Friday, August 28, 2020
2:00 PM EDT
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
1700 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508
Elim Christian Schools
13020 Central Avenue
Crestwood, IL 60418
Life Story / Obituary
Kenneth Beelen was born December 26, 1924 to Martha (Zylman) and Henry Beelen at 434 College Ave., Holland MI. He was the second of 7 children – Laura, Ken, Howard, Marv, Vern, Milt, and Thelma. His childhood was heavily influenced by the “Great Depression.” Ken and Howie began working at a young age to help support the family. The young entrepreneurs had their own little business called Beelen Brothers Ash Haulers – You call, We haul.” Other pursuits included biking after school to Harry Deur’s farm on East 24th Street (site of the Holland Middle School today) and selling gladiolas on 8th St. in Holland.
Pearl Harbor Day occurred while Ken was a senior at Holland Christian High School. Following his graduation in 1942, he was drafted into the army. His basic training took place at Camp Polk in LA where he was placed in an armored infantry division. From there he went to Fort Ord in CA where his outfit was transferred into an amphibian tractor battalion. They traveled by ship to HI and finally to the Philippines, where he participated in the invasion of Leyte Islands. Moving on to Okinawa, he was there when the atomic bomb was dropped and would have been in the invasion of Japan had that not occurred. The war years were a defining time for Ken. It was his first experience away from a sheltered and loving home. Because he could type, he served as field clerk for his battalion, the 536th Amphibious Tractor Battalion. Their function was to bring the infantry to shore from the large ships. Living in tents in a humid, mosquito infested tropical climate with wartime dangers tested his faith and endurance. For the remainder of his life he told stories about his time in the army.
Following the war, he returned to Holland and began working in his father’s construction business. On October 23, 1946 he married Elaine Huyser. They met at her Grandpa Renkema’s farm located in Pine Creek, North of Holland. Elaine, who was from Chicago was spending the summer there with her cousins and grandparents. Ken and Elaine’s first home was a basement house on East 27th Street, built by Ken and his dad. Martha was born in 1947, followed 13 months later by Beth. They moved to West 13th St. where Karen was born in 1950. With the family expanding again, they moved to 136 East 19th St where Sandy, Kathy and Joan were born. In 1965, the family moved to 86 East 32nd St. In the summer of 1965, Kenneth Henry was born – Ken and Elaine’s first son. When “Buddy” was five years old, they felt called of God to open their home to other children needing a home. In 1970, Tim joined the family at age 9 months. Michael followed in 1974 at age 2 and Gary in 1976 at age 5.
With the sudden death of Ken’s father in 1962, Ken took over the building business and successfully operated it until his retirement in 1992. Elaine worked with him as bookkeeper. He and several other builders chartered the Holland Homebuilders Association in 1968. He treated his employees with fairness and respect. In or around 1980, Howard came to work with him. Ken often commented on how well he and Howard got along. They retired together in December, 1991 when Ken closed the business.
Ken was a diligent and faithful husband and father. He provided well for his family, working long and hard hours. He was the parent who got up during the night to feed the babies, tend to sick kids and sit with us through thunderstorms. He was first to rise in the morning, eating his bowl of Corn Flakes at the kitchen table while reading the Daily Manna. He would often leave the Bible open on the table, which in later years we realized he did intentionally. On Wednesday nights when mom went to Ladies Aid, he and the kids cleaned the house.
Not only did Ken work hard at home, he was a faithful church member and community worker. He served as deacon, elder and Sunday School teacher at Central Ave CRC and later at Providence CRC. After his marriage to Aggie, he joined Holland Heights CRC with her. He had a heart for missions, supporting them financially and by making sure the girls always wrote letters to Aunt Laura who was serving as a missionary in Nigeria. He taught his children to tithe first before spending any money, a lesson he had learned from his parents. He exemplified this by keeping a little black “tenth box” in his bedroom drawer (which mom sometimes borrowed from – to Ken’s great frustration).
Ken served on the Holland City Council from 1973 – 1981, when Lou Hallacy (whom Ken admired) was mayor. In 1979, he made an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Holland. He also served on various committees and boards through the years.
In his middle years, he took up golfing and became a huge fan of the sport. He and his friends loved competing with “greenies and sandies” but he insisted it was not gambling. After being diagnosed with diabetes in his mid 60’s, he began walking 2 miles a day, 6 days a week. With his disciplined exercise program and his wife’s nutritional vigilance, he was able to control his diabetes without meds for many years. He continued to walk at Menards every Thursday morning with one or two of his daughters when he was no longer able to navigate well outside.
In 1992, Elaine was diagnosed with ALS, which took her life in 1995. Ken faithfully cared for her at home. On November 8, 1996, Ken married Agnes Beagle, Vander Ploeg, Michmerhuizen. They spent 24 contented years together and many happy winters at their mobile home in Tucson AZ. The remainder of the year they lived at Centennial Farms condominiums until they moved into Appledorn Assisted Living in 2019.
Ken often took guys out for lunch or coffee, because they were lonely or hurting. His morning routine always included a bran muffin and coffee with the guys at Southside Inn. He remained helpful around home – always loading and unloading the dishwasher and vacuuming the floors.
Ken was the proud grandfather of 29 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and 1 great, great grandchild, as well as the father and step grandfather of Aggie’s 3 children, 7 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
He will be remembered for his fairness, generosity, heart for others, discipline in daily life and love for golf (even though he couldn’t always find the green). We give thanks for a faithful Dad and Grandpa who loved us and his Lord to the end.
He is survived by his wife Agnes and his children: Martha and Bruce Frens of Jamestown, Beth and John Bouws of Holland, Karen Walker of Paterson, NJ, Sandra and Steve Hirdes of Tucson, AZ, Kathleen Beelen of Grand Rapids, Joan Beelen of Grand Rapids, Kenneth and Nancy Beelen of Holland, Timothy and Tonia Beelen of Cleveland, TN, Gary and Teresa Beelen of Battle Creek, MI and Michael Beelen of Holland; step children: Michael and Barb Vander Ploeg of Holland and Brenda and Scott De Jonge of Zeeland; 37 Grandchildren; 41 great grandchildren; one great great grandson; brothers and sisters: Rev. Marvin Beelen of Grand Rapids and Thelma Pelon of Zeeland; sisters and brothers-in-law: Barbara Rinella, Mary Beelen, Nancy Beagle, Thelma and Orve Deters, Shelby Beagle and David and Teresa Beagle; many nieces and nephews
A private funeral service with military honors will be held at Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church, 836 E 8th Street in Holland. Rev. Douglas Bouws and Rev. George De Jong will be officiating. Burial will be in Pilgrim Home Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 4-7 pm, Thursday, August 27 at Dykstra Funeral Homes-Mulder Chapel, 188 W 32nd Street in Holland (please wear a mask). Memorial contributions may be given to World Renew, 1700 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508 or Elim Christian Schools, 13020 Central Ave., Crestwood, IL 60418.