Elton Bruins ’50

Elton John Bruins, age 92, peacefully passed away on March 23, 2020. Elton was raised on a farm in Fond Du Lac County, Wisconsin, as the second of five siblings. After a WW2 stint as a Navy recruiter in Chicago, Elton enrolled at Hope College. After graduating in 1950, Elton entered Western Theological Seminary receiving his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1953. He continued his theological studies at Union Seminary in New York City. Elton and Elaine Redeker were married in June of 1954. In 1955, he and Elaine began serving the Elmsford Reformed Church in Elmsford, NY. Their 2 children were born during their time there. In 1961, they moved to serve at the Protestant Dutch Reformed Church of Flushing, Queens. Elton pursued his doctoral degree work at New York University completing his Ph.D. in 1962.

In 1966, the family relocated to Holland, Michigan when Elton began as an Assistant Professor of Religion at Hope College. He loved teaching, mentoring and interactions with his students. Elton was Department Chairman from 1977-1984; Dean for the Arts and Humanities for 5 years and Interim Provost for a semester in 1989. Retiring from teaching in 1992, Elton became the first Director of the Albertus C. Van Raalte Research Institute. The fledgling Institute started at a desk in Van Zoeren Hall. After 25 years, it continues the mission of researching and writing in the field of Dutch-American Studies of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Elton loved the research that led to writing several books. He was proud of the history of Third Reformed Church in Holland, The Americanization of a Congregation. His other books often centered on the history of Holland, the Van Raaltes, and Hope College. His final endeavor was Envisioning Hope College published in 2011. In that he left his legacy proving that Philip Phelps, Jr., the first President of Hope College, was the founder of Hope College, not Albertus C. Van Raalte as was previously believed.

Elton participated in and often led many church and community organizations including the Holland Historical Society, the Board of the Holland Museum, the Holland Classis of the RCA, and the Historical Commission of the RCA. He was instrumental in organizing the Joint Archives at Hope. These endeavors did not overshadow his love for Third Reformed Church where Elton and Elaine have been long time members and participants on many committees.

Elton is survived by his wife, Elaine; his daughter, Mary Bruins ’78 Plasman  of Westmont, Illinois, and his son, David (Elizabeth) Bruins ’80 of Springfield, VA. Elton was the proud grandfather and Pop-pop to 6 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren – James (Seana) Plasman (Benjamin, Caroline, Emily) of Arlington, VA, Katherine (Keith) Halley (Laina, Nolan) and Thomas (Natalie) Plasman, all of Arlington Heights, IL and Christopher, Matthew, and Dylan Bruins of Springfield, VA. Elton is survived by in-laws Mrs. Glenn Bruins, Mrs. Henry Bruins, Mr. Harold Redeker and several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by siblings, Joyce Vande Zande, Glenn Bruins, Henry Bruins, and Cynthia Redeker.

The family is very grateful to all the caregivers and staff for their kind and loving attention to Elton’s needs while a resident at Copper Harbor at the Inn at Freedom Village.

Hope College press release on Elton Bruin

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