery. During 4 years at the University of Michigan he developed his academic career. He was appointed Professor and Director of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He served for 20 years; this allowed him to recognize the importance of specialty surgical training. He was able to mentor many surgical residents at Johns Hopkins, and through the American Board of Surgery and the Association of Academic Surgery. Many of those surgeons have gone on to further the field of academic surgery.
His perspective of the future of Medicine was crucial in the reorganization of the University of Michigan when he and Joan returned to Ann Arbor in 1985. The University Hospital and the Medical School were combined in a single unit. Specialized Centers including the UM Health System were developed while he was vice provost of Medical Affairs there. The UM Cancer Center developed at that time was an immediate success and soon attracted scientists, clinicians, and referred patients from worldwide sources.
His lifetime partner, Joan, supported him in all his endeavors. As a team they raised four children, including them on adventures, including 3 months in Beirut when George was an exchange professor at the American University of Beirut. Both of them were reenergized by the time they spent at Elk Lake.
He and Joan soon moved back home to Holland and to family ties. They soon became active in working for church projects and with not-for-profit enterprises, George continued to serve on the Hope College Board of Trustees. He joined the Resthaven Board and later received Resthaven’s Good Shepherd award and “Seven Over Seventy” awards. He also served on the Board of Directors of Ottagon Addiction Recovery, O.A.R. and for many years was a member of R.O.M.E.O.S.
He is predeceased by his wife Joan and son Michael. He is survived by 4 children: Karen (Bill) Voter, David (Sue) Zuidema, Nancy (Rich) Radcliffe, Sarah Kohl; 10 grandchildren: Allen (Robin) Voter, Andrew (Carolyn) Voter, Brian Voter, Michael (Caroline) Zuidema, Christy (Mark) Metzger, Elizabeth Radcliffe, Emma Radcliffe, Katie Kohl, Parker Kohl and Jennifer Kohl; and 8 great grandchildren: Pippa Zuidema, Henry Zuidema, Tess Metzger, Claire Metzger, Tate Metzger, Drew Metzger, Serena Kohl and Miles Kohl.
A private family graveside will be held at Pilgrim Home Cemetery. No visitation is scheduled. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
His wisdom and consideration for others will be sorely missed. His family would like to thank the staff at the Cancer and Hematology Center, the caregivers at Atrio and Hospice of Holland for their care of George. Those wishing to leave a gift in his memory may leave a gift to the Zuidema student scholarship at Hope College, or to Resthaven.
Arrangements are by the Dykstra Funeral Home-Downtown Chapel.