Family Histories

John Davids and Katherine (Kay) Swierenga: A Family History

[Written by Robert P. Swierenga. Katherine was his paternal aunt, a sister to Robert's father John R. Swierenga, January 2000]

John Davids was born in Chicago on November 2, 1914, as the oldest son of Nich Davids and Minnie Bonda. He graduated from Ebenezer Christian School on Ashland Avenue and attended Chicago Christian High School in Englewood until he reached age 16, when he dropped out and went to work.

In the 1930s John with a loan from his father bought a small intra-city trucking company, Monroe Cartage. He expanded the business by soliciting new customers, such as rising giant Alberto-Culver, a manufacturer of hair shampoos, conditioners, and toiletries. In the prosperous World War II years he hired additional drivers, notably Al Haan, a fellow church member, and bought new trucks.

Katherine (always called Kay) was the second daughter and third child of Robert and Grace Swierenga. She was born on Oct. 17, 1914 in the family home at 1404 South Kedvale Avenue and baptized at the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church by the Rev. Jacob Manni. With her arrival, Grace had her hands full with three children under four; Etta was just 19 months. Kay also graduated from Timothy Christian School in the class of 1928, and enrolled in Chicago Christian High School until reaching age 16. She worked in a variety of jobs for more than seven years, but primarily at the Western Electric Company's Hawthorne plant in Cicero, until marrying at age 23.

After the usual period of catechism instruction, she made public profession of faith in the Second Cicero CRC and participated in the young ladies society with her sister and sang in the choir.

John and Kay began dating in January 1935 and after three years were married in the Second Cicero CRC on July 1, 1938, by the Rev. P. A. Hoekstra, the father-in -law of Kay's brother John. For four years they rented a flat in an apartment building on 16th Street immediately south of Kay's folks, and in 1942 they bought their own home at 1413 South Lombard Avenue on the very western border of Cicero. It was a substantial red brick bungalow with living and dining rooms, three bedrooms, and a large kitchen. John had a special brick garage built at the rear of the lot off the alley that was large enough for his truck and his car, a 1939 De Soto, their first car.

Here they raised four children: John Clarence, born July 19, 1940 at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park; Jeralyn Grace, born a year later on September 3, 1941 at Danish American Hospital in Chicago; Kathryn Mae, born July 9, 1943 at the same place; and Glen, born April 16, 1950 at "West Sub." Glen Robert was ten months old when his father died from acute leukemia on February 20, 1951. The family doctor, William Vetten, had diagnosed the disease shortly after Glen's birth. John battled the disease for eight months, including experimental radiation treatments at Illinois Research Hospital. The funeral on the 24th was in the same church as his marriage and interment followed at Forest Home Cemetery in the Davids family plot in the "Dutch section."

The loss not only left a young widow and four children to raise but a trucking business to operate. The Swierenga family discussed the situation with Katherine and it was decided that her brother Ralph, then a 32 year-old driver for brother John's Excel Motor Service, would take over the management of Monroe Cartage. This was a good decision. Ralph succeeded beyond all expectations and was able to support both his and Kay's large families from the profits of the growing company. This support was sufficient to cover Timothy Christian School tuition at both elementary and secondary levels, and Calvin College as well for John and Jeralyn. After all the Davids children were adults, Ralph became the sole owner of Monroe Cartage.

In 1963 and 1964 three of the Davids children married. Jeralyn was first. At Calvin College she met fellow student Bruce Ryskamp (born January 27, 1941) of Grand Rapids, Michigan and they were wed at the Warren Park CRC (formerly Second Cicero) on August 17, 1963 by the pastor, Rev. Fred Van Houten. They had three children. John married one year later in the South Holland CRC on August 7, 1964 to Doreen Hoekstra (born in Chicago October 18, 1938). They had two children. Kathryn married the same year, on November 13, 1964, in the Warren Park church to Ken De Vries, also by Rev. Van Houten. Ken owned and operated a garbage disposal business in Chicago. The couple had seven children. Glen remained single and lived at home more than forty years.

After Glen completed his schooling, Kay took a part-time job in 1968 at the Good News Publishing Company stuffing envelopes with Christian tracts and other printed material. The evangelistic purpose of the company and the spiritual atmosphere in the work place perfectly suited Kay, who was a sincere believer. She did this work for 18 years until 1986. At church Kay was active in the Ladies' Society, first in Cicero and after moving to Oak Brook Terrace in 1967, in the Elmhurst CRC. She attended Christian Missionary Union rallies in area churches and enjoyed summer vacations at the Cedar Lake Bible Conference grounds at Cedar Lake, Indiana.

In 1994, just prior to her 80th birthday, Kay moved into a room at the Saratoga Grove Retirement Home in Downers Grove, across the hall from her sister Etta and husband Paul Tuitman. She enjoys reasonably good health, but has failing eyesight. Along with all her siblings, she also suffers from hearing loss, which is enhanced by hearing aids. She testifies to God's goodness and has eternity in her heart.

Written by Robert Swierenga, October, 1994.