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Life Story / Obituary
During her lifetime, Tillie Slayer had seen incredible changes in the world, and yet the things she treasured weren't amazing inventions or items purchased at a store. What she held most dear were her numerous and adored family members. As her family grew to include great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren, so did her heart for each one. Her caring nature also won her many dear friends with whom she spent countless hours laughing and sharing over cards and coffee.
In the early 1920s, the globe was recovering from the devastation of World War I and America was trying to look on the bright side. There were a lot of positive things happening as the Harlem Renaissance was on its way, women received the right to vote, and dancing the Charleston was a favorite pastime. Amid the hustle and bustle, Henry Waterkamp and his wife Tillie were working hard to establish a safe, loving home for their family in Holland, Michigan. Henry was a farmer and truck driver and Tillie managed their busy household. They were excited to learn that there would be an addition to their clan in the spring of 1925. Little Tillie made her appearance on April 12, just a few short years before the founding of Holland's famous Tulip Festival. The family moved throughout the Midwest and Tillie spent time living in central Illinois, lower Wisconsin, and eastern Iowa as well as Holland.
When Tillie was four years old, she was unaware of the financial crisis that stunned the world. The Great Depression was a phrase she wouldn't understand until she was much older, but the lessons she learned at home about making do, being resourceful, and working together with her family were things she would carry with her for the rest of her life. In school, Tillie was a successful student and graduated as eighth grade valedictorian in Ottawa County in 1939. She completed her junior year of high school and then, like many of her peers, left school to get married.
There are moments in life that at the time seem insignificant but are later recognized as crucial turning points. One such moment for Tillie was a stop at Schuling's Gas Station. There was nothing particularly memorable about it until she met a young man named Marinus. There was a spark between them that developed into a lifetime of love, growth, and teamwork. They exchanged vows at the Methodist church and then endured heartrending separation during Marinus' service in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. They considered themselves beyond lucky to be reunited and able to raise seven precious daughters together.
Tillie and Marinus shared sixty-six years and Tillie was devastated when he died in 2008. She took comfort in her remaining family, doting on her grandchildren. She treasured the memories of family camping trips to Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula and always looked forward to the energy and love that accompanied holiday gatherings.
Besides looking forward to visits from her many family members, Tillie enjoyed reading and playing cards with her Friday ladies group. She loved the birds that the different seasons brought to her window and enjoyed sharing her discoveries with guests. Her loving and generous nature insured that those who knew her were certain that they always had a place to go, no matter the circumstances. She leaves a precious example of gentle, unconditional love that they will treasure for years to come.
Tillie died peacefully at home on Monday, November 7, 2016. She was preceded in death by her loving husband, Marinus Slayer; two sisters, Harriet DeGraaff and Olga Huisman; and a brother, Henry Waterkamp. Tillie is survived by her seven daughters: Lynn (Marvin) Rowan, Pamela (Mike) Howard, Nadene (Rick) Nelson, Maureen Slayer, Kim M. Slayer, Jodi Miller, and Kristi (Stan) Northrup; a brother, Gary Waterkamp; fourteen grandchildren; thirteen great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
A visitation will be at Dykstra Funeral Home – Northwood Chapel, 295 Douglas Ave, Holland, Michigan, on Friday, November 11, 2016, from 1 - 4 pm with a time of sharing and reflection starting at 3 pm. Please visit Tillie's memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you may share a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guest register.