His tireless life’s mission to help solve wide ranging issues of business, science, and community concluded, Ronald Lee Hartgerink passed away peacefully at home in South Haven, MI, on June 12, 2019 following a courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
He was born March 21, 1942 to Margaret and Elmer Hartgerink in Zeeland, MI. His family ancestry is traced to Alexander Hartgerink, who came to America from the Netherlands in 1845 in pursuit of religious freedom. Ron’s roots were firmly planted in Zeeland, through their home church, the Second Reformed Church of Zeeland, where the funeral service will be held.
After graduating from Zeeland High School, he attended Hope College, majoring in chemistry, and he received his PhD in organic chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a 53-year member of the American Chemical Society.
He married Barbara Voorhorst on June 12, 1964. They raised three sons, living in CA, NJ, TX, LA, and MI in 55 years together. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother John (Cindy) of Baton Rouge, LA, sister Ellie (Michael Huvane); three sons, Daniel (Mariella), Jeffrey (Lynn), both of Houston, and Kevin of South Haven; and three grandsons Alexander, Ryan, and Miles.
Ron had been working in research management for Exxon when his father encouraged him to come to South Haven in 1989 to lead the Wyckoff Chemical Company. A decade before that, Elmer Hartgerink had come out of retirement to revitalize the struggling business. After Ron retired, he faced a similar experience when he too helped to save the business from shut down, by helping to find a buyer. It was sold to DSM-Catalytica Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and now is Albemarle.
As a community advocate, Ron had an ability to create consensus among leaders from varying local governmental bodies. This was evidenced through his membership on the South Haven Area Resource Council (SHARC), the South Haven-Casco Townships Water and Sewer Development Authority, The South Haven Local Development Finance Authority, the South Haven Public Schools Citizens Advisory Committee, South Haven Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, South Haven Community Hospital Authority, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and South Haven Area Youth Development Council. He also served on the boards of the Lake Michigan College Foundation and Chemical Bank Shoreline.
Ron’s community service was recognized by the South Haven Mayor’s Award in 2004, and a City of South Haven proclamation in 2014. He also received a State of Michigan proclamation in 2014.
Christian education was important to Ron. He served on the boards of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. He was instrumental in the creation of the Network of African Congregation Theology (NetACT), a network of 55 theological institutions from many Christian organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In spite of all these activities, Ron made time for his family. He was an amateur astronomer, and loved taking his young sons on astronomy trips. Computers were coming of age as he embraced this technology and engaged his sons in it. He loved to do gardening with Barbara. He was able to play with abandon with his grandchildren. He was a caring listener and made deep friendships. He was generous and always ready to help. He loved going out for dinner with close friends and family. Holidays were times for gathering. He was kind in every way. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Ron was always proud of the Shoreline Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, now Bronson. The Hartgerink family is grateful for Ron’s personal trainer Ken Wood, and the Center’s excellent facilities, which added so much to his last years. Gratitude is also expressed to Caring Circle Lakeland Health Affiliate Hospice of South Haven for their support, gracious care and immeasurable kindness. Every person who came to his bedside gave the highest standard of care, and from their hearts.
Visitation will be Monday, June 17, at the Filbrandt Family Funeral Home, 1076 Bailey Ave., South Haven, from 3-5, and 6-8 p.m. The funeral service will be Tuesday, June 18, at 11:00 a.m. at the Second Reformed Church, 225 E. Central Ave., Zeeland, MI. The Rev. Frederick R Kruithof will preside.
The family asks that memorial gifts be given in Ron’s name to the food pantries at We Care I.N.C., 06321 Blue Star Highway, South Haven, MI 49090; or Camp Sunshine, PMB 200, 430 East 8th Street, Holland, MI 49423; or any charity of choice.
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