age 87, entered into his eternal home with his Lord and Savior on June 30, 2012. He is survived by his wife, Audrey; their sons and daughters-in-law, Dennis and Vicki, Dave and Diane, Mark and Rosemary; grandchildren, Holly and Aaron Willis, Amy and Dan Bayer, Dawn, Janna, Kurt, Neal and Jack Van Allsburg; great-grandsons, Deagan Willis and Isaac Bayer; and his brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Bonnie Van Allsburg. A service to celebrate Earl’s life will be held on Tuesday, July 3 at 2 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends are invited to visit with his family on Monday from 7-9 PM and on Tuesday from 1 PM until the time of the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either Matthew’s House or Faith Hospice are appreciated.
Earl Van Allsburg was the kind of man that everyone liked to be around: easy-going, warm and engaging, and without a mean bone in his body. Although Earl also had a successful career and many hobbies, the main focus of his life was always his family. A faithful husband, father, and grandfather, Earl’s family knew every minute of every day that they were loved.
Earl was born on May 2, 1925, to proud parents Arie and Frances (Leiffers) Van Allsburg. Although Arie and Frances christened their young son Earlwin Arie, he soon became known to one and all as simply Earl. Earl was a good kid, who did what he was supposed to, worked hard, and looked out for his younger brother, Robert. The Van Allsburg family faced some difficult times in those years – during the Depression, they moved nineteen times. Through these challenges, Earl learned the value of persistence, economy, and faith in the Lord. Some of Earl’s happiest childhood memories were of trips to his grandparents’ farm in Coopersville, where he and his brother enjoyed playing in the great outdoors.
As a young man, Earl attended Union High School. Before he could graduate, however, he was drafted into the Army Air Corp. Earl got the chance to finish his high school education while in flight school, after which point he was sent to Guam. Earl faced many dangers while overseas, serving as an aerial gunner flying missions over Japan to bomb oil supplies. He was deeply influenced by the horrors of war, but rarely discussed his experiences.
After returning safely home to the States, Earl enrolled in Grand Rapids Junior College. In his free time he learned to play several instruments, including the clarinet and saxophone, and he soon joined his brother’s “Big Band” band. One evening, his brother invited him to join his girlfriend and himself on a double date. Earl’s date, whom he met for the first time that night, was a young lady named Audrey Roetman. Their romance developed slowly, and over the next few years Audrey and Earl continued to get to know each other. In the meantime, Earl started attending classes at the University of Michigan as an architecture student. In addition to drawing, Earl also picked up an enthusiasm for U of M football that would last his whole life. On August 11, 1951, Earl and Audrey were proud to invite friends and family to their wedding ceremony. For the next sixty plus years, through all that God had in store for them, they were inseparable best friends. Their loving devotion to each other was a wonderful steadfast example to family and friends.
After living in Ann Arbor for Earl’s last year of schooling, the young couple returned to Grand Rapids. Earl supported his family by working at J&G Daverman, where he would be employed for many years. He also worked on his own for a few years, but found that he enjoyed drawing much more than the business side of things. He later joined Post Associates, where he stayed until his retirement. At home, Earl and Audrey were blessed with the births of three sons: Dennis, Dave, and Mark. Earl was a wonderful father, and loved spending time with his boys. The family enjoyed traveling, often camping and taking spring break trips to Tennessee and Kentucky.
Earl was a man of deep faith, and he tried to live his life following in the footsteps of Christ. He was a longtime member of Richmond Reformed Church, and served the community as an elder, deacon, and youth leader. His family describes him as a quiet servant – not one to talk about his accomplishments, but someone who was always there when needed, always willing to lend a helping hand.
After Earl’s retirement in 1995, he had more time to spend on his hobbies and travel. He was very athletic, and enjoyed playing tennis, playing golf, and jogging. In fact, he kept playing golf even after his eyesight had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer see the ball clearly! His sons play golf as well, and Earl enjoyed the chance to spend time with them. Earl and Audrey also enjoyed socializing, and kept in touch with many friends. When it came to their social life, Audrey was usually the instigator, but Earl always went along and had a great time. Most of all, in these later years of his life Earl loved spending time with his grandchildren. He had a special place in his heart for each one, which was evident from the time he spent with them and the way he treated them.
In the final years of his life, Earl fought a long and drawn-out battle with macular degeneration. The first symptoms showed up around the time of his retirement, but it was only in recent months that the illness seriously impacted his life. In April, health problems led to hospitalization, followed by residence at the Christian Rest Home.
Earl was a kind and warm-hearted man, who went out of his way to encourage and comfort others. A devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, and a true friend, Earl will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by his many friends and family members.