Robert Westerhoff ’50
Dr. Robert Jay Westerhoff passed, peacefully on May 3, 2021 in Springdale, AR after 94 years of adventure and caring. Born September 29, 1926 in Chicago, IL to Jacob and Helen (Westerveld) Westerhoff, he was the first of 3 sons. His mother signaled his arrival for family and friends with newspapers over the kitchen windows. Growing up on Chicago’s south side he built forts in vacant lots, hopped cargo train cars, and worked off-loading avocados at a nearby yard. After 1943 graduation from Chicago Christian High School, he enlisted in the Navy Coast Guard at age 17. Following service, he graduated from Hope College in Holland, MI where he met and married Norma M. Westerhoff (Hungerink) his soul mate of 67 years. He earned his MD in 1954 at Michigan’s Wayne University College of Medicine and relocated to Grand Rapids, MI serving as family practice physician for 45 years. Active in Kent County Medical Society he stayed close with physician peers who coordinated on-call patient care and enjoyed weekly card games, scratch golf, snow and water ski outings, and rowdy motorhome excursions to University of Michigan football games. He delivered thousands of babies and charged $6 for patient visits believing all people had the right to select and pay for medical care. Fresh corn and zucchini were not uncommon currency for his house calls and in-office care. After retirement in 1999 he moved to St. Petersburg, FL enjoying daily 3-hour tennis matches and competition in Florida’s senior games. He was an avid sailor in ocean waters accompanying his brother yachtsman Dr. Warren Westerhoff. Together with brother Gene Westerhoff the trio completed an epic Atlantic crossing shortly before Gene’s passing in 1988. A world traveler, he drove through all lower 48 states, skied the Swiss Alps, hiked the Tetons, fly-fished mountain rivers, swam the Mediterranean, biked Lake Michigan’s shoreline, and explored Europe in a tiny car on $5 a day. He tinkered with woodworking, set up a shop in his garage, and built beautiful custom pieces. Years of practice made him a master craftsman whose works were sold throughout Florida and given as treasured gifts. In 2019 he moved to Grove, OK to spend more time with his daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren. Dr. Bob made friends wherever he went. He was a quiet, confident, intentionally positive man who excelled at living easy surrounded by nature, art, music, and 5 o’clock cocktail gatherings. Family, friends, jazz, and outdoor adventure were the joy of his life. He proudly watched his grandchildren grow into caring, independent adults and was blessed with a precious great-granddaughter in 2012. He was preceded in death by loving wife Norma and brothers Gene Westerhoff and Dr. Warren Westerhoff. He is survived by daughters Susan Gorney of Grove, OK and Mary-Ann Westerhoff of Hammond, IN, son Steven Westerhoff of Albuquerque, NM, son-in-law Robert Gorney of Grove, OK, and sister-in-laws Kathleen Westerhoff of San Diego, CA, Helen Koepke of Naples, FL, and Eileen Young (Chuck Young) of Holmen, WI. Carrying on his legacy are beloved grandchildren Dr. Casey Fenger (Dr. Melissa McIntyre) of Salt Lake City, UT, Robert Parker Fenger (Kendra Bryce and son Maverick) of Salt Lake City, UT, Van Westerhoff (Araceli Lagunas) of Highland, IN, Ivy Westerhoff (Kyle Barrett) of Buckeye, AZ, Wyn Westerhoff of Hammond, IN, Ian Westerhoff (Aliveya Bishop) of Hammond, IN and great-granddaughter Emma Delilah Lagunas of Highland, IN. Several nieces, nephews and cousins survive him including Jill Koepke of Naples, FL and Julie Westerhoff of Weirsdale, FL. A private family service will be held with burial in Bay Pines National Cemetery, St. Petersburg, FL.