John Van Eenenaam ’51

John Phillip Van Eenenaam, 91, passed away peacefully on Easter morning, April 4, 2021, after a brave fight against cancer, at Heartwood Lodge, Hospice House, in Spring Lake. He lived an active 91 years infused with family, faith, fun and lasting friendships.

A man full of life and love, John gave generously to his family and to his community which he served in many ways. John had two successful careers – 20 years in the Navy (four years of active duty and 16 years in the Navy Reserve) and 43 years in private law practice.

John was a graduate of Hope College, where he was a legacy member of the Fraternal Society. He went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan. While at UM, he was a member of the Glee Club and stayed active in alumni events and concerts throughout his life, celebrating their 150 year anniversary in 2009. He never stopped learning. Later in life, he obtained a Master’s Degree in Taxation from Grand Valley State University. A close law partner friend of John’s said that he “knew his area of the law and diligently kept pace with its changes.”

He also studied the Mandarin language at Yale University before spending two years in Taiwan serving the US Navy in their intelligence branch. Marianne joined John in Taiwan for this adventure where they were married in 1957. John and Marianne would later welcome children, Susan, John Andrew, James Gordon and Julie Ann. John and Marianne endured the loss of their son, John Andrew, to Leukemia in 1969.

Returning from Taiwan, he started a law practice with his father, Gordon, a prominent Muskegon lawyer and former state senator. Upon the unexpected death of Gordon in 1960, John went to work for Muskegon Bank and Trust, before going into private law practice.

John and Marianne moved to Grand Haven in 1971 and he became a partner in the firm Landman Luyendyk. He left that firm in 1985 and formed Van Eenenaam and White, with Randy White. In 1997, the firm merged with Scholten Fant. Throughout his law practice, he freely offered guidance to new lawyers. And, his experience in the law made him a valued contributor to several boards of directors.

John said upon his retirement from Scholten Fant in 2010, “you try to live a life of service to the community.” He did just that throughout his career and beyond. John’s list of community service is extensive and includes serving as President of the Ottawa County Bar Association, Chairman of the building committee of Christ Community Church, Grand Haven Rotary Club member, President of NEIDEC, President of the North Ottawa Community Hospital Board and board member of Grand Haven Bank and Kandu Industries.

Music was basic to his life. A source of pride was John’s founding membership in the West Michigan Banjo Club. The WMBC brought years of enjoyment playing his beloved 4-string banjo at “gigs” across West Michigan and creating good friendships and memories with other passionate musicians. Over the years his collection of various stringed instruments grew and grew.

But, John was also known to build a dollhouse, birdfeeder or a chessboard from scratch, freeze backyard ice rinks, sail an MC or C scow on Michigan’s inland lakes or play a respectable round of golf. As a youth growing up in Muskegon, one of his many jobs was delivering milk by horse drawn trailer. John worked hard and was diligent in reaching his goals, which led him in many directions.

Kindness, generosity, humility, authenticity, boundless energy and a sometimes slightly goofy sense of humor were basic to his life. Friends will remember his arrival at a costume party decked out in top hat, bowtie and tails, but substituting boxer shorts for the formal trousers. John and Marianne traveled frequently over the years with countless trips to visit family in Puerto Rico and California, and Europe, India, Thailand and Nicaragua.

John was born June 20, 1929, in Grand Rapids, to Gordon and Isla (Pruim) Van Eenenaam. Siblings David of Watertown, NY, and Isla VerMeulen, of West Olive, followed soon after. John grew up in Muskegon, with memorable summers spent at Sylvan Beach on Lake Michigan and White Lake.

John was a devoted husband, and proud father and grandfather. He is survived by Marianne. He is also survived by Susan and Orlando Fiallo (Dorado, Puerto Rico) and their children Julian and Ana; James and Sblenda (Dana Point, CA) and their children, Olivia (Rob), Sofie, Claire, Elena and Liliana; and Julie and Chris Barrett (Kinshasa, DRC) and their children Isabel and George. He is survived by his brother David (Elena) and family; sister Isla (Victor) VerMeulen and family; sister-in-law Jeanne (Tom) Birch (Milwaukee) and family, close cousin Alyce DePree (Saline) and family; and many special friends including Kristin Gauri and family, Burkshire Drive neighbors, the Muskegon WOTS and MOB, Christ Community friends, lifelong friend Jim Perry, WMBC bandmates and his many professional colleagues over the years.

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