Donald DeYoung ’52

Rev. Donald “Don” H. DeYoung passed away peacefully on March 30, 2022 while under hospice care in Kalamazoo, MI. Rev. Don was 91 years old and had his wife, Jackie, bedside when he went to be with his Lord.

Don was born November 14, 1930 in Grand Rapids, MI to Mamie and Neil DeYoung. After graduating from Central High School (1948) he went on to receive his BA from Hope College (1952) before completing his MDiv from Western Theological Seminary (1955). Don later received an honorary doctorate from Hope College (1971).

While at Hope College Don met a young woman named Jacqueline VanHeest, and infamously attempted to get her attention by disrupting her science lab experiments. Despite his weak attempts at flirting, Don and Jackie fell in love and were married in 1955. That same year they set their sights on New York City, where Don began working with the East Harlem Protestant Parish (EHPP) and Jackie worked as a nurse. The EHPP was an important step in Don’s ministry as he worked across denominational and societal boundaries to “bring the church to the people.” Stepping into an ecumenical initiative connected him to local clergy and the needs of the communities they were serving. Within 2 years, Don was called to continue his ministry at Elmendorf Reformed Church in Harlem, New York, where he led the effort to minister to the total community as a “Protestant Parish for All People.”

While at Elmendorf Don became very involved in the Civil Rights movement and helped to develop the Elmendorf Opportunity Center-an after school mentoring program. After 20 years of ministry in New York, Don and family moved to Kalamazoo where he served as the Minister of Outreach at Second Reformed Church, and began to cultivate deep ecumenical and civic relationships across the city. Don never lost sight of God’s mandate to care for the most vulnerable and overlooked persons. He remained very involved in efforts for racial justice, ministry for the homeless community, the incarcerated population and their families, as well as visiting those homebound for prayer, communion, and worship services at local nursing facilities. During his time in Kalamazoo, Don took over as lead pastor of Twin Lakes Reformed Church where he eventually “retired.” For those who know Don, that word carried very little meaning. Throughout his years of ministry, he was the recipient of the Liberty Bell Award (1981), Community Service Award (Martin Luther King Celebration, 2011), Senior Statesman Award (Northside Ministerial Alliance 2012), CROP Award (2018), and the ISSAC Award (2018), and was a part of a variety of religious and civic organizations, including a lifetime member of the NAACP.

Alongside ministry Don loved spending time with his family. He was a lover of the arts and would frequently attend community music and art events. For those who knew Don well, the one place he seemed to be able to truly relax was at the lake – really any lake- where he could “wet a worm” and see if anything was biting.

Don was survived by his wife, Jackie VanHeest ’52; sons Don DeYoung  ’78 (Jan) and Kevin DeYoung  ’80 (Kim); daughters Bonnie DeYoung-Smith ’82 (John) and Shari DeYoung-Pruis (Mike); grandsons Joshua Pruis (Angie), Jeremy Pruis (Annie), AJ Pruis (Melissa), Jesse Smith, Zac Smith (Allison), David DeYoung, Cesar DeYoung, and Mateo DeYoung; as well as two great-grandchildren, Rowen and Elodie Pruis. Don is also predeceased by both parents, Mamie and Neil DeYoung; his sister, Marge Bigelow; and his brother, Bob DeYoung.

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