Shirley Jean Melin (née Wilson), 90, passed away in her sleep on the morning of January 27th, 2024. Shirley was born on January 3rd, 1934 in Grand Rapids, Michigan to parents James and Lila Wilson (née VanSlyke). Shirley attended Hall Street Public School and South High before meeting a young Army engineer named Les, who had recently returned from serving overseas in the Korean War.
Shirley and Les were married in 1952, and before starting a family Shirley held several jobs, including at Walter Hagen, Van’s Pastry Shoppe, and her father’s own Sunshine Bakery. She and Les bought a home on Hillcroft Street in Wyoming and welcomed their only child, Cynthia, in 1957.
Over the years, Shirley’s home became the focal point for her entire extended family. Wilsons, Kooistras, Hoogerhydes, VanSlykes, and Lillys would stop by, often unannounced, and Shirley would always be ready with drip coffee and cookies. Guests would sit with her for hours at the small dining room table Les had built, catching up on the various goings-on in the family. Her social cachet culminated each year in an annual Christmas Eve party where dozens of friends and family members would fill their modest home to bursting. For those in the know, this was the preeminent social event of the year, something not to be missed.
Genealogy was a lifelong interest for Shirley. Accompanied by other family members, she took frequent trips to small towns across the country, visiting their libraries and graveyards to try and piece together her family’s history. And although the allure of grave rubbings and microfiche and bracketed charts waned in her later years, her passion found a new home in her great grandchildren, whom she loved deeply. It seemed that after spending so many years looking back at her family’s past, she came to find great comfort looking into its future as well.
Although Shirley’s love for her family was undeniable, her relationship with her daughter was one of a kind. Having lived together for nearly fifty years, and even working together at Meijer until Shirley’s retirement in 2007, Shirley and Cindy were not only mother and daughter but best friends as well, sharing every joy and sadness with one another. They grieved and supported each other when Les passed away in 2010, and later, when Shirley’s health began to decline, Cindy took on caretaking responsibilities in the apartment they shared together.
Only a few weeks before she passed, Shirley celebrated her 90th birthday while in hospice care surrounded by family who came to honor her and her long, well-lived life. Though it had been many years since her last Christmas party, this final gathering with loved ones was as appropriate a sendoff as any for a woman who found such joy in bringing family together.
Shirley is preceded in death by her loving husband, Leslie Melin; her parents, James and Lila Wilson; and her siblings, Phyllis (George) Kooistra, and James Eugene Wilson. She is remembered by her daughter, Cynthia Carpenter; grandchildren, Sarah (Brandyn) Dickinson, and Josh Carpenter (Stephanie Kelsey); great-grandchildren, Parker Rickert, William Dickinson, and Wyatt Dickinson; and siblings, James (Nancy) Wilson, and Judith Lilly.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, February 2nd at 11 am with visitation beginning at 10 am at the Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Chapel, 4145 Chicago Dr. SW, Grandville, MI 49418 with Rev. Don VanSlyke officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Humane Society of West Michigan to honor Shirley’s love of animals.
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