Abraham Verwys has been a resident of Grand Rapids since he was a lad of fourteen years. Here he has found ample opportunity for successful achievement during the passing years, and is now the owner of a well equipped hardware establishment at 459 Leonard street, northeast. He is a good business man, a good citizen and a true friend to his wide circle of friends, especially the boys of his neighborhood, as quotations later to be entered in this narrative will clearly indicate. Mr. Verwys was born in the fine old Netherlands of Europe, November 26, 1877, and his parents, John and Margaret (Walpot) Verwys, were born there, respectively, on the 16th of August, 1847, and the 19th of July, 1849, they being now venerable and honored citizens of Grand Rapids, where they have maintained their home since 1892, the year that marked their coming from their native land to the United States. Both are earnest members of the Christian Reformed church. The preliminary education that Abraham Verwys received in the schools of his native land was supplemented by a course taken in the McLaughlin Business College of Grand Rapids, where he was raised to manhood and where he has made his life count in worthy thoughts and deeds. Here he served a thorough apprenticeship to the trade of tool-maker, and here he continued his work as a skilled artisan at this trade until 1921, when he established his present retail hardware store, at the corner of College avenue and Leonard street, northeast. Here he has built up a prosperous business and has become one of the representative citizens and business men of this section of the city. His skill as a mechanic led to his being chosen as a mechanical inspector in the United States aircraft production department in the period of the nation’s participation in the World war, he having fortunately been assigned to such service in his home city. Loyal and public-spirited as citizen, Mr. Verwys has had no desire for political activity or public office, but he is found aligned in the ranks of the Republican party. He and his family hold membership in the Christian Reformed church. On the 21st of April, 1904, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Verwys to Miss Laura Verwys, daughter of John Verwys, of Grand Rapids, the two families having no kinship, though bearing the same patronymic. Mr. and Mrs. Verwys have two children: Cornelia L., who was born February 19, 1907, and Margaret, who was born January 6, 1913. Both civic loyalty and a fine human spirit have marked the life of Mr. Verwys and significant evidence of this was given in his splendid aid to the boys who needed baseball grounds in his neighborhood. Concerning this an interesting record appeared in a recent edition of the Grand Rapids Press, and from the article are taken, with minor changes, the following extracts: "Abraham Verwys is a baseball fan, and that’s one of the reasons he has made a success of the hardware business. It is also one of the reasons why the folk of the community in the vicinity of College avenue and Leonard street can point with pride to their section and say, ‘There’s not a bad boy in the neighborhood.’ About four years ago Mr. Verwys established his hardware business at the northwest corner of College avenue and Leonard street, northeast. Across College avenue is a vacant lot, which then was also the property of the hardware dealer. And it wasn’t long after Mr. Verwys opened up his hardware store that he was approached by the boys of the neighborhood, who asked permission to use the lot as a baseball diamond. The hardware man was willing enough, but he wanted to be friends not only with the boys but with the older folk as well, so he held off his decision until he could visit the folk who lived adjacent to the prospective diamond. The neighbors informed him they thought the diamond a good thing and that the games would not be a bit of annoyance to them. So the hardware man gave the boys permission to use the lot. Then the boys wanted to buy a baseball club, but Mr. Verwys would not sell them one. Instead he picked out the best one in his stock and gave it to them. But boys can’t play baseball with only a bat; there must be a ball also. And here is what he told them. ‘Boys, I have some baseballs in stock, and they’re pretty good baseballs, but you fellows want a better one than I have for sale, so I’ll get you one.’ True to his word, Mr. Verwys went to a downtown sporting goods store and bought a baseball of the best grade, for which he wouldn’t take a cent of the boy’s money. * * * On their own initiative the boys cleaned up the lot, and with a quantity of cinders obtained from the hardware man and others, they leveled all depressions, until today the lot presents one of the finest neighborhood baseball grounds in the city. As a result of the generosity and the loyal assistance of Mr. Verwys he is a friend of every boy in the neighborhood, and every boy in the neighborhood is a friend of Mr. Verwys." It may be stated further that Mr. Verwys removed a tree from the lot, moved a building used as an ice-distributing station to a corner of the lot, and thus gave the boys a chance to make their diamond a good one. He contributed to the erection of a backstop on the ball grounds, and he has had unbounded satisfaction and pleasure in being thus able to help the boys and to keep the neighborhood up to a fine standard. Mr. Verwys has one other great pride besides his interest in civic progress, and that is in his library, which is one of the finest in the state. Here he has old English and Holland volumes dating as far back as 1607. One of his works in the old English language is a volume by Wm. Penn believed to be the only one in existence. It is small wonder that he takes great pride in such a library.
Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 24 March 2005