Lorraine VerMeulen ’45 Bisbee

Lorraine Bisbee (nee Ver Meulen), age 95, passed away peacefully on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, at Faith Hospice at Trillium Woods in Byron Center, MI.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Gordon; parents, Chester and Jeanette (Hoekstra) Ver Meulen; sister, Nona Brace; sisters-in-law, Helen Bisbee, and Esther Clauter; and brothers-in-law, Thomas Bisbee, and Thomas Clauter. She is survived by her sons Robert and Richard, and many nieces and nephews.

After her birth at Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids, Lorraine lived for her first months in Grand Rapids at a home located on Caufield S.W. The family attended Grace Reformed Church, a few block from their home. Her father was aer. Lorraine’s first trip outside Grand Rapids as an infant was to her Uncle Mart and Aunt Jennie Bouwman’s farm in Allendale, MI. Uncle Mart and Aunt Jennie had five daughters and later as Lorraine grew up she enjoyed going to play amongst the wildflowers in the ravines with the five Bouwman girls. Later this property and the farmhouse would be sold to Grand Valley State College. The farmhouse that Lorraine played in became the first building to house the office of the president of Grand Valley.

In the early spring of 1924, Lorraine moved with her parents to Holland, MI. Her parents bought a home on West 10th St. near Kollen Park, where they had a view of Lake Macatawa. Her mother’s parents, George and Grace Hoekstra, lived a block away on 9th St. so she could visit her grandparents and other relatives frequently. The family attended Third Reformed Church while they lived in Holland. Lorraine was educated in the local public schools, graduating from Holland High School in 1941. Then she started Hope College while she lived at home.

Her father gave her $62.50 each semester for her college tuition. He was proud to see his first child go to college. College wasn’t easy for Lorraine, for she took many difficult science classes. But she persevered and graduated from Hope College with a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in German. While at Hope College Lorraine was an active member of the Dorian Sorority. After briefly working for Holland Hospital, she taught for the Holland Public Schools. In 1947 she was recruited by Arthur Krause, Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, to teach in Grand Rapids, so she moved to Wyoming, MI to live with her parents and started teaching for Mary Free Bed Hospital on Cherry St. S.E. This was a time when polio was still rampant, so Lorraine’s teaching to these children was not easy. Many patients were in “iron lungs”.

In 1953 while at a social gathering at Fountain Street Church, she met Gordon Bisbee and they were married in December of 1953. Since Gordon was a member of First (Park) Congregational Church, Lorraine joined Park Church in January of 1954. Gordon and Lorraine lived in an upstairs apartment on Kellogg S.E., not far from Mary Free Bed Hospital. In 1957 Gordon and Lorraine built a new house on Covell Ave. N.W. in what was then Walker Township. Lorraine would live in this house until September of 2018. They lived very close to Gordon’s parents, which meant many get-togethers with relatives.

After her sons were born, Lorraine went back to teach as a substitute teacher for all grade levels at her sons’ elementary school, Westwood Hills. Lorraine’s passion in life was doll collecting. She joined doll clubs from all over the world and would trade dolls her mother, Jeanette, made. She got to know doll collectors in South Africa, Australia, Poland, Canada, and many other countries. Through her doll collecting, she developed a truly global view of the world. She also enjoyed camping with her family all over North America. Over a period of 10 years, her family visited 48 states and 9 Canadian provinces as well as Mexico. This gave her family a deep appreciation of history and the beauty of the world. Lorraine also enjoyed gardening and sharing produce with friends and relatives. Thanks to Faith Hospice for the excellent care they provided Lorraine for eighteen months of assistance in her home. The family would especially like to thank Lisa, Rob, Thea, Jill and Monica for their loving care of Lorraine in her home. Thanks also to Dr. Therese Rouse for critical assistance during her stay in her home. In addition, thanks to Atrio Help at Home: Jon, Julianna, Emily, and Sandy.

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