Obituary of Richard Vander Veen

Richard "Dick" Vander Veen of Grand Rapids was born 26 November 1922 in Grand Rapids and died here, leaving his wife of almost 60 years, Marion (Coward). They were married in 1946 in LaPeer, Michigan. He died on Friday, March 3, 2006 at his residence.

He served in the U. S. Navy during WWII and the Korean War. After leaving the service, he graduated from the University of South Carolina and Harvard Law School. Dick was presented the Most Outstanding Naval Graduate Award by Admiral Nimitz.
Marion and Dick had three sons, Rich (Susan Patullo) of Lowell, Larry (Lauren Scheer) of Washington, DC, and Paul, of Washington, DC.

Richard founded and built many institutions. He is quoted as saying, "The grand object of life is to create something for the good of all that never existed before."

He was President and founder of the Vander Veen, Freihofer and Cook Law Firm, 1954-1974; participated in the founding of GVSU and Channel 13. However, his true interest was in public service. In 1958, John F. Kennedy came to Grand Rapids and supported Richard’s campaign for the U. S. Congress. In 1974, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, replacing Vice-President Gerald R. Ford, the first Democrat representing the seat in 64 years. In 1978 he competed in the Democratic primary which Senator Carl Levin won. After this, he founded a wind energy company that built two turbines at Mackinaw CityHe was appointed to the Michigan Mental Health Commission as well as Highway and Waterway Commission by Governors Williams, Romney and Blanchard.

The Vander Veen & Company Rare Books was founded by him. In 1990, he chaired the Ryerson Library Foundation which raise money to aid in the renovations to the Ryerson Public Library, now known as the Grand Rapids Public Library. Due to their involvement, the library created the Dick and Marion Vander Veen Center for the Book, an intellectual center which hosts monthly seminars with historians, authors, etc. The third floor meeting room has been designated the Vander Veen Room.

He was an active member of Westminster Presbyterian Church where his funeral service will be held on Sunday, March 5th.. He leaves to fondly remember him: Marion, his wife; his three sons; five grandchildren – Kate, Betsy, Ben, Jacob and Miles; a great-granddaughter, Julia Rose.

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