Lenora DeBoer ’69 Ridder
In her own writing, Lenora stated, “The Lord always had a plan for me. It was good, very good, and a hope for the future.”
Lenora (De Boer) Ridder was raised in South Holland, Illinois on July 8, 1927 by Peter and Lena De Boer. She was encouraged to attend Calvin College by her pastor, and by her experience at an office job where she firmly decided that she did not want to “file A under A, and B under B” for the rest of her life! After 2 years, she returned home due to the death of her father, and later, at the age of 42, she graduated from Hope College.
Lenora taught school for two years before Herman (Bud) J. Ridder rang her doorbell to pick her up for a blind date. They soon fell in love, but Lenora made Bud wait for her, because she thought that he could be too silly at times! Together, they raised 3 daughters: Nancy (Roger Brower), Marylee (Marty Carrier), and Carolyn Ridder ’84 (Scott Hoffman).
As a partner in ministry with Bud, Lenora brought her own gifts and talents to the places and people they served. She was a teacher by nature, and she worked with the Bethel Bible Series (she so appreciated the memory of scripture that she gained) and Stephen’s Ministry of Care. Lenora developed a ministry and curriculum of Religious Education for Special Needs children. For this, she received a special recognition by the Reformed Church In America. She served as the Director of Christian Education (pre-K through adult) at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA.
Lenora was compassionate towards sexually abused teens, and tirelessly worked to start a rehabilitating ministry to serve them, called Watson Glenn. She secured the donation of a natural and wooded large piece of property, as well as the support of Allegan County, and a local judge, Judge Grieg. However, resistance to the ministry by the neighbors could not be overcome. Lenora and her team were never able to open the doors of Watson Glenn, but they celebrated that they were able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for ministries already in place. Personally, this was the ministry of which Lenora felt the most proud.
After ministering in southern California, Bud and Lenora returned to Holland, Michigan for their retirement. They started a ministry to serve pastors and congregations, called Possibilities Church Consulting. This ministry took them as far as Nova Scotia! Seeds were planted for another ministry, The Ridder Leadership Conference. The intention was to focus on the spiritual life of pastors and to encourage and inspire them. With its humble beginnings on the 6th floor of the Western Seminary library, it spread like wildfire through the Reformed Church, and into other denominations. For years, Lenora has had both dear friends and strangers tell her how much the Leadership Conference had meant to them personally, often with tears and hugs.
After Bud’s death, Lenora married Gene Vander Wel, another RCA pastor. Diagnosed with cancer shortly after their marriage, she lovingly cared for him in his pain and discomfort. Even on the bleakest of days, Lenora and Gene would lie in bed and remember together all of the things that they were thankful for. She often said that she grew so much in love and in faith during those years, and that she was grateful for them.
In her early years, Lenora loved to climb trees, play ball with her brothers, and roller skate in the “4 corners” of South Holland. She took piano lessons, and later, organ lessons. She played well, and could even play by ear! She would take the bus into Chicago as a teenager to hear concerts. Once, she answered a question on air at a downtown Chicago radio station and won a large set of pots and pans. Then, she had to figure out how to take them home on the bus!
Lenora saw her home as a place of ministry, too. She kept her home immaculately clean, while also making sure that every one who entered felt very comfortable being there. As a pastor’s wife, she made time and place for her friends and neighbors, and was pleased to think of her home as welcoming. She loved to entertain, and never needed much of an excuse to bring out her china and best dishes. A few months ago, at Christmas, Lenora made sure that her table was lovely, a gift to the loved ones around it.
During her years as wife to the President of Western Seminary, she used the large parsonage, the Beechwood House, for ministry, as well. Lenora opened her home to 5 unwed mothers at different times, so that they could experience life and love in a family before they gave birth. When the call came at midnight asking if Lenora and Bud would host one of the first Japanese exchange students between Tokyo’s Meiji Gaukin University and Hope College, our family’s lifelong friendship with Noriko was born. Azariah, a seminary student from India, was warmly welcomed. His wife, Kruppa, made us dinner one evening and used literally every pot and pan in the house!
Lenora loved to knit, play games, and was an avid reader. When Bud died, a friend offered her instruction to become an accomplished bridge player as a gift to her while she grieved. In her eighties, she was still out golfing the men! She had her first Sea Doo ride at age 89. She beat her grandchildren at Bocce Ball soon after. She had a green thumb, and excelled at raising orchids and Christmas cacti.
Lenora was preceded in death by her husbands, Herman and Gene, by a daughter, Fay, and her brother, Harry. She loved being a grandmother and great grandmother (GG) to Mary and Marty’s daughter Julianne (Paul) Wesselink and their children, Finley and Sullivan and to Christine (Andy) Ruemenapp and their children, Miles and Marlo.
Lenora was beloved Oma to Carolyn and Scott’s children: Jamie, Catherine, Justin, and Nathan. She loved well, and was loved well in return. May Lenora’s memory be eternal unto God!