Lenora VandenBerg ’64 Koelbel

Lenora VandenBerg ‘64 Koelbel passed away on Saturday, November 6, 2021 after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Known to most as Norie, she was a kind, caring Christian with energy and passion for global education, understanding the past, and the power of the written word. Norie was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1942. In high school, she visited a family friend at Hope College and knew that she wanted to go to Hope. Her four years at the college went fast as she made the most of her time. She served in the student senate and was a member and president of the Sigma Sigma Sorority. She participated in the Nykerk Cup Competition for four years, including two as class chair. She graduated with a teaching certificate and English major. It was during her time at Hope that she also met John Koelbel ’64. They were married in 1964.

Following graduation, both felt a call to the west and moved to Missoula, Montana in 1967. Norie taught fifth grade. Their daughter, Dr. Nikole Koelbel ’94 King, was born in 1972 and their son Ross Koelbel was born in 1976.  While teaching, Norie developed a unit on local history which led to her book, “Missoula: the Way It Was”, published in 1983. During this time, Norie and John opened a bookstore and started a wholesale children’s book business.  They hosted book fairs and presented at education and library conferences.

During their 33 years in Montana they spent time traveling to Mexico. In 2008, they moved to Chapala, Jalisco and continued to live life to the fullest. They attended a Spirit-filled church and Norie continued to lead as an active member of three community service organizations. In 2017, she began her service on the Hope College Alumni Association Board of Directors, traveling back to campus from Mexico twice each year. She and John were members of the Dimnent Heritage Society and donors to a number of scholarships at Hope. Norie last brought her passion and energy back to her alma mater for the fall 2021 Alumni Board meeting.

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