Obituary: Rev. Berton VanAntwerpen (1937–2023)

Jonathan VanAntwerpen
2 min readJan 13, 2023
Reverend Berton VanAntwerpen — aka Pastor Van (“PV”) and Papa Bert | Photo: Lisa Whiteman

Reverend Berton VanAntwerpen — known to many as Pastor Van (or “PV”), and to his family as Papa Bert — passed away peacefully at Butterworth Hospital on January 10, 2023, with his dear wife Marie, two of his children, sons Michael and Jonathan, and his daughter-in-law Jill, at his side, singing his favorite hymns. Bert had recently been hospitalized due to heart and respiratory failure.

The seventh and youngest son of Dutch immigrants, Bert was born on August 2, 1937, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Growing up on the west side of Grand Rapids, he went on to graduate from Calvin College (now Calvin University) and Calvin Theological Seminary, and was ordained as a Minister of the Word by the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in 1962, serving seven different CRC churches as pastor over the four decades that followed.

In 2002, Bert and Marie retired from full-time ministry, moving to a small home at the edge of the Clam River, outside Cadillac, Michigan, on a wooded piece of land they came to call Gentle Bend. Their joint work of ministry continued for nearly two more decades, through a series of interim pastorships that took them to Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Montana, and Washington, in addition to a number of further assignments in rural Michigan.

Bert was known to his family and friends as joyful and tenderhearted, easy to smile and quick with a joke, and, in the words of his wife Marie, as a “good and faithful servant” of the Lord (Matthew 25:23). His deep and booming voice served him well in the pulpit and in the choir, and his love of music extended from the hymns of the Psalter to the sounds of gospel and bluegrass. With Marie, he traveled through all 50 of the United States and across the world, making visits to Europe and the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Bert is survived by his loving wife Marie VanAntwerpen (formerly DeVries and Hook); his children Michael and Jonathan, Tara, Ross, and Shon; his daughters-in-law Jill and Nicole, and son-in-law Jack; his grandchildren Isabelle, Owen, Elijah, Ada and Georgia, Nathan, Heidi, Leah, and Raven; and his great-grandchildren Sylva and Jack. His memory also lives on with his many nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews, and through the lives of the numerous individuals, families, and communities he touched through his work and ministry.

In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations in support of the Rev. Berton and Marie VanAntwerpen Scholarship at Calvin University, which their children will be establishing in honor of Bert and Marie’s nearly six decades of innovative ministry and pastoral leadership. Donations in support of the “Rev. Berton and Marie VanAntwerpen Scholarship” may be sent to Calvin directly.

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Jonathan VanAntwerpen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen is a program director at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC-Berkeley.