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Wilhelmus G. Van Berlo, better known by many as Bill, had his earthly life end on May 12, 2023 at the age of 88, near Etowah, North Carolina, where he resided for the last 3 years. Bill was born on September 1, 1934, and was the youngest of 6 children born to Johannes and Petronella Van Berlo, in the Dutch town of Boekel, located in the North Brabant province of the Netherlands. Bill was proud of his Dutch heritage and shared many stories of growing up in “Holland”. When he spoke, many found pleasure in listening to his Dutch accent.
Bill followed in his family’s trade of carpentry and custom woodworking, learning some of his woodworking skills in the family wood shop. Bill attended trade school in the Netherlands, and improved his carpentry skills to become a fine woodworking craftsman. Bill was also a member of the town’s fire department, and was a member of the Dutch army for a short time, until a family member’s health concerns brought Bill back home to help care for his family.
On May 3, 1956, Bill married Suzanna (Sue) Van der Hoek, in the Dutch town of Gemert, located just a short distance from Boekel. Not long after their wedding they set off on an adventure together that took them to America, eventually landing by ship in New York City, and then boarding a train that took them to Detroit, Michigan. They came to the USA knowing very little English, with a couple suitcases and a few dollars in their pockets. Bill and Sue became US citizens and shared a long and prosperous life in their 67 years as husband and wife.
Not long after settling in Detroit in 1956, Bill and Sue started a family. Over the course of the next few years they had 4 children. Bill and Sue raised their family in St. Clair Shores, Michigan from 1959 until 1970, when a desire to move his family further away from the city, and an opportunity to follow his employer to northern Michigan became reality. Bill packed up the family and came to Petoskey, going from suburban city life to rural life on 20 acres, 5 miles east of town. Bill put his carpentry skills to good use, building his family a new home in northern Michigan. Bill was a resident of the Petoskey area for 50 years, and called northern Michigan his home.
Bill was a long-time employee of Boese Wood Products, a custom furniture and cabinet shop that was originally located in Detroit, and relocated to the Petoskey area in 1970. He began his career with the Boese family in 1956 in Detroit, and and continued with them in Petoskey until 1991. Bill finished his working years as his own boss when he opened “Bill’s Custom Furniture” in 1991. Bill became very well-known over the years by many architects, contractors and interior designers throughout northern Michigan, for his fine quality woodworking skills. Bill eventually gave up woodworking as he knew that his progressing stages of Parkinson’s Disease would affect his personal safety by continued use of the many power tools in his shop.
Bill and Sue enjoyed traveling, both abroad and in the United States. They returned several times to the Netherlands to visit family there, as well as visits to other countries around Europe, Cancun, Mexico and the Dutch island of Curacao. After their retirement Bill and Sue enjoyed their annual winter trips to warmer southern climates for a few months, escaping from at least part of northern Michigan winters. Bill often started the summer already well tanned by the southern sun. In his travels, Bill was good at striking up a conversation with complete strangers. With his warm smile and love for friendly conversation he developed long lasting relationships with many that he met.
In addition to his fine woodworking skills, Bill truly had a green thumb. He always had beautiful vegetable and flower gardens around his home. Bill found much pleasure in long walks in the woods and along the water, raising rabbits, caring for the family’s cats, dogs and horses, attending dances, especially those with polka music, watching wildlife, feeding the birds, mushrooming in the spring, berry picking in the summer, wood cutting in the fall, sitting by a warm fire and traveling south in the winter to soak up the warmth of the sun. Not one to sit idle for long, Bill was a very active man, always finding something productive to do.
Bill was true to his faith and a belief in the higher power of God. As a catholic all his life, and by his example, Bill instilled in his family the importance of faith and living life in a good and Christian way. Bill was a member of St. Francis Xavier parish in Petoskey for a number of years, eventually becoming a member of Holy Childhood of Jesus Church in Harbor Springs until 2020, when Bill and Sue moved south.
Bill shared a deep love for his family, including all who became family through marriage. He is survived by his wife Sue and his 4 children (and their spouses) - Peter (Barbara) Van Berlo of Acme, Michigan, Martie (Cindy) Van Berlo of Harbor Springs, Michigan, Joanne (Gary) Rowden of Ohio, and Suzanne (Bill) Montgomery of Etowah, North Carolina. He was “Opa” to his grandchildren - Elizabeth Van Berlo, Adam Van Berlo, Alicia (Jason) Huwyler, Nicholas (Terra) Van Berlo, Kaitlin (Rob) Hahn, Molly (Jarrod) Evans, Heather (Mark) Kanitz, Jacob (Chelsey) Montgomery, Ben (Lauren) Montgomery, Joshua Montgomery; and to his great grandchildren - Eden Van Berlo, Ashlyn, Aryanna & Alexandria Huwyler, Zoey Hahn, Maia Evans, Gabriel Kanitz, Asher & Levi Montgomery, Lily Montgomery. Bill has one surviving sister - Tiny Willems of St. Clair Shores, as well as half siblings Riek, Maria, Saan, Jan, Gerrit and Trudy - all living in the Netherlands, and numerous in-laws, nieces and nephews scattered around the US and the Netherlands, all of whom Bill held a deep love for in his heart. Bill was preceded in death by his siblings Anna Peters, Truus, Ted and Harrie Van Berlo, and half siblings Nelly and Henk.
Bill’s family invites all who knew him to remember and celebrate Bill’s life with them. Visitation and the funeral mass will take place at Holy Childhood of Jesus Church in Harbor Springs, MI. Visitation will be held on Monday, May 22, 2023 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., with the reciting of the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 7:30 p.m. The funeral will be held on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, beginning with a brief visitation period at 10:00 a.m. and the funeral mass at 11:00 a.m. Burial will take place at the Holy Childhood Cemetery in Harbor Springs. In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial donations to support St. Michael High School in Petoskey, or a Parkinson’s Disease research organization (to be determined by the family) that is dedicated to continued research to find ways to lessen the physical and emotional effects of those affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Checks written for memorial donations can be made out to Martie Van Berlo, with the direction for that donation written on the check note line. Envelopes for donations will be available at the visitation and the funeral.
St. Michael Foundation (The non-profit organization supporting St. Michael Academy)
2225 Summit Park Drive, Petoskey MI 49770