Gysbertha Ver Meer was born Mar. 27, 1926, in Pella, daughter of A.T. and Jennie (Van Heukelom) VerMeer. She would later be known as Bertha, Berts, Mrs. Brouwer, and ended her days on earth as Bertie to many and as Gramma Great by my grandchildren and as Great Nanny by Jerry’s. I called her Mom.
My mom attended Sunday school and catechism classes where she “always aimed to memorize more texts than any other pupil and get the highest honors from my teacher” at First Christian Reformed of Pella, where she made Profession of her Faith in June of 1944. Mom was also a member at the Newton Christian Reformed Church in Newton, Iowa, and was currently a member of Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella.
Most of my mom’s formal education was at Pella Christian Grade and High School, graduating with nine other students in May of 1944. During mom’s high school days, she was unsure of her future. She considered becoming a secretary or receptionist, a missionary and even (for a brief time) a farmer’s wife. Her family traveled quite a bit where she “witnessed the beauty of God’s creation and His almighty power in governing this universe.” But she also saw “the corruptness of this nation and the people of low morals.” She was confirmed that “something should be done about that matter.” She wasn’t interested in a career where she could only “earn quick money without doing much for the Master’s cause.” So with the aid of a 98-dollar scholarship, she enrolled at Calvin College in September of 1944, with the goal of becoming a teacher.
My mom met John William Brouwer in August of 1945 on the merry-go-round at Pella Christian Grade School, and they were married on June 2, 1948. Following their marriage, my parents moved to Battle Creek, MI, where Dad worked at Kellogg’s and Mom taught school for a year.
On Sept. 7, 1951, my brother, Jerry Arlan, was born, and in 1952 they moved to Newton, Iowa where I, Becky Luann, was born on Mar. 30, 1954. Mom and Dad were part of a group of like-minded parents in Newton who desired that their children receive a Christian education. The Newton Christian School opened in August 1957, and Mom started teaching there and serving as principal from 1958 to 1963. She began teaching in the third and fourth grades at Pella Christian School in 1965, so that she could transport Jerry to Pella Christian High School (along with several other students). When Jerry could drive, my parents became the Newton-to-Pella Christian bus service providers, sending two nine- passenger station wagons (sporting wood paneling!) to Pella each day. We continued this service until I graduated in 1972, at which time my Mom continued the commute, spending the time in planning and praying.
Mom began to further her education at William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa, earning her BA Degree in 1979. It was during the years between 1975 and 1987 that her seven grandchildren were born.
When Dad retired from Maytag, they moved to Pella in 1982 where Mom continued to teach until her retirement in May 1988. Mom was a school teacher for a total of 33 years, 24 of those spent at Pella Christian Grade School. Her mission statement: “My primary goal is for my pupils to see Christ in me, to realize I am an instrument of His love.”
After they had both retired, they were blessed with 17 years of winters spent in Melbourne, FL, which they thoroughly enjoyed, but due to failing health, they discontinued that in 2005. By then a new chapter in their life was beginning as they became great- grandparents, and our family was blessed with 25 great-grandchildren in 13 years. Nothing brought more joy to my mom’s final years than those precious children who called her “Gramma Great,” along with her special friend, Micah, who called her Gramma Bertie.
They were living at Vriendschap Village in Pella when my dad died on Apr. 16, 2010. Mom then moved to Fair Haven, where she endured a significant stroke shortly before her 89th birthday. Following a couple of months of rehab at Jefferson Place, she became a resident at The Cottages where she lived in Friesland and Zeeland before moving to Noord Holland in January 2017. It was there in her room, where she had lived for nearly two years, that she spent her final days being cared for with great love and compassion, until she passed into glory early Thursday morning, Dec. 6, 2018, at the age of 92 years. Well done, mom, rest in peace.
-Written by daughter, Becky.
Bertha will be remembered by a great number of former students (including her physician Dr. Doug Kanis), her faithful shepherd Lois Van Houweling, friends and staff from The Cottages, and her family: son Jerry (Nancy) Brouwer of Comstock Park, MI; daughter, Becky (Gary) Vos of Newton; seven grandchildren; and 25 great-grandchildren.
Of Bertha’s original family, she is survived by her sister, Ruth (Rev. Dick) Stravers of Holland, MI, and brother-in-law, Dale Vos of Pella. Those remaining of her husband John’s family are his sister, Henrietta (Bastian) Vander Velden of Newton; his brother, Bill (LaVonne) Brouwer of Melbourne, FL; and sisters-in-law, Lois (Garrett) Brouwer of Alma, AR, and Darlene (Allan) Brouwer of Prairie City.
Bertha was preceded in death by her husband, John W. Brouwer; her parents; her brother, Rev. Wilbur “Bud” and Helene VerMeer; her sister, Ednabel Vos; and her parents-in-law, John William and Aleida (Vande Vis) Brouwer.
Funeral services were held Monday, Dec. 10, at Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Pella. For those desiring, memorial contributions in her memory may be designated for Pella Christian Grade School.