Funeral services for Iris Vander Wal, 85, of Pella were held Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2019, at the Peoria Christian Reformed Church. Jesus welcomed Iris home early in the morning of Mar. 9, while residing at The Cottages in Pella. Memorial contributions given to Peoria Christian Reformed Church will be designated for the music program or World RENEW.
Iris Joan (De Jong) Vander Wal was born Dec. 23, 1933, the first child of Gerrit and Frances (Blom) De Jong on a farm southwest of Peoria. Over the next 15 years of her life, Iris moved with her parents to various farms in the area before settling down on the “Blom family farm” north of Peoria. She and her five siblings learned the value of hard work early in life, helping their mom in the kitchen and garden and working alongside their dad doing chores on the family farm.
Iris received her education at Peoria Christian School and Pella Christian High School, graduating as salutatorian for the Class of 1952, with whom she gathered regularly for reunions over the years. She spent the next two summers taking education courses at Calvin College to equip her for teaching grades 5-8 at Leighton Christian School for a year and grades 2-3 at Peoria Christian School the next year.
During her grade school years, Iris was also learning to read music and play piano. Her love for music grew as she began playing organ at Peoria Christian Reformed Church when she was 14 years old. Throughout her life, she accompanied many groups, played piano and organ in worship as well as at funerals and weddings, and directed church and school choirs, receiving a State of Iowa Volunteer Award from Governor Terry Branstad for her eight years of service at Peoria Christian School. She also taught piano lessons for 55 years and was a charter member of de klokkenluiders bell choir, directed by her daughter Kris.
While she was still in high school, a young tenor named Gilbert Paul Vander Wal invited her to accompany his men’s quartet. Four years later, they were married, settling on the Vander Wal family farm in the Lower Grove neighborhood, south of Peoria, where they raised four children: Loren Gene, Kristie Ann, Lisa Kathleen, and Bruce Galen. Iris worked hard to care for her family, baking bread and cookies, sewing, gardening, and preserving a vast array of produce.
In 1989, Iris and Gilly moved to Pella when their son Bruce took over managing the farm. Gilly took a part-time job at Vermeer Corporation, and Iris began working part-time at the Pella Historical Society. This eventually became a full-time position as receptionist for the Pella Historical Society, where she played a significant role each year in the management of Pella tourism, especially during Tulip Time, until her retirement in 2014.
Iris has described her story as “a very ordinary life, made beautiful by the love of God and the love of my family and friends. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know of Jesus and his love for me.”
Iris is survived by her four children and their families: Loren (Marilee) Vander Wal of Pella, Kris (Dale) DeWild of Pella, Lisa (Bruce) Groenendyk of Leighton, and Bruce (Noreen) Vander Wal of New Sharon. Iris leaves her brothers and sister and their spouses: Kenneth (Arene) De Jong of Pella, Eugene De Jong of Pella, Norman (Helen) De Jong of New Sharon, Verna (John) Vander Kooi of Akron, OH, and Gaylord (Twila) De Jong of New Sharon.
She was preceded in death by her husband on Dec. 6, 2012; her parents; and her parents-in-law, Peter and Johanna (Leydens) Vander Wal.