Iris  Vander Wal


Iris Joan (De Jong) Vander Wal was born on December 23, 1933, the first child of Gerrit and Frances (Blom) De Jong on a farm southwest of Peoria, IA. 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 8 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." Jesus welcomed Iris home early in the morning of March 9, 2019, at the age of 85 years while residing at The Cottages in Pella.
Iris is survived by her four children and their families:
Loren and Marilee (De Groot) Vander Wal of Pella, IA,Jonathan and Trista Vander Wal of Papua New Guinea, Anya, Mercy, Joy and Jordan Roose of Peoria, IA, Timothy, Arie, Lydia, Peter, and Grace, Jenae and David Van Ee of Oskaloosa, IA, Arianne, Willem, and Gerrit, Julia Vander Wal of Pella, IA;
Kris and Dale DeWild of Pella, IA, Amber and Jake Reed of Charlotte, NC, Jack, Ainsley, Alison and Joshua Beiler of Chicago, IL, Evelyn, Charles and Laural DeWild of Orlando, Fl, Ethan, Audrey, and Abigail;
Lisa and Bruce Groenendyk of Leighton, IA, Alan and Lindy Groenendyk of Jenison, MI, Natalie, James, Joseph, and Jana, Nathan Groenendyk of Phoenix, AZ;
Bruce and Noreen (Van Weelden) Vander Wal of New Sharon, IA, Greg and Audrey Vander Wal of Holland, MI, Lucas and Kelsey Vander Wal of Crestwood, IL,Karyn and Zachary Van Zee of Kapaa, HI, Michael Vander Wal of New Sharon, IA.
Iris leaves her brothers and sister and their spouses: Kenneth and Arene De Jong of Pella, IA, Eugene De Jong of Pella, Norman and Helen De Jong of New Sharon, IA, Verna and John Vander Kooi of Akron, OH, Gaylord and Twila De Jong of New Sharon.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Gilbert Vander Wal on December 6, 2012; her parents, Gerrit M. and Frances De Jong and her parents-in-law, Peter and Johanna (Leydens) Vander Wal. Services were held on Tuesday, March 12, at the Peoria Christian Reformed Church. Memorials may be given for the Peoria Christian Reformed Church to be designated for the music program or World RENEW. Van Dyk -Duven Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
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Published on March 11, 2019
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