Eulogy for Wilma Veldman
December 16, 2016
In recent days,
messages to our family have referred to Mom in wonderful terms from dear
friend and good listener to matriarch and role model. We believe that she
was a vibrant and loving mix of all the traits and accolades attributed to
her. But most of all, to us, she was a loving mom, Oma, and great Oma. Her
89 plus years were a testimony to the magic of love, passion, hard work, a
sense of humor, and unceasing religious conviction.
Momís story had a
humble beginning that she embraced throughout her life. Wilma Zents was
born at home on a farm in the town of Vorden. The farm was owned by a baron
and his family, who lived in a castle encircled by a moat with swans. It
was easy to be humble and thankful later in life when you started as Mom
years saw World War II and the German occupation of Holland. Momís ferocity
and passion were on display when she responded to a German officerís
question with the Allied victory sign. Opa Zents later pointed out the
unnecessary risk she had taken, but deep down weíre sure he was proud of
It was during the
War that Mom met Pete Veldman and the love story that we have all witnessed
began. By 1949, when Dad left to seek a new life in America, they were
engaged. Although Dad did not return until three years later, their
engagement stood strong in a time when the only communication was a weekly,
handwritten letter. When Dad returned in August 1952, Wilma overcame some
concerns about marrying quickly after the long absence and about her
fiancťís waistline reflecting an apparent appreciation for the US Army mess
tent in Korea. They were married on August 30, 1952.
Mom and Dad built
their business careers from the ground up. They gardened for the Sisters of
St. Francis, managed a farm in Three Oaks, and worked in the Ball Band and
Studebaker factories. Beginning in 1956 with a Standard Oil Service
Station, Mom and Dad owned and operated a series of businesses, often in
partnership with Dadís siblings, which ultimately led to the founding of the
Mom and Dad faced
many business challenges through the years, but together they overcame
obstacles with the same determination and spirit that fueled their
successes. Wilma was a good businesswoman and a great counterpoint to
Pete. Dad was all about marketing and sales. Mom was a careful and
conservative spender and an effective credit and collections person.
Together they were a great team in business, just as they were in life.
After Dad died,
Mom moved to Holy Cross Village. It was a difficult transition, but she was
helped by many new friends. She was a regular visitor to the workout room,
the library, and St. Josephís Chapel. We are so thankful to the residents,
staff, and leadership of the Village for their friendship and love.
Mom may be best
remembered for her generosity. Most of Dadís brothers and sisters who
immigrated to America found their first home with us. While Mom and Dad
supported many causes and organizations, she took the greatest pleasure from
helping individuals address their life concerns or visiting someone in
need. In recent years, she made occasional visits to Our Lady of the Road
to share a meal with the guests at that gathering place for the poorest of
our community. We were all struck in her last days by the generosity of
Momís focus on making each visitor to her hospital bed feel loved,
appreciated, and important. She particularly appreciated each of the
doctors, nurses, and staff at St. Joseph Health System, who took such great
care of her.
We cannot let this
moment pass without a word about Momís love for Notre Dame and its sports
teams. My older brothers and sisters remember the 1964 last minute loss to
USC that cost Notre Dame Football a national championship. Dad came home
from work as that game ended and everyone was crying. Dad thought that
level of emotion should be reserved for more important moments. Mom quickly
pointed out the error of Dadís reasoning and returned to mourning the loss.
A year ago, Wilma Veldman became an honorary alumna of the University of
Notre Dame. She simply beamed at this unexpected honor that recognized a
lifetime of loving Notre Dame. How appropriate that the Golden Dome was
clearly visible from Momís hospital room.
In this past week,
God must have felt bombarded with the rosaries, novenas, and Masses being
offered for Mom. After it became apparent that Mom would not be recovering
from her tragic fall, there was an outpouring of prayers and support. At
the Tire Rack Christmas Party, a moment of silence shared by over 500 Tire
Rack team members and family produced a powerful burst of prayer for Mom. We
know that Masses were said for her intention in Rome, Fatima, Holland, East
Africa, and in many churches in America.
We developed a
picture in our minds of Momís soul being lifted in prayer to heaven by all
those whom she touched in life. Each of those prayers is being offered by
someone who has their own story of the difference that Mom made in their
life. It is a beautiful picture that we will hold close to our hearts as we
miss our dear Mom every day.
We know that Mom
and Dad are together again. There is a certain symmetry to their reunion.
Following their engagement, they were separated for about three years before
their marriage. Sixty one years of true love and devotion then culminated
in another three year wait to be reunited. They are happy. Our sister,
Audrey, Momís granddaughter, Allison, and so many beloved family and friends
are with them. We must accept and share their happiness.
you to all who braved the cold to be with us this morning. Many have
traveled long distances to be here. Your presence is a great tribute to
Mom. Let us remember each other in prayer as we say goodbye to Mom.