Leona Houting

  • Born: August 9, 1927
  • Died: August 4, 2021
  • Location: Holland, Michigan

Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home

315 E 16th St
Holland, MI 49423

info@langelandsterenberg.com
Tel. (616) 392-2306

Tribute & Message From The Family


Leona Houting, or Onie, as she was known to her family, died Wednesday, August 4, at home with her husband of 70 years, Vern, at her side. Born August 9, 1927, in the family home on 5th Street in Holland, Leona was the youngest of the eight children of William and Abbie Pathuis.

Born when her parents were already well along in years (her mother was 45 and her father 47), Onie was adored by her parents, older brothers and sisters, and her numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, many of whom lived in the neighborhood. She confessed that, as a young girl, she might have been a bit spoiled — cutting up her clothes with a scissors when she did not get her way on one occasion and holding her breath until she turned blue on another. But she soon outgrew those antics and was an intelligent and good-natured child.

One event marred her happy childhood, however: When Onie was eight years old, her older sister, Berdine, known as "Beanie," collapsed and died in downtown Holland while walking home from the movies. She was just 21 years old. No autopsy was performed, and the cause of death remains unknown (although the doctor who completed the death certificate wrote "heart attack," because, he said, "her heart stopped beating"). Onie and Beanie had been exceptionally close, and it was a sad and confusing time for a little girl, to see her sister's body brought into the home in a casket (as was the custom in those days), and to keep waiting for her to wake up and rise out of that box.

Onie attended Lincoln Elementary School in Holland and in 1945 graduated from Holland High School, becoming only the second high school graduate in her family. After graduation she worked in the family grocery store on Eighth Street and later as receptionist for Dr. William Winter. She enjoyed spending time with her friends in post-World War II Holland — going bowling, to the movies, and enjoying parties, picnics, and outings to the beach.

In the late 1940s, one of those friends set her up on a blind date with a good-looking guy named Vern Houting, and Vern and Onie hit it off right away. "She was an intelligent girl — I liked that about her," Vern said. "And she didn't smoke." "He was just a nice, good-looking guy who drove a convertible," Onie said once about Vern, adding, "That was important to me in those days." Things more important than cars took priority after that, including her Christian faith, meaningful work, and creating a loving home for her growing family.

Leona and Vern were married December 1, 1950, at the Trinity Reformed Church in Holland, after which they honeymooned in Chicago. They had six children: Mary, Tom, Tim, Dan, Jane, and John. She and Vern owned and operated the Maplewood Dry Cleaners (now owned by their son John) for more than six decades, and Leona continued to work there several hours a week until May of this year.

As a business woman, wife, mother of six, and friend, Leona found a way to balance all her responsibilities with a cheerful attitude and a lot of flair. She dressed beautifully and old photos show that she dressed her children beautifully, too.

Leona was a woman of integrity and faith, and her business ethics were summed up in this quote she wrote in the front of her Bible: "It is my responsibility as a Christian in business to treat people with grace and abundance." Many of her customers responded to that grace by becoming her friends, and at least one customer was known to have come around the front counter of the dry cleaners to embrace her in a big hug.

Leona was devoted to her family, and for many years was a "swimming mom," never missing a meet. Even her children's friends noticed: "No mom was so devoted to attend as many swim meets as Mrs. Houting did," said one. She also made sure to put a hot, home-cooked meal on the table every night (even if it meant the family would be embarrassingly late for church events) and packed enormous lunches for her children to take to school, making them the envy of their friends.

Over the years Leona and Vern enjoyed time with family, boating, trips to Glen Lake and Sanibel Island, and season tickets to the Grand Rapids symphony. They stayed as active as possible, even into retirement. In later years, Leona's hobbies were shopping at Family Fare and doing a daily crossword puzzle to keep her mind sharp. Known for her beautiful hats and fashion sense, Leona enjoyed cruising around town in her beloved PT Cruiser convertible while sporting her favorite orange baseball cap.

Another quote written in the front of her Bible sums up her long, rich, and blessed life: "God's gift to me is life, and it is what I do with this life that will be my gift to Him."

Leona was preceded in death by her parents; her seven siblings and their spouses: Anna (Roscoe) DeJonge, Evelyn (George) Palmer, Louise (Arend) Styf, and Berdine, John (Eleanor), Henry (Ivy), and Fred (Kathleen) Pathuis; nieces Audrey and Bernajean DeJonge, and nephew Bill Meyer.

In addition to her husband and children, she is survived by sons-in-law Jacob Kim and Mike Grennes; daughters-in-law, Lynette Houting and Penny Houting; eleven grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two sisters-in-law, Marlene Veele and Marilyn Houting; a cousin, Betty VandenBerg; and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, August 9, at the Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home, with services Tuesday, August 10, at 10 a.m. in Trinity Reformed Church, with Rev. Deb Yurk officiating. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Leona's name to Trinity Reformed Church or Hospice of Holland.