Serving West Michigan Since 1899

Mary J. Heideman

May 23, 1930 - April 13, 2024
Holland, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Mary Heideman passed away at the age of 93 on April 13, 2024 in Holland Michigan, following a life of service and adventure. Born Mary Menninga in Pella, Iowa in 1930, she made Pella Windows and was valedictorian of her high school and Central College classes and began teaching in elementary education as her husband, Gene, went to seminary. They moved to the Netherlands for his doctoral studies where she became fluent in Dutch and had their first child, Beth. After a stint in Canada working with Dutch immigrants, where she had their second child Paul, they moved to India as missionaries with the Reformed Church and where Ruth and Carl were born. Mary became fluent in Tamil, the local language, and as a teacher worked to improve the lives of women and children.

After they returned to the US in 1970, Mary continued to raise her children and began a career teaching English as a second language, first to children who arrived from Southeast Asia and then at a community college to adults from diverse countries. She obtained a master’s degree in reading from Western Michigan University and learned to speak Spanish. She celebrated the cultures of those she taught and helped them with day to day struggles outside of class. She was always politically aware and worked to improve the plight of the less fortunate as they lived in Iowa, Michigan, New York and Delaware.

Mary was passionate about good governance, fairness, and equality, and was committed to those efforts through the League of Women Voters and other groups. She raised her children to be equally committed to being thoughtful and caring citizens.

Mary was a wonderful mother, dealing well with special needs while keeping the needs of each child a priority. Her children remember her words of wisdom and her ability to make each penny count so the family always lived comfortably, no matter how slim the budget. She excelled as a grandmother to each of her beloved grandchildren, giving them the gift of her attention and time to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood and enrich their development.

After retirement, Mary taught memoir writing to many in lifelong learning classes in Holland, resulting in a published book of memoirs and memories preserved for many families. Her own memoirs were put into a book by Carl for her family to enjoy.

Mary’s partnership with Gene was significant as she gave him the ability to follow his “ivory tower” passions while she managed the details of life. Mary edited and read aloud each of the books Gene wrote before publication to catch errors, give suggestions and polish. She and Gene took many walks, traveled, attended many Hope College sports events and spent evenings on the sofa, holding hands and watching travel documentaries and other shows, listening to music and reading.

Mary was predeceased by her husband, Eugene Heideman and granddaughter Sarah Heideman. She is survived by her children, Beth Christman (Mark), Paul (Laurie), Ruth and Carl (Charlotte, who Mary said was like another daughter to her) and grandchildren: Jack, Hope and Chris Heideman; Tim and Meg Christman; Sarina and Linnea Patterson and her great grandson, Jake Christman.

The family would like to especially thank the staff at Copper Harbor at Freedom Village and Gentiva Hospice for their compassionate and excellent care of Mary.

The family will hold a service this summer. Further information will be provided by the Dykstra Funeral Home.

Donations may be made to the Third Reformed Church, Holland.