Family Histories

The Frank Doezema Family History

by Robert P. Swierenga
Last revised Jan. 2013

The Tjerk Doezema family

The Frank Doezema Family History

By Robert P. Swierenga

Last revised 20 August 2009


[Corrections and additions requested. Send to Swierenga@hope.edu or 616-786-2896]


As for man, his days are like grass,

He flourishes like a flower in the filed,

The wind blows over it and it is gone,

And its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

The Lord's love is with those who fear him,

And his righteousness with their children's children--

With those who keep his covenant

And remember to obey his precepts.

Ps. 103: 14-18


The Frank Doezema family was rooted in the province of Groningen for at least seven generations. They were confessing members of the Hervormde Kerk Nederland, the national or “state” church. But after the Secession of 1834, the family affiliated with the more orthodox seceder denomination, the Christelijk Greformeerde Kerk. The oldest known progenitor of the family is Wijger Jansen of Oldekerk and Teeke nee ?? of Doezum, who were married on Nov. 11, 1683 at Doezum. This village near the Frisian border stood within a ten-square mile radius in which the branches of the family had lived for hundreds of years.

The seven generations are:

Wijger Jansen (married 1683) of Doezum

 Folke Wijgers (1693-17??) of Doezum

Wijger Folkes  (1724-17??) of Sebaldeburen

Tjerk Wijgers (1767-1810) of Sebaldeburen

Wieger Tjerks Doezema (1804-1873) of Grootegast

Tjerk Wiegers Doezema (1837-1922) of Grootegast

Frank Doezema (1871-1967) of Niezijl


Early generations

Wijger and Teeke Jansen of Doezum had seven children: Jantjen (June 21, 1696), Jan (Jan. 8, 1688), Folke (Sept. 6, 1691), Folke April 2, 1693), Lamke (Aug. 18, 1695) Boete (Feb. 28, 1697), and Lampe (Aug. 4, 1700). Folke, the fourth child and third son, was given the same name as his older brother, who had died in infancy.

Folke Wijgers of Doezum married Beerentje Heerkes (born April 26, 1696 at Doezum) on July 4, 1717 at Doezum and the couple had four children: Wieke (born April 17, 1718), Renske (born May 4, 1721), Wijger (born Sept. 3, 1724) and Heerke (born May 30, 1728).

Wijger Folkes of Doezum, the second child and firstborn son, married Elizabeth Jans (born April 22, 1725 at Grootegast) at Sebaldeburen on Mar. 5, 1747 and became a schoolteacher in the village. The couple had only two known children: Wicher (born Mar. 29, 1748) and Tjerk (born Feb. 2, 1767 at Sebaldeburen).

Tjerk Wijgers, a day laborer (dagloner) married Grietje Wiggels Hazenberg (born Sept. 24, 1769 at Oldekerk) on Dec. 21, 1794 at Sebaldeburen. The couple had three children: Wiggel (baptized May 16, 1795), Wijger (baptized Dec. 9, 1804 at Sebaldeburen and died at Grootegast in 1873), and Pieter (baptized March 8, 1809). Tjerk Wijgers died at De Leek on Dec. 21, 1810 and Grietje Wiggels Hazenberg died Aug. 11, 1849. At Wijger’s untimely death at age 43, he left his widow to raise the children, the youngest being less than two years of age. Widow Grietje worked for 39 years as a laborer (arbeidster).

Wieger Tjerk Doezema (1804-73, a farm laborer (boerenknecht) at Sebaldeburen, was the first to use the name DOEZEMA. On May 14, 1837 at Grootegast, he married Kornelia Alberts Zwart (born at Grijpskerk Mar. 15, 1813 and died in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 18??), daughter of Albert Zwart, the skipper of a fishing vessel. The couple had five children, all born in house no. 31, Sebaldeburen: Tjerk (born “prematurely” less than four months after the nuptials on Aug. 2, 1837), Rinktje, born Jan. 28, 1841, and named after maternal grandmother; Albert, named after his maternal grandfather: Grietje, named after her fraternal grandmother; and Pieter, named after his uncle. Weiger was a 27-year old farmhand at the time of Tjerk’s birth and Kornelia was 23. Albert and his wife Cornelia later had a daughter Rentje who married Erwin Ezra Arthur, a descendent of American president Chester A. Arthur. Weiger and Cornelia Doezema are buried in Fulton Cemetery in Grand Rapids. Her tombstone bears the misspelled name Dossema.


Immigration of Tjerk/Charles and Anskje/Agnes Doezema

At 27 years of age, on May 21, 1868, Tjerk Wiegers Doezema married Anskje Fokken Hofstee at Doezum. She was born on Apr. 26, 1841 at Grootegast, a small farming community. According to a family history, entitled “Tjerk Doezema and Anskje Hofstee” (Grand Rapids, undated), “her ancestors are recorded for the previous 200 years as having lived within a 10-mile radius of her family home.” The history continues: “During the Napoleonic occupation they took the last names of Hofstee (paternal) and Nicolas (maternal). Anskje’s grandfather died six months before her father was born in 1813. Letters written by her father late in life indicate a lack of education.”

Tjerk and Anskje lived in a farmhouse outside Grijpskerk for many years and they had six children in eleven years in Grijpskerk and Niezijl. Later, after immigrating, two children were born in Grand Rapids, Michigan--Albert who died in infancy in 1881 and his namesake Albert, born Aug. 14, 1883. The seven children who survived infancy and lived to a ripe old age were Wieger/William (Sept. 29, 1869-Aug. 11, 1956), Tokke/Frank (July 16, 1871-Nov. 21, 1967), Kornelis/Neal/Corniel (Jan. 22, 1873-Mar. 2, 1967), Auktje/Annie (Mar. 27, 1875-Dec. 31, 1970), John (Nov. 17, 1878-Mar. 26, 1969), Rense/Riner/Ryn (Aug. 14, 1880-Nov. 21, 1977), and Albert (Oct. 14, 1883-Jan. 19, 1974). One son died in infancy, Albert, born Dec. 15, 1876, date of death unknown.

Tjerk worked as a farm laborer (arbeider), but he scrimped and saved to buy an acre of land to raise garden vegetables and graze his milk cow. The children worked on neighboring farms to bring in extra income by cutting hay and other grains, weeding, and the like.  The family home was a typical Dutch farmstead, with the dwelling portion and barn all under one roof (see sketch). Times were hard for any family without farmland, and Tjerk and Anskje decided to immigrate with the family to America. The year was 1881 and both were in their early forties.

Family tradition is that Tjerk was reluctantly persuaded to immigrate by his blind and widowed mother Kornelia Zwart Doezema, who wanted to be near her widowed daughter Reinktje Nordhof. Reinktje had immigrated to Grand Rapids the year before with three children. The timing was auspicious. The year 1881 was at the onset of the harsh agricultural crisis of the northern Netherlands in the 1880s that set off a heavy out-migration. Hundreds, even thousands, of families left the villages and countryside of Groningen and Friesland during that decade. Kornelia Doezema is buried in the center of the Fulton Street cemetery under a headstone with the family name mispselled "Doesema."

Tjerk and Anskje Doezema immigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan with six children, ranging in age from infancy to eleven. The infant Riner, who bore the name of his uncle, Tjerk’s brother, was only six months old. The family took passage at Rotterdam on the Netherlands America Steam Navigation Company’s vessel W.A. Scholten, arriving at Castle Garden in New York harbor on April 16, 1881. The children recalled that the voyage was “very stormy, long, and rough.” In New York, Kornelis and Anne were lost for a time and the only English words they knew were their destination “Grond Rhopids.” Once the children were found, the family boarded a train for Michigan.

Accompanying the family were three relatives—Manus Doezema, age 24, a bricklayer; Pieter Doezema, age 29, a farm laborer; and Tryntje Doezema, age 23, without occupation. Tryntje may have been Pieter's wife. A second Doezema family on the same vessel was “Widow” Doezema, age 66, with five grandchildren (?): daughters Cornelia age 11 and Eune (Anna?) age 9, and sons Wieger age 6, Jelke age 4, and Albert age 4.  This widow was probably Tjerk’s aunt, since the widow’s oldest son was named Wieger, after her husband’s father, Wieger Tjerks, according to the Dutch naming custom. The families of Jan and Willem Pastoor took passage on the same voyage. Tjerk Doezema’s daughter Annie married Cornelius (Charles) Pastoor (Aug. 9, 1875-19??), the oldest son of Jan Pastoor. So, unbeknownst to her, Annie at age 3, crossed the ocean with her future husband, then age 9.

Three of Anskje Doezema’s siblings also immigrated to Grand Rapids in 1881—sisters Antje/Hanna Hofstee, who married Peter Prins; Martha Hofstee, who married Frank Huizenga and had three sons and two daughters; and brother Alardus Hofstee, a humpback who never married. He lived with his married sister Antje for many years and had a "ready-made" shoe store. After suffering a debilitating stroke in 1905 and recuperating for a year, he moved his merchandize to the house and sold from a room at the front sidewalk. All these Doezema siblings and spouses are buried in the Fulton Street cemetery.

“At the time she [Anskje] did not realize that she would never see her parents again, because they had plans to emigrate also; they never did.” The family history continues: “Her father signed his letters: ‘Your father and mother F. Hofstee and Johanna Vinkers,’ which indicates her birth mother, Anktje Nicolas, had died before Anskje left Holland. In September 1882, her father wrote: ‘I have been sick…. I have had the drinks from the doctor and on the thirtieth of August I finished my last drink and then I went out again to work.’ He was then 69 years old and not well off; in the half-dozen letters known to remain (dating to 1890), there is no mention of their emigrating.”

The next year, in 1882, according to the Emigration Records [Landverhuizerslijsten] of the municipality of Hoogkerk, Groningen, Albert Doezema also immigrated to North America with his wife and four children. Albert, a laborer age 35, belonged to the Christian Gereformeerde Kerk and was likely Tjerk’s close relative. Where he settled in America is still unknown.

The Doezema families likely chose Grand Rapids because the well-regarded pastor of the Seceder church in their village of Niezijl, the Rev. Geert Boer, had accepted the call of the Spring (later Bates) Street Christian Reformed Church. The family had to cross a canal to reach Boer's church, but it was worth the inconvenience. Boer baptized most of the Doezema children and was a family friend. He later became the first professor at Calvin Theological Seminary. Boer had an irenic spirit and was able to defuse conflicts among the devout and strongly opinionated Seceders. Cornelius “Neal” Pastoor, grandson of Tjerk’s sister Annie, recalls once that a group of conservative men from the church went to Boer’s home to complain about the decorations on his wife’s hat—too many cherries, they said. Boer asked his wife to bring out the offending hat and a pair of scissors. He then told the men to cut off as many cherries as they thought appropriate.  That silenced them.


Tjerk/Charles and Anskje/Agnes Doezema family in Grand Rapids

In Grand Rapids, the Tjerk Doezema family settled first near East Fulton and Diamond streets, in an area known as the “Brickyard.” It was dominated by Zeelanders speaking their Zeeuwse dialect. “We always thought they were speaking English,” daughter Annie recalled.

In 1905, the family relocated further south to 819 Dunham Street, S.E., near Eastern Avenue. It stood directly across the street from the Immanuel Reformed Church. This was a solid middle class neighborhood near to Baxter Christian School, Grand Rapids Christian High School, and the future campus of Calvin College. This home is still standing and in use.

Tjerk, who also used the American name Charles, held a variety of jobs in Grand Rapids, beginning with digging sewers. He was used to hard work and no job was beneath his dignity. “As the story has is, his boss would tell him to slow down, but because he couldn’t understand English, Tjerk thought he was being told to work harder. So he worked harder—whereupon the boss would again tell him to slow down, again with the opposite effect. Tjerk complained to his wife about the hard work and eventually quit.”

Tjerk had an entrepreneurial spirit that was typical of Dutchmen, Groningers in particular. He wanted to be his own boss and wasn’t happy until he began making money. He bought a horse and wagon and became a rag collector/peddler, buying old rags and hawking pots and pans. With the earnings, he bought an empty lot and built two cheap houses, which he rented out. Soon he had taken up the carpentry trade full time, although he had no formal training or apprenticeship, and built many houses on streets he platted and named Stormzand and Doezema Court. The family moved into one of the houses on Doezema Court. The site was near Fulton and Diamond in the southeastern sector. The homes are still occupied today. A drive down the streets finds them narrow and the houses packed close together. Tjerk sought maximum profits from his real estate venture.

 Most of his sons worked alongside their father in the construction business, but not always in harmony. According the granddaughter Dora Tjerk especially clashed with John, who he once chased across a roof with his saw in hand.  John quit and went into furniture making, and brothers Riner and Cornelius soon joined him. Riner declared that he “didn’t want to build ‘those cheese boxes’ any more.” The oldest son, Will, who had first worked in a factory, developed a drinking problem and left town, marrying in haste at age 19. Without the labor of his sons, Tjerk stopped building houses too.

The sons seemed to have little love for their father. He had a temper, seemed driven to succeed, and could be difficult. He had only one speed—fast. “He always walked and worked as though in a hurry.” His sons thought their father treated his prized team of horses better than he did them. Moreover, Tjerk kept his son’s wages and gave them 25 cents a week until they were 21. Tjerk saved and invested his money in “houses and lands,” including a farm that son Cornelius worked as a tenant. He died a wealthy man, worth $10,000 when the going wage was $1 a day. Even in old age, Tjerk bustled about in his back yard on Dunham Street, feeding his chickens and tending to the vegetable garden.

Religiously, Tjerk Doezema was a practicing Christian, although his mother described his father Wieger as an unbeliever. Tjerk led his family in devotions every evening at mealtime, reading the Bible and offering a prayer of thanksgiving. In Grand Rapids, the Doezema family initially joined the East Street Holland Christian Reformed Church (later Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church), where Tjerk served as an elder in the early 1890s. But, as granddaughter Harriet Doezema Knott explained, "Because of certain objections raised to having group family visitation of members of the congregation living in the East Fulton Street area, Grandpa, along with others, became instrumental in the organization of the Dennis Ave. Christian Reformed Church." The date of organization was Feb. 6, 1893.

Tjerk was elected one of the first two elders at Dennis Avenue CRC, and once was elected a delegate of Classis Grand Rapids East to the denominational synod. This was a high honor indeed, and spoke to his upstanding reputation in the church and community. He was “proud and proper” in demeanor; he was the only parishioner, besides the pastor, to wear a suit with “tails” to church. Perhaps this was appropriate because Doezema had donated the land on which the church was built. Tjerk's sons John and Frank also became involved in the life of the congregation. John cleaned the church and Frank, a first year seminarian at Calvin, taught Sunday school and was the first president of the Young Men's Society.

After more than a decade at Dennis Avenue, an unfortunate circumstance involving the pastor drove the Doezema family back to the Eastern Avenue church. The Dennis Ave. pastor, Rev. Eppe (Edward) Vander Vries, apparently had an affair with a woman in the congregation and was forced to leave the Gospel ministry in 1906. While the congregation was in turmoil, the Doezemas in 1905 left and returned the Eastern Avenue CRC, where Rev. Johannes Groen shepherded the flock from until 1919.

Rev. Herman Hoeksema took up the pastorate at Eastern Avenue in 1920, just at the time Tjerk became critically ill with cancer. Hoeksema regularly visited his ailing parishioner and the two had serious conversations. Granddaughter Dora (later Mrs. Adam Persenaire), a teenager who took care of Tjerk, since Anskje was incapacitated, recalls once hearing Tjerk confess to the dominee: “Death I’m afraid of, but not after death.” Tjerk died that year in his home on Dunham Street, having lived to see 83 years. Rev. Hoeksema conducted the funeral in the sanctuary with interment following in Garfield Cemetery. Four years later, Hoeksema was expelled from the denomination over a disagreement concerning the doctrine of Common Grace, and he formed the Protestant Reformed Church.

Anskje, who took the name Agnes, lived in Grand Rapids more than fifty years and never learned to speak English, although she could understand it. That she could live for five decades speaking only her native tongue testifies to the tight Dutch community in Grand Rapids, complete with churches, schools, social clubs, and family networks. Only the grandchildren found it difficult to interact with Grandma Doezema, because of the language barrier. As in the Netherlands, she kept several cows for fresh milk and made metworst to flavor the dinner main dish, pot eten, a combination of potatoes, vegetables, and sausage, all thrown together in a pot. Photographs show Anskje at middle age to be “somewhat corpulent” with black hair into her eighties twisted into a long braid.

Anskje Doezema was a gregarious, gentle soul who relished time with family. She began the long-revered tradition of gathering the entire family together after church services and on birthdays and other occasions during the week. She was truly a “mother in Israel,” and was much revered by the entire family, including in-laws. Granddaughter Charlotte called her “a dream of a lady.” She was easy-going and an excellent homemaker. Her grandchildren remember her in later life sitting in a large black chair, dressed in a black dress with a large skirt and huge side pockets filled with candy and coins, which she happily handed out when the grandchildren came to visit. When she could no longer attend church services because of advanced rheumatism and other ailments, son-in-law Charles Pastoor went over every Sunday to read her a sermon in Dutch.

When the family first arrived in Grand Rapids, the children of school age enrolled in Lake Street Public School. (A September 1892 school photo, which includes 12-year old Riner, is in the possession of his daughter, Mrs. Harriet Doezema Knott). The younger children transferred to Baxter Christian School when it was founded, and most went through the eighth grade. The exceptions were the youngest, Albert, who graduated from Central High School, and Frank, who married and then completed his interrupted education and graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary. According to son-in-law Cornelius “Neal” Pastoor, “the Doezemas mistrusted education; they thought it was too worldly.” It irritated Tjerk when Frank came home from Calvin Seminary wearing a suit and walking with “a ‘no work’ prance.” Once, according to family recollections, Tjerk was painting and “‘accidentally’ dumped a pail of paint on the smartly dressed seminarian.” No strutting or “putting on airs” was allowed in the Doezema household.

Tjerk also had a problem with overt religious piety. After Cornelius and Frank went to a Billy Sunday revival and were “saved,” they “witnessing” about their conversion to the church elders who came to the Doezema home for the annual family visitation. At this, Tjerk remarked that it was “funny they [the boys] didn’t show it more.”

In 1907 Tjerk reported about his family and life in Grand Rapids in a letter to a "true friend" in the Netherlands. The name of the friend is not known because only fragments of the letter are extant. The family member who translated the letter is also unknown. Tjerk wrote in a free style, with little punctuation and capitalization.

I thought I should write you once how it goes with us. things are well with us.  all are well…. We have four married sons the eldest Wieger is farmer 8 children. the 2nd Fokke is Preacher was 5 years 1 hour north of New York now 2 years in grandrapids. the wife is a daughter of B. Top is also some relation to van de Pende 5 daughters. the 3rd Knelis [Kornelis] is Farmer 4 children. The 4th is Auktje has 3 children the husband is from Beem they [have] a butcher shop name is K. Pastoor. the 5th is Cabinet maker and have  2 children. The 6th and 7th erect houses and are not yet married.

You're probably saying how is it going in America. is it better than in the Netherlands. Then the answer is yes, but a marked contrast to one's situation in the Netherlands what occupation one has, it is much better now in the Netherlands than when we went away. so many people are coming to America. At present the land is large enough but work that is the thing. When one has ample work than good money too. For example our 4th son is cabinet maker earns 15 dollars in a factory some 9 and 10 [hours a day] in a week. both the farmers do not earn that. Now city life is also more costly. The farmer himself has a good deal. In the city one has to buy everything and yet there is so much opportunity here not like in the past. The people are beginning to support each other, a carryover from the Netherlands. Fortunately the price of all [farm] products is increasing…. 


Tjerk and Anskje Doezema were prolific and both lived to a ripe old age. At ages 80 and 77 respectively, in 1917 they celebrated their Jubilee (fiftieth) wedding anniversary at their home, surrounded by their 7 children, 38 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren. Their seven children eventually produced 41 grandchildren. This information comes from a newspaper report, which included a photo of their portraits painted in oil by Mathias Alten, a local artist, who was a good friend of son Albert. Tjerk Doezema sat for his portrait in Alten's studio, but Anskje's health made this too difficult, so the artist came to the family home to paint her. Alten's reputation later grew and his oils now fetch tens of thousands of dollars at art auctions.


The Doezema Boys--Farming and furniture

Later William and Cornelius operated farms--William in East Martin, MI some twenty miles south of Grand Rapids, and Cornelius east of the city on East Paris Rd. between 36th and 44th streets. The name DOEZEMA still adorns William's barn, which is visible from US 131 and is still in the family. Riner and John loved to work with wood and became furniture craftsmen. Already in the early twenties, they left home construction for the furniture business. In 1910 they learned the craft while working for, and investing in, the Crisswell Furniture Company at 519 Monroe Avenue N.W. In 1916 the brother sold their financial stake back to Crisswell. In 1922 they and several other investors organized the Cabinet Shops in the same four-story building. This firm went bankrupt in the Crash of 1929, but Riner and John saw the "heavy cloud coming" and sold their interests shortly before the panic hit.

With the cash, Riner and John in late 1929 bought the building at 16 Brown Street S.W. and launched the Doezema Furniture Company of Grand Rapids. They used the same salesmen and customer list as the bankrupt firm. John designed the carved, intricate pieces, drawing for his inspiration on the "old masters" in the Renaissance and English Chippendale styles; Riner focused on the manufacturing and marketing end of the business. The firm prospered and needed more space, so they returned to the larger quarters at 519 N. Monroe where they had their start in 1910. During the annual January furniture mart at Walters-Klingman Building in Grand Rapids, then the furniture capital of America, the Doezemas displayed their furniture line. Riner later was associated with the Mastercraft Furniture Company of Grand Rapids.

The Doezemas only manufactured “high-end” or “fine furniture,” and annually displayed their pieces at the national trade show at the Merchandize Mart in Chicago. A sign in the factory showroom read: "Please do not use profane language." Riner was a stickler about keeping the "Sabbath Day holy," once even refusing to join John on a Sunday evening to remove prized wood from the factory basement when the nearby Grand River flooded its banks. The wood could wait until midnight, Riner insisted, and then he would come. Daughter Harriet Knott recounted these stories of Riner's stern faith.

Harriet's recollections also include an honest picture of Riner's personality, which seemed to mirror that of his father. "He not a joyful Christian; rather he was a doubter" who needed constant assurance of his salvation. Neither did he ever praise or compliment his children or employees, even sons William "Bill" and Charles "Chuck" who worked for him at Mastercraft. Yet, he was proud of all his sons, including Lambert, a minister, and Edward, a doctor.  "As for the girls [his four daughters]," Harriet added, "that was something else." Instead of words, Riner lavished his children with gifts and money.

Frank also expected to go into the furniture business with his brothers, until he felt the call to the ministry, much to the chagrin of his fiancé. Albert was a cashier at his brother-in-law Cornelius Pastoor’s Meat Market in Grand Rapids and later became a dealer in books and antique furniture. Furniture carpentry was hazardous work and several of the Doezema craftsmen lost fingers to the saw and the lathe.


The Second and Third Generations

Wieger/William “Will” Doezema (Sept. 29, 1869-Aug. 11, 1956) married Nell "Nellie" Bishop (Apr. 24, 1870-Jan. 5, 1955) on July 29, 1889, and they had eight children: Charles (Sept. 14, 1892-Sept. ?, 1972), Alard (Allert) (Mar. 29, 1893-Apr. ?, 1983), Agnes (June 17, 1895-Feb. ?, 1978) married (July 5, 1919) to James De Vos (Mar. 7, 1896-Mar. 14, 1965), Anne (1897-1985) married to Lawrence Ryskamp (Feb. 17, 1897-Sep 27, 1948), Frank (Oct. 25, 1903-Oct. 22, 1996), Matilda (Sept. 7, 1905-Mar. 14, 1997), Kate/Kathryn (Apr. 25, 1901-Apr. 17, 1992), and Lucille (Feb. 3, 1915-Dec. 10, 2005) married to Edward Postema (1913-2002).

Fokke/Frank Doezema (July 16, 1871-Nov. 21, 1967) married Celia Top (Oct. 27, 1873-Apr. 29, 1954) on July 11, 1896 and they had six daughters: Pearl (May 18, 1897-July, 5 1980) married (Dec. 15, 1922) to John Zwart (May, 15, 1898-Oct. 19, 1985), Agnes (Feb. 8, 1899-Dec. 9, 1996) married (Dec. 15, 1921) to Gerald Wesselius (Oct. 26, 1897-Nov. 21, 1971), Bernice (Apr. 9, 1902-Dec. 28, 1984) married (Sept. 16, 1925) to Frank Boersma (Aug. 26, 1900-Feb. 22, 1959), Annette (July 13, 1904-July 19, 1987) married (July 19, 1927) to Ted Boomker (Aug. 18, 1901-July 15, 1979), Bertha (Dec. 23, 1905-Jan. 28, 1985) married (June 6, 1928) to Leslie Larson (Apr. 20, 1903-July 19, 1992), and Charlotte (June 24, 1908-Oct. 10, 2010) married (Oct. 29, 1931) to Peter Boelens D.D.S. (Nov. 17, 1908-Feb. 12, 1996). Note that Annette died on her 60th wedding anniversary (July 19).

Kornelis/Cornelius/Corniel Doezema (Jan. 22, 1873-Mar. 2, 1967) married Jessie Vander West (Sept. 28, 1876-Mar. ?, 1954) and they had seven children: Agnes (Apr. 5, 1897-Dec. 5, 1992) married (July 5, 1919) to Phil Persenaire (Sept. 14, 1891-Nov. 19, 1944), Martin (Nov. 24, 1898-Apr. 17, 1996) married (June 9, 1920) to Tena (Trientje) Wegter (July 10, 1896-Feb. 5, 1996), Charles (July 12, 1900-Feb. 17, 1945) married to Nellie Nyenhuis (June 1, 1901-Nov. 1, 1996), Dora (Nov. 30, 1902-Apr. 5, 1999) married to Adam Persenaire (June 12, 1898-May 26, 1977), Ann (Dec. 22, 1907-Sept. 8, 1992) married to Henry Stevens (July 17, 1906-Oct. 5, 1987), Jeanette (Dec. 18, 1909-June 30, 2003) married to Jack De Vries (Nov. 19, 1909-Oct. ?, 1981), and Helen (Sept. 15, 1913-April 10, 2015).

Aukje/Annie Doezema (Mar. 27, 1875-Dec. 31, 1970) married Corniel (Cornelius) Pastoor (Aug. 9, 1875-19??) and they had four children: Charles Pastoor (Aug. 9, 1903-Mar. 28, 1991) married to Jean Stegenga (June 17, 1909-?? 1992), William Pastoor (Feb. 2, 1906-Jan. 26, 1986) married to Dorothy De Vries (1904-98), Hilda Pastoor (July 6, 1907-Mar. 14, 1976) married to Theodore (Ted) Helmus (ca. 1903-15 July 2008), and Agnes Pastoor (May 30, 1911-Dec. 7, 1979) married to Otto Huizenga (Aug. 3, 1908-Dec. 16, 1989). Annie Doezema later in life suffered from mental illness and had to be treated at the Pine Rest Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville.

Jan/John Doezema (Nov. 17, 1878-Mar. 26, 1969), married Trientje Heines (Kate) De Good (July 22, 1882-Jan. 6, 1957) (June 25, 1903) and they had nine children: Chester (Sept. 11, 1903-85) married to Anne Huizenga (1902-82), Harold (Apr. 3, 1905-Aug. 30, 1993) married to Evelyn R. Bergen (June 17, 1907-Mar. 22, 1994), Willard (Nov. 9, 1907-2002) married to Adriana Roebel (Apr. 29, 1908-Nov. 25, 2001), James William (Mar. 5, 1910-Sept. 11, 1993) married to Mae Schuitema (July 20, 1908-Dec. 29, 1997), Frank John (May 14, 1911-May 2, 2007) married to Etta Dekker (Apr. 11, 1913-Dec. 1986) and Esther Ackerman (July 8, 1923-Mar. 19, 1998), Jane (Mar. 2, 1914- July 14, 2002) married (Sept. 27, 1933) to Peter W. Rottschafer (Oct. 19, 1903-Mar. 23, April 13, 19481983), Dr. Cornelius (Jan. 20, 1915-Oct. 20, 1981) married to Alice Buurma (July 27, 1919-Sept. 18, 2009), Angie (Dec. 30, 1917-Oct. 24, 2004) married to Louis Vink (Dec. 22, 1921-Aug. 15, 2000), and Annette (May 17, 1924- ) married (Apr. 13, 1948) to Alvan G. Broodman (Oct. 24, 1924- ).

Rense/Riner/Rhiner (Aug. 14, 1880-Nov. 21, 1977) married Frederika "Reka" Kwant (Aug. 15, 1883-Oct. 28, 1957) on Aug. 18, 1910, and they had eight children: Charles R. (July 6, 1911-Oct. 30, 1996) married to Geraldine F. "Geri" Slopsema (Jan. 28, 1912-May 2, 2008), Rev. Lambert (Dec. 8, 1912-Feb. 23, 2010) married to Johanna Hoeksema (Dec. 11, 1922-Dec. 26, 2002), Angeline F. (Dec. 2, 1913-Sept. 5, 2011) married to Dick Vander Wal (Dec. 19, 1901-June ?, 1968), Harriet (Apr. 22, 1915- ) married to Rev. Edward Knott (Mar. 5, 1922- ), William (Oct. 14, 1916-Mar. 27, 2009) married to Jeanette Alsum (Sept. 28, 1920- ), Edward (July 21, 1918- ) married to Elizabeth Dean (ca. 1923- ), Annette (Oct. 30, 1920- ) married to Herman Hoeksema (Mar. 21, 1920- ), and Katherine Doezema (May 22, 1923- ). Riner and Reka resided briefly in Grand Haven and Zeeland, and then spent the rest of their lives Grand Rapids. Frederika, who devoted herself to her children and family, later developed a debilitating heart condition that limited her activities and eventually took her life at age 75 in 1957. Riner lived on another twenty years, until Nov. 21, 1977. He died at the Christian Rest Home and was buried beside his beloved Reka in Restlawn Cemetery.

Albert Doezema (Oct. 14, 1883-Jan. 19, 1974) never married. He remained at home and gave his widowed mother his devoted attention, waiting on her “hand and foot,” until her death. Albert continued living in the family home on Dunham Street until his death.

In 1924, the 87-year-old Anskje and four of her married children followed Rev. Herman Hoeksema of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church into the newly established Protestant Reformed Church, after Hoeksema’s resignation and expulsion. The Doezemas worshipped in the imposing new edifice on the northwest corner of Fuller Avenue at Franklin Street. Only Frank remained in the Christian Reformed Church. Will, the oldest, joined the Calvary Nondenominational Church of Grand Rapids, founded by the charismatic preacher, Rev. M.R. De Haan, who was expelled from the Reformed Church in America for teaching premillenialism and believer's baptism (in place of infant baptism). Eventually, the Doezema PRs followed the De Wolf faction in the 1951 split and all eventually, except for Corniel, rejoined the CRC.

As Anskje was nearing death in 1927 at 90 years of age, all the children and grandchildren came to say goodbye. The children stood around the bed at her passing. After embalming the body was brought back in a casket and placed in the parlor. Black ribbons on the front door announced the wake. (White ribbons were used for children, purple for the middle aged, and black for the elderly). Rev. Hoeksema conducted the funeral service at the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. In the sermon, Hoeksema recalled Jacob’s reply to Pharaoh: “And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: ‘How old art thou?’ And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, ‘the days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years” (Gen: 47: 8-9). Family members wore black bands on their arms over dresses, shirts, and coats.

Anskje’s death hit Albert, her “baby,” hard. After the undertaker Zaagman had embalmed her body, and his older brothers Will and Riner had picked out a casket, she was brought back home for public viewing. “At noon, when I was alone, they brought her back in a casket, and I spent a short hour alone with her,” Albert wrote in his diary. “It seems to me I will never forget that period. The last time mother and I would be together—alone. Sat. and Sunday quite a few people came, and Monday we buried her…. It was a large funeral—at least 20 cars followed mother to the grave. After the funeral and at night we were all gathered together—and then the parting. Now I enter a new stage in my life.” Anskje was buried alongside her husband in the Garfield Cemetery, Grand Rapids.

Tjerk and Anskje and all their children, except the son who died in infancy, lived to be octogenarians. Tjerk reached age 83, Anskje 90, William 87, Frank 96, Cornelius 94, Annie Pastoor 95, John 90, Riner 97, and Albert 90. On November 17, 1953 the Grand Rapids Press carried a photo and an account of the seven siblings at John’s home celebrating his 75th birthday. The caption declared: “Long, Happy Life for All, Six brothers, Sister Mark ‘542nd Birthday.’” The story noted: “Still going strong after 542 years…. All are active and chipper…. Not only have the seven lived beyond their allotted three score and ten years, but also none of them has lost a wife or husband. William has been married 64 years. Cornelius and Rev. Frank for 57 years each, Mrs. Pastoor for 53, John for 50, and Riner for 43 years. Their married years total 324, or an average of 54 years per couple. ‘But I spoiled it,’ jokes Albert, ‘I’m single.’” Albert, the only sibling born in America, then quipped: “'But I’m the only one who went back over to the old country, and brought back pictures and all,' pointing to a painting of the family farmstead in Groningen. Then the bachelor added in jest: “'And I’m the only one who has the money.'”

When Albert found the family home in the Netherlands intact, he proposed that he and his siblings jointly buy it, have it disassembled brick by brick, shipped to Grand Rapids, and rebuilt! There were no takers. Too bad, because Grand Rapids could now boast of having an authentic Dutch farmhouse, just like Holland glories in windmill, De Zwaan. 

            The gathering of the Doezema siblings in 1953 was remarkable only for its regularity. Once a week the four brothers and sister Annie in West Michigan got together for coffee and conversation at each other's homes. Frank in Chicago came as often as possible. They had a "remarkable relationship," Harriet recalled. "This friendship carried them through the last years of their lives and to the very end." Sharing the immigrant experience as children likely forged this special bond. It is also a tribute to the loving nurture of their mother and perhaps also their father.


Fokke/Frank Doezema and Sietske/Celia Top

            Frank was almost ten years old when his parents immigrated to Grand Rapids. Frank was catechized and worshipped with the family at the Dennis Avenue Christian Reformed Church. He attended public schools, because no Christian schools existed yet, and then enrolled in the Calvin Preparatory School and Theological Seminary. As a young man he was “deeply interested in spiritual things, he made confession of faith at the age of seventeen and resolved to enter the ministry. Although he was somewhat handicapped by his lack of earlier education, he persisted in his studies and graduated from the seminary in 1899.” So reads Frank Doezema’s necrology in the Christian Reformed Church Yearbook of 1968.

            Late in life, at the request of his brothers, Frank described his spiritual awakening as a teenager in great detail and with deep emotion. In brief, Frank, his cousin Corneil Doezema, and their friend Fred Mos were converted in the so-called Awakening that rippled through various Dutch Reformed congregations in Grand Rapids from the Fall of 1887 through the Spring of 1888. "God alone knows how "THE AWAKENING" originated, how it developed and who were the participants," Frank recalled. "CONVERSIONS and AWAKENINGS are something like seed that falls into the soil, begins to sprout, grows and runs into a harvest." In another analogy, he noted: "It is something like a fire; as long as plenty of fuel is added it keeps burning and flares up, but when no fuel is added it goes down and finally goes out." 

Fred Mos, at 20 the oldest of the trio, was saved first on a Sunday afternoon. Fred had lived a "wicked," religiously indifferent life that "took all the joy out of his parents' life." After his sudden conversion, Fred "became a very warm Christian." Frank continued: "The conversion of Corneil and me in connection with Fred's is the origin of the Awakening. I don't know very much, in fact not anything about Corneil's conversion. We were both tight mouthed in regard to religion. I know both of us were having a spiritual battle."

Frank's spiritual struggles lasted for a full year, beginning when he was 16; they culminated in his convertion at age 17. During the year of spiritual battles, Frank and his two friends experienced times of "unspeakable joy" followed by the depths of "atheism."  Their pastor at Eastern Avenue CRC, Rev. Sipke Sevensma, was at a loss in guiding them, other than to warn against "subjective religion." This warning fell on deaf ears. One night, Frank after saying his prayers felt led to open his Bible and his eyes fell on Jesus' parable of the unrighteous judge and the troubled widow. "I closed my Bible and went to bed with the blessed assurance that the Lord would hear and answer at His time. I had to wait and go on. And the Lord did answer. One morning at eight o'clock, in the shop, the light broke through and the same joy came as I had after the meeting [a year earlier] at Uncle Peter's [Peter Prins]. Corneil and Fred Mos has similar experiences at about the same time.

The trio was next led to a revival meeting at a Reformed church in the Grandville Avenue area, where they rose and gave personal testimonies. "I wonder now what we told that large audience," Frank opined. Throughout their spiritual struggles, Rev. Sevensma and the Eastern Avenue church elders said nothing. "I am very much surprised that the consistory did not give us leadership," Frank recalled. "Not once did the preacher or an elder meet with us." The consistory did accept the men's public profession of faith, however, and they joined the church as confessing members. "It was from this time that I had the desire to study for the ministry. I was 17 when I made my profession of faith…. What a joy it must have been," Frank concluded, "for all the parents concerned; also for father and mother." Perhaps, but Tjerk and Anskje could hardly have understood the strange workings of the Holy Spirit in Yankee America.

Other Seminary classmates of Doezema, who he reported as also being converted in the Awakening, included Revs. Jacob Bolt and Herman Vander Ploeg (class of 1899), and Rev. Menno Bosma (class of 1900). In Doezema's letter, he noted that "Rev. Bolt answered me: 'Indeed, I remember the AWAKENING. I was in it and made profession of faith when I was 13.'"  

After completing preparatory school and before beginning studies at Calvin Seminary, Frank Doezema married Sietske/Celia Top in Grand Rapids on July 11, 1896. Frank was 24 years of age. Celia was born in the city and her brother Jake Top was one of the most successful commercial building contractors. The marriage followed the old Netherlands custom, with a private civil ceremony (but by a minister instead of a civil judge), followed by a Sunday church wedding and a reception later. The civil ceremony took place on Saturday July 11, conducted by their pastor, Rev. Sevensma of the East Street (Eastern Avenue) Holland Christian Reformed Church, with the fathers Tjerk Doezema and Berend Top as witnesses. The next morning, during the worship service, Rev. Sevensma read the marriage form in the official Reformed liturgy and the couple was married according to the laws of God. The wedding reception took place two days later, on Tuesday evening July 14, at 248 Logan Street, presumably in the home of the bride.

Most interesting is the fact that Frank Doezema and Celia Top had the same great-grandmother—Antje van Bolhuis, but they had different grandfathers!  Frank's maternal grandfather (Fokke Jannes Hofstee) and Celia's paternal grandfather (Fokke Bolhuis) were both married to Antje van Bolhuis, because of deaths. When Fokke Hofstee died, Antje married Fokke Bolhuis. 

Frank and Celia began their family in Grand Rapids. Two daughters—Pearl and Agnes—were born there while Frank attended Calvin Seminary. After his graduation, the family left for Midland Park, New Jersey, where Frank had accepted the call of the Christian Reformed congregation. He served six years (1899-1905) and daughters Bernice and Annette were born in the parsonage. In the early years, Celia took in up to five boarders at the parsonage to augment Frank's meager salary.

In 1905, Frank returned to the family nest in Grand Rapids after accepting the call of the Crosby Street Christian Reformed Church. They moved into the parsonage next door. Shortly after taking up the work, the church burned down and partially destroyed the parsonage. The congregation, under Doezema's leadership erected a new edifice on West Leonard Street, and the church was renamed the West Leonard Christian Reformed Church. Frank ministered at the church nine years, until 1914, and the two youngest daughters, Bertha and Charlotte, were born in the parsonage. All six daughters attended West Side Christian School in Grand Rapids, and the two eldest, Pearl and Agnes, graduated from the school.

Daughter Annette Doezema Boomker recalled her childhood when the editor of the Holland Home Echo  in April, 1982 came to interview her in her room at the Holland Home in South Holland, Illinois. With the parsonage in Grand Rapids in mind, Annette remembered "a pleasant home, big yard, a playhouse in back, chickens, pigeons, rose bushes, five sisters and interesting parents." She then spoke about her school days: "I learned to read and write in the Dutch language [All church services and catechism classes were in Dutch in those years]. We wrote on slate and a privileged student was permitted to shake a few drops of water from a glass bottle with a hole in the cork to clean them."

Annette then described family vacations. "Every summer my dad hired a surrey from the livery stable with two beautiful black horses for a trip to my uncle's farm [probably that of Cornelius Doezema]. The surrey had rubber tires and a fringe on top. I can still hear the clop, clop of the horse's hoofs on the road."

Doezema in 1914 accepted the call of the First Roseland Christian Reformed Church, and the family moved to Chicago’s Far South Side, where they settled in for more than half a century. In this day before automobiles, the family road the Pere Marquette Railroad to Chicago. Annette noted that "our first delightful train ride was in 1914 when we moved to Roseland. The coaches had green plush seats and I was afraid the trip would be short, so I asked my dad if it would soon be over. 'No,' he said, 'it’s a long ride.' We arrived in Kensington station in November. Three gentlemen who owned cars were there to greet us."

The Doezema children immediately assessed their new home and the opinion was unfavorable. As Annette remembered, "the new location on 111th and State Street [then the location of the church and parsonage] wasn't as pleasant as the old one. I didn't like the house because it had a flat roof so no attic to play in on rainy days. The church was quaint and old-fashioned. We entered our pew through a fancy wooden gate and we had cushioned seats. The organ in the balcony had to be pumped by hand. Not long after, a new church and parsonage were built on 109th Place and Princeton—a big house with an attic."  The children were pleased. Annette continued: "The deacons counted the collection from Sunday services at our dining room table every Monday evening. I still remember them rolling up the nickels and dimes in paper wrappers."     

Doezema led the large congregation for thirty years, until he was emeritated at age 73 in 1944. Then he continued to call on the sick and conduct the afternoon Dutch service for another thirteen years, until 1957, his 86th year. The children attended the Roseland Christian School on State Street (later moved to 108th Street), which the First Roseland Church had founded. The four youngest daughters graduated from this school. 

Annette is proudly pictured in 1916 with her 8th grade class. All the girls wore big white ribbons in their hair, they had a graduation ribbon pinned on the front of their dresses, and they cradled a bouquet of flowers.. The boys wore knickers and suit coats, with a graduation ribbon pinned on one lapel and a boutonniere on the other. Each of the eighteen graduates proudly clutched a diploma, rolled up and tied with a little bow.

The pastorate consumed Doezema. “We never had a father,” the youngest daughter Charlotte lamented years later. “His ministry came first.” Annette had the same recollection: "We didn't see my father too often. He preached three times every Sunday, conducted all the catechism classes, family visiting, and sick calls." With this, he was seldom home, and when he was at home he was at his desk in the study. Besides preparing sermons, Frank taught up to four catechism classes, led both Dutch and English women’s and men’s societies, called on the sick and shut-ins, and served on various church boards and committees. He conducted three, and sometimes all four, Sunday worship services—Dutch and English in the morning, Dutch in the afternoon, and English in the evening. In the 1920s, the morning Dutch service was dropped. “He didn’t even have time to look at his children’s [school] report cards," said Charlotte. “He just signed them.”  Frank spent so much time in his study that his doctor prescribed exercise at the YMCA and in the vegetable garden out back.

On November 7, 1939, the grateful congregation helped their pastor celebrate forty years in the ministry and twenty-five years at First Roseland. The program booklet for the special event, titled In Commemoration 1914-1939, noted:

In the passing of this milestone we find our church in a flourishing condition, as evidenced by the remarkable attendance at all services on the Lord’s Day; by our nine active societies, large catechism classes and a Sunday School of over three hundred pupils…

In these twenty-five years our pastor has faithfully proclaimed the gospel and the way of salvation. He has shared with us our many joys and sorrows. It is with a feeling of true Christian fellowship that we join with him on this festive occasion to show our love and appreciation, and to wish him God’s richest blessing.

During Doezema’s ministry, the congregation had grown from 177 to 250 families, and he had baptized 568 infants, heard 518 confessions of faith, conducted 265 funerals, and preached 3,833 sermons. The special, five-verse poem, written by Bertha Prince Vander Ark and printed in the program booklet, said it best (in part):

How often he has broken

For us the Bread of Life;

Some babes whom he has christened,

He has made man and wife.

The youth he has instructed,

Souls to the Lord he has led;

In illness he brought comfort,

With the wayward ones he pled.


His words in sorrow strengthened

The bleeding, grief-torn heart;

His visits we have cherished,

More faith they did impart.

With zeal and consecration

He labors for the Lord;

For forty years proclaiming

The gospel truth—God’s Word.


Moreover, Doezema in these years had overseen the construction of a new church edifice,  a parsonage, and a new building for Roseland Christian School. Each was an impressive brick structure that announced that the Hollanders of First Roseland CRC had “arrived.” The church and school, though run by an association of parents, was closely allied. “Our children attend practically without exception,” the booklet proudly announced. The grateful congregation voiced their praise and appreciation in word and song, and also presented their dominee with a financial gift.

Doezema was a churchman as well as a pastor. In 1912, Classis Grand Rapids West elected him a delegate to the Christian Reformed denominational synod, held in Chicago in July. Fellow classical representatives were the Revs. Henry Beets and Evert Breen. In Chicago Doezema served on the boards of classical committees and mission projects. Most difficult were the committees to investigate the Bible course notes of Dr. Frederick Wezeman, principal and teacher of Bible at Chicago Christian High School between 1934 and 1938. This “case” ultimately landed in the lap of the denominational Synod, as theological controversies always did.   

When the Doezema family had to vacate the parsonage at 254 W. 109th Place in 1945, upon the arrival of his successor, Rev. Marinus Arnoys, they bought a home one block north on Princeton Street at 300 W. 109th Street. It was two doors east of daughter Annette and Ted Boomker, who lived at 308 W. 109th St. Here he and Celia lived for many years. Frank remained until age 93 in 1967, when he moved into a convalescent home. His children kept in close contact with their widowed father and his phone number (PUllman 5-3271) was engraved in their memories from the almost daily calls.

            Five years after being emeritated, a colleague, Rev. William Van Rees, wrote the following in a report about churches in Classis Chicago South, published in the Christian Reformed denominational weekly, The Banner (2 Dec. 1949).

The First Church is a bee-hive of activity.… The emeritus pastor, Rev. Frank Doezema, commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He could do so in a very fitting way by preaching at the afternoon service in the church he served so many years. It surely is a blessing that this brother after so many years is still able to preach the Word every Sunday.

Doezema continued for another thirteen years at First Church as pastor of congregational life, to use a contemporary term. For the first nine years, he patiently sat under the preaching of Arnoys (1945-54), who critics in a play on words dubbed "Lots of Noise." Doezema next worked several years with Rev. Thomas Van Eerden (1955-64) until his second retirement in 1957. On Sunday July 16, 1961, which day appropriately fell on Doezema's ninetieth birthday, the church again paid tribute to its much loved, pastor-emeritus. The church bulletin that day noted:

His pastoral services were so much appreciated that upon his retirement the consistory urged him to work as an assistant to the pastor and since that time [he] has been carrying on his work very acceptably. At present he attends services very faithfully and spends much of his time visiting relatives and friends, as well as the sick and aged of the Congregation. He is known personally to practically everyone of us, and his influence has touched each in some special way.

Doezema conducted the afternoon Dutch service at First Roseland until 1961, when at age 86 his children insisted that he quit, since he was clearly failing in memory and strength.  This brought an end to Dutch-language worship in Roseland. In the last years, the service was scheduled only once a month.

In the strength of his years, Doezema preached with a great deal of expression and dramatic flair. He “wore well.” His fervent congregational prayers demonstrated a gift for intercessory prayer, and he had the gift of peace making. “He was a real diplomat who knew how to deal with people and their quirks,” Charlotte noted, and “he never started an argument.” The biggest challenge was to gradually transition from the Dutch language to English in the worship services at First Roseland. Doezema followed the usual step of introducing English first in the evening service “for the sake of the young people.” The Dutch morning service continued until most of the immigrant generation had passed away. Another battle ensued over using individual cups rather than the “common cup” in communion services. The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 strengthened Doezema’s hand, because of the fear of spreading infection from mouth to mouth.

Celia Top Doezema “ran the show” at the parsonage. “She was very bossy,” her granddaughter and namesake Celia Boomker De Boer recalled, “but I loved her with all my heart.” Celia Doezema occupied herself with raising her six daughters, and was very particular about appearances.  Who could blame her? The dominee’s family lived in a "fishbowl.” Celia saw to it that she and her girls always looked neat and trim, even classy. The ribbons on their dresses had to be starched. After all, thrice every Sunday the family walked next door to church and took their seats in a prominent pew front and center. All eyes in the congregation turned when the family paraded in to their reserved seats just before the service commenced. Afterwards, they all marched out of church together and went directly to the parsonage. Church going was serious business; no small talk outside was permitted, even though the rest of the congregation might linger to chat with family and friends.

Celia never entered into the role of a muffrow [minister’s wife]. Life in the manse was not her choice. She remained independent and seldom participated in society life at church. This had the advantage of “keeping her nose clean.” Once when she was nearly late for church and was fumbling to find nickels for the offering plate, she declared to her granddaughter Celia: “They can start without us. I don’t have the sermon in my pocket.”

At home she could display a sharp tongue, and her daughters felt the bite. An outside target of that tongue was Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who Celia loathed for riding around in her golden coach while poor farm laborers barely had enough food to eat. Frank had a temper too, but he never displayed it outside the home.

The older girls were baptized with Dutch names based on Netherlandic naming customs, and then they took English names in school. The first-born, Pieterke (Pearl), was named after the maternal grandmother, Angtje (Agnes) after the paternal grandmother, Berendina (Bernice) after the maternal grandfather, Aukje (Anna or Annette) after a paternal aunt, Bertha after a maternal aunt, and Charlotte Tjerkalina after the paternal grandfather. The name Tjerk or Charles was reserved for the boy that never came, much to Frank’s disappointment. But six children were enough. He had to give up his dream of a red-haired son. In the home when the children were young, Frank and Celia spoke Dutch so that the children would learn the mother tongue for church services and catechism. The sisters had some sibling rivalry, but generally got along well with one another.

In the early 1930s, after the five older daughters had married and left the manse, Celia needed help to manage household tasks. She complained of being “tired,” likely due to anemia, and was somewhat overweight and sedentary. Charlotte, the “baby” and then a teenager, had to pitch in. She was very much like her mother in personality; we were “two peas in a pod,” said Charlotte. Every Monday her parents kept her out of school to wash the clothes and starch the dominee’s dress shirt and the muffrow’s dress, so that they were ready for the next Sabbath day. Mid-morning, at coffee time, she had to boil an egg for each one, and she got to keep the yolk of the eggs. She so pleased her parents that upon graduating from the 8th grade at Roseland (108th Street) Christian School, they kept her home to work fulltime. “She’s my right arm,” Celia explained.

When the girls began to date, Celia kept tight control of that activity too. The girls were encouraged to bring their dates to the parsonage, but the boys were limited to the parlor, and they better mind themselves if they lingered too late “spooning.” Celia then sent Frank out of the bedroom to the top of the stairs and he called down: “It’s getting late. You have to go.” Or she might give the admonition herself, dressed in her nightgown. “Here comes the ghost,” the young couple would say.  

Even after Charlotte’s marriage to Peter Boelens in 1931, she and her husband continued to live in with her parents for seven years, despite the birth of the two oldest children, Peter in 1934 and Sheila in 1938. It was the Depression years, and the shared housing saved money. Peter was an only child of a widowed mother; his father died when Peter was seventeen and left the family in poverty. Peter worked his way through dental school at Loyola University.  Early in 1939 the Boelens moved to Lansing, Illinois, where Peter opened an office to practice dentistry above the Lansing State Bank. When the Second World War began after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Peter enlisted in the navy as a commissioned officer, with the rank of lieutenant, and was assigned to Norman, Oklahoma. Charlotte and the three children—daughter Alice was born in Lansing in 1942, followed him.

Late in 1944, after Frank had retired, he wrote daughter Charlotte that he hoped to travel to Norman with Celia for a visit, going through St. Louis to visit Gerald and Agnes Wesselius. Gerald was working there with the Red Cross during the War (Letter of Frank Doezema addressed to “Dear Children,” 5 Dec. 1944).

In the letter Frank opined pessimistically, “It looks good to me to make a little trip with mother over St. Louis to Norman. I just wonder whether death is going to step in between and make it impossible. Sunday afternoon we sang the fml [familiar?] no. Ps. 68:2. Then the Creed. In the middle of the Creed all at once Mrs. C. Boonstra breathed her last. Those sitting behind her, heard her sing and a minute later she breathed her last. I heard it plainly as I was reading….  She died in her pew.” [Did Frank and Celia make it to Norman?]

This interesting letter gives a nice picture of the routine of daily living in the Doezema home. Frank continues: “Mother feels fine. It is 10:15 a.m. and mother is calling: ‘de coffee is bruin’ [the coffee is brown, i.e., the water is fully distilled through the grounds]….  Now I will go down stairs for coffee.” Frank then comments on the pending transition after thirty years in the parsonage to their very own home. “I am sure that mother and I will like our new home. But I will not feel easy until we are in it. It just seems that something is going to happen. I suppose the sudden death of Mrs. Boonstra has something to do with it.” The letter is signed simply “Your loving Father.”

In early 1945 Peter was assigned to Washington, D.C., where housing for the family was very limited, so Charlotte returned to Lansing, pregnant with their fourth child, Frances. Peter learned of the birth later, after several attempts to inform him by telegram. It was the Christmas holiday and the telegraph office was understaffed.

Following the war, Peter returned to Lansing and had an office addition built on the front of their home on Ridge Road. Access between the office and the home was via the basement. Most of the Doezema sisters and their families went to “Pete” for excellent dental care.

Daughters Pearl and Annette taught school for a few years before marriage at Roseland Christian School. Pearl only had an 8th grade education, and some wags at First Roseland said she was unqualified but got the position because of “pull.” Annette graduated from Fenger High School in Roseland (Chicago Christian High School in Englewood was not started until 1918], and then enrolled in the teacher-training course at the Illinois Normal School. Two photos exist of Annette standing proudly with her second and third grade classes at Roseland Christian School, each numbering forty!! students. The years were likely 1926 and 1927. She married in July 1927 and quit teaching then, as married women were expected to do.

Their sisters held various jobs. Agnes was a seamstress for the Freedman Clothing Company of Chicago, and Bertha typed in the office of the Sterling Lumber Company, where she met her husband, who was a salesman there.

When the sisters married, their spouses were expected to join “Doezema’s church.” Frank Boersma and Peter Boelens already were members, but John Zwart and Gerald Wesselius transferred from Third Roseland Christian Reformed Church, Ted Boomker came from Bethany Reformed Church. Leslie Larson grew up in the Swedish Covenant Church, and after their marriage they joined the Third Roseland CRC. So Bertha was the only daughter truly to “leave home.”

When the children were young, family vacations were always spent in Grand Rapids, visiting Doezema relatives for up to three weeks, with the six girls split up among cousins. They left Roseland at 4 a.m. in the family touring car and arrived in Grand Rapids at midnight. It was a rare trip that did not include a flat tire and other car troubles on the road. The average speed was under 20 mph.

After Frank Doezema bought a cottage on Fisher Lake in 1929, named Shelter Well (although wags in the family dubbed it "Swelter Well" because of the stifling summer heat), the family went there regularly, but they still made time for relatives, either by inviting them to the cottage or by driving to Grand Rapids for a day. To stretch out the vacation to the max, Grandpa Doezema would prepare a sermon for the Sunday following his vacation before he left. That way, he could stay at the cottage until Friday of the “extra week.” The family owned a radio and never missed the Amos ‘n Andy show. But the radio stood silent most of the time. And Frank and Celia would not buy a TV. When Peter and Charlotte bought one, Frank declared: “Now the devil has come into this home.”

Celia died in April 29, 1954. Just days before her death, she was transported by ambulance to the home of her daughter Charlotte and Peter Boelens in Lansing. Frank accompanied her and remained by her bedside until she slipped away. It was appropriate that she died under the care of Charlotte, who had waited on her every need for so many years. In the Dutch tradition, everyone in the immediate family wore black armbands for the period of mourning. This custom died out in Chicago in the 1960s.

Granddaughter Joan Boomker was attending Calvin College at the time and flew home for the funeral in a DC-3, landing at Midway Airport, the only city airport at the time. It was her first plane ride. Joan went to a hairdresser for the occasion, but forgot to wear her hat, for which her mother admonished her. Ann had a sharp tongue like her mother. Another time she remarked to Joan: You surely aren’t going to church like THAT, are you?” Joan replied quietly: “The Lord looketh not on the outside, but on the heart.” It was the perfect squelch.

Frank Doezema spent his last five years in the Rest Haven “Central” Convalescent Home in Palos Heights, where he died full of years at age 96 on November 21, 1967. The collective decision of his daughters to move him from his home to Rest Haven was traumatic for everyone, most of all for their father. He so wanted to remain at home, but his failing health made this impossible. A brief stay at Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital to be treated for diverticulitis forced the issue. Daughter Annette was delegated to accompany her father by ambulance from the hospital to Rest Haven. When they were ready to leave, Frank ordered the ambulance driver: "300 West 109th Street, please." Annette then had to break the heart-rending news--he was not going home but to Rest Haven. After a few moments of stunned silence while the news registered, Frank exclaimed in Dutch, Tog niet! (Oh, no!). He was resigned to his fate, although he never came to appreciate the convalescent home.

The entire Doezema family, both in Chicago and Grand Rapids, put Frank on a pedestal. He was “Gabriel,” the angel who did God’s work. He was a Dutch dominee (“lord”). A pre-teen girl friend of daughter Bernice asked her in all seriousness, “Does your father go to the bathroom?” When Frank visited his six siblings in Grand Rapids, which he did regularly, they sat in a row in the shade and talked for hours—church, family, farming, furniture, politics, and whatever. For the rest of the time, Frank wrote lengthy letters to his mother and brother Albert, which were read aloud to the others over coffee after church. Albert saved many of these letters and later donated them to the Calvin College Archives, where they comprise part of the Frank Doezema Collection.

            In private conversations within the circle of the family, and in personal letters passed between them, Frank could express strong opinions about individuals; yet he was very mild of character. In an undated letter of about 1960 to brother Albert (Frank Doezema Papers, Calvin College Archives), Frank commented at length about the 1924 split in the Christian Reformed Church over the doctrine of “common grace,” following the expulsion of the Revs. Herman Hoeksema and Ralph Danhof, who formed the Protestant Reformed Church. Several in the Doezema family ended up in this denomination.

Frank Doezema dismissed the controversy as not worthy of dividing the church. “It has nothing to do with salvation or godliness.” He attributed the rift to the clash of personalities, both strong and petty. “Love, humility, true godliness could have prevented many breaches in the Church,” Doezema observed. As an example, he mentioned Dr. Abraham Kuyper, pastor in the Gereformeerde Kerk Nederland (GKN) and later Prime Minister, “who was the cause of a nearly dreadful split “ in both the GKN and the American CRC, over infralapsarian and supralapsarian interpretations of the doctrine of divine election.  Doezema then added: “No one in all the world thought more of Dr. Kuyper than he himself. He was not a leader, but a dictator.”



The Banner, various articles, classical and church reports

Annette Doezema Boomker, "Meet our Resident—Annette Doezema Boomker," Holland Home Echoes, April 1982): 3-4.

Albert Doezema, "Tjerk Wiegers Doezema Family Pedigree Chart."

Charlotte Doezema Boelens, "Personal Portrait," 12 page, typed questionnaire, compiled

        by Rev. Ronald and Frances Redder.

_______, interview with Robert P. Swierenga, 2 July 2003.

_______, Frank and Celia wedding documents--marriage certificate and invitations.

Frank Doezema letter, Roseland, IL, undated but likely about 1965, to siblings in Grand

Rapids. Typed copy courtesy of Harriet Doezema Knott.

Frank Doezema Papers, The Archives, Calvin College.

Hariet Doezema Knott, Rhiner Doezema-Frederika Kwant family history and


Rev. Ronald Redder, Frank Doezema--Celia Top genealogies.

Robert P. Swierenga, Dutch Chicago (Grand Rapids, 2002), 314-18.

_______, Dutch Immigrants in U.S. Ship Passenger Manifests, 2 vols. (1987).

Tjerk Doezema and Ansktje Hofstee," typed 17-page family history with photographs

        and copies of original documents, authors and date unknown.