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After her “retirement,” Nellie continued to crochet lap robes for the residents at the mission. Nellie’s granddaughter Carrie recalled her grandma’s final moments:
“When I was called to her bedside the night she passed away, there was an unfinished afghan draped over a nearby chair. She expressed her concern and asked that someone would finish it and get it to the intended recipient. An hour later, she was gone.”
Nellie’s daughter, Marian, said, “I think she was determined not to spoil anyone’s Christmas that year, because she passed away on December 28th. She enjoyed Christmas and saw to it that everybody else enjoyed it. She went home very quietly, the way she lived her life.”
Nellie DeJong Tuinstra is a legend in our family and dearly missed to this day.
Because her family was encouraged to record a few memories, future generations will understand why.
This is part of Nellie’s story:
Nellie DeJong was a little Dutch girl -
After Nellie’s husband, Oscar, retired, his Alzheimer’s continued to advance. (see Oscar’s Story) With her typical poise, strength, and practical wisdom, Nellie knew when it was time to admit him into a nearby nursing home. She said it was one of the hardest things she ever had to do.
Nellie didn’t want to rely on others to give her rides to the facility, so she acquired her driver’s license when she was in her 60s with the help of her grandson, Fred. She started driving her little white car in the local cemetery, and eventually —to the dismay of many family members—proceeded to the highway. Fred recalled, “She was a careful driver with a gallon of white house paint stashed in the garage, along with a paint brush for little touch-
Nellie faithfully visited Oscar in the nursing home every day for four years without complaining. Eventually, he didn’t know who she was, but she knew who he was. She brought fresh fruit or cookies to share with the other residents, and she sat by Oscar’s side, knitting or crocheting, in case someone stopped by to visit. She never criticized those who didn’t.
After Oscar’s death, at the age of 72, Nellie joined the sewing circle at the Mel Trotter Mission and became a regular volunteer there, helping to prepare and serve the noon luncheon every week for the business men. A teenaged granddaughter took Nellie’s place one hot day when Nellie was 88.The women at the mission, although kind, let the granddaughter know that it would take at least two or three people to replace her quietly efficient grandma.
Nellie wore dresses every day (unless she was fishing) and for most of her life she used a pencil to roll her long, white hair -
Nellie’s granddaughter Linda said, “What I remember most about Grandma is that I felt completely loved and accepted in her company. To say that Grandma made me feel loved is sort of like saying the sun is warm. Grandma had a way of making me believe that she had been waiting all her life for me to arrive and the best thing
Nellie married Auke “Oscar” Tuinstra on June 8, 1916, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Together they raised six children.
All of Nellie’s children remember her as a hard working, gentle, loving mother. Not a single person can remember her speaking a harsh or angry word.
Was Nellie the product of an ideal childhood? No. She had a gentle, generous mother and a harsh, angry father. When Nellie’s mother died and her father required care, she moved her family in with him and tolerated his abuses patiently—with strength, grace, and dignity.
Nellie’s generosity is legendary. She raised her children during the Great Depression and always gave to those who came to her door during hard times, even though her own family was struggling. When neighbors lost their home in a fire, she gave them her kitchen table and chairs.
Nellie never lectured her family about God, but she lived out her faith every day. Those around her were inspired by her strength, grace, peace and unconditional love—especially her love.
thing she could imagine was for me to walk through her door. That’s how she greeted me each time she saw me. That’s the impression I took away each time she waved me out of sight of her front door.”
Nellie “retired” from the mission at the age of 90.
Nellie was interesting to talk to—
intelligent, curious, and well read on many subjects. Whatever she did, whether cooking, baking, sewing, crocheting, knitting, or cleaning, she did with excellence. In spite of her abilities, she never had a career outside the home. All of her time and efforts were poured into loving and serving her family.
Nellie passed away at the age of 97.