Robert Palma

The family of Robert Palma of Holland,
Michigan, who died on Oct. 17, 2020. He was
86. He retired from the Hope College faculty
in 1994 as a professor emeritus of religion
after teaching at the college since 1966.
His courses during his last semester at
Hope included Basic Christian Thought,
Perspectives on Christ, and Holy
Spirit and Christian Spirituality. He taught
a variety of other courses during his time at
the college, including Senior Seminars and
independent studies. Survivors include his wife,
Mary Harmeling ’61 Toppen-Palma; children,
Janine Palma Vandenberg and Rob Palma;
sister, Sandy (Ray) Kieft; stepchildren, Julie
(Mark) Lester, Jon (Christina) Toppen ’84, Jill
Toppen ’88 (Danny) Faulconer and Joel (Karen)
Toppen ’91; 15 grandchildren; and seven greatgrandchildren.


Robert James Palma ended his earthly pilgrimage on October 17 at home and transitioned into the resurrection of eternal life. He was born May 10, 1934 to Jay and Jeannette Palma in Grand Rapids. He attended Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Calvin College, and Calvin Seminary. Study continued In Edinburgh, Scotland. Returning to the U.S., Bob served as pastor for a church in Iowa City, Iowa followed by a return to Edinburgh for additional study. He retired after a long teaching career in the Religion Department at Hope College.

Bob married Eleanor Vanderbeek (deceased) in 1957. They raised three children. Bob’s marriage in 1988 to Mary Toppen increased the family to include Mary’s children and grandchildren. Bob and Mary’s family brought joy to their lives.

Bob’s life was enriched by membership in Third Reformed Church, and he enjoyed singing in the choir. He also enjoyed attending concerts, playing the piano, playing saxophone in bands and combos, and traveling.

Bob was preceded in death by daughter, Fern Palma.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Toppen-Palma; children, Janine Palma Vandenberg, Rob Palma; sister, Sandy (Ray) Kieft; stepchildren, Julie (Mark) Lester, Jon (Christina) Toppen, Jill (Danny) Faulconer, Joel (Karen) Toppen; grandchildren, Allan (Kaitlyn) Palma, Adam Palma, Megan Palma, Glenn(Audrey) Lester, Phil (Alana Griffith) Lester, George (Regan Dewhirst) Lester, Heather (Brian) Akers, Shelby (Joe Newmeyer) Laufersky, Lizzie Faulconer, Carson Faulconer, Lucy Toppen, Finn Toppen, Zeke Toppen, Abby (Jim Ross ) Katt, Sam Katt; great-grandchildren, Emma Palma, Howard Lester, Adeline Lester, Hadley Akers, Wyat Katt, Alaina Dockery, Ava Dockery, along with sisters and brothers in law, nieces and nephews

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