Bethany’s fifth pastor, the Reverend Jerry Arthur Veldman, was born May 18, 1898 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended both Hope Preparatory School and Hope College, graduating in 1925. On June 28 of that year, he married Adelaide Borgman in Holland, Michigan. He then attended Western Theological Seminary and graduated in 1928 at the age of 30. Like Bethany’s third and fourth pastors, the Reverend Frank DeRoos and the Reverend Benjamin Laman, he spent twelve years of his life studying and preparing to become a pastor.
He was ordained and installed as pastor of the Richmond Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1928 and served that church until late 1932 when he accepted a call from Bethany. He was installed January 5, 1933, seven months after the death of the Reverend Benjamin Laman. He thus became the first Bethany pastor to preach in our current sanctuary. The Reverend Veldman and his wife Adelaide by then were the parents of a daughter, Marilyn, and shortly after their move to Kalamazoo, their son Jerry was born.
During the Reverend Veldman’s service to Bethany, many significant events occurred. The basement (now known as the West Wing) was remodeled to make additional Sunday school rooms. Bethany also began its support of mission work.
In 1941 we acquired a unit in Arabia, and in 1943 a unit in India. In 1938 the consistory hired a young teen-ager named Louise Filarski, who attended Fourth Reformed Church a few blocks north on Dutton Street, to become Bethany’s new organist.
The Reverend Veldman became well-known during his years at Bethany for his competitive nature and his keen interest in sports. He coached Bethany teams in basketball and baseball. He enlarged the area behind the parking lot so practice diamonds could be built for the softball and baseball teams. These sports teams brought in boys and girls and young men and women from the neighborhood, and they began attending church and Sunday school – they had to if they wanted to be part of the teams!
Veldman coached a championship basketball team which represented Kalamazoo at a state tournament in Detroit in 1937. That team included Harold Pikkaart, Ed VanHaften, Lowell Harmens and one young man who would give his life serving in World War II: Cliff Malloy.
A total of 209 young men (and also several women) from Bethany served in World War II, with three giving their lives in 1944.
In the fall of 1943, the Reverend Veldman received and accepted a call to the Calvary Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. Bethany’s membership at that time had grown to 230 families and 495 communicant members. At the farewell party for the Reverend Veldman, he and one deacon and one elder burned the church’s mortgage!
The Reverend Veldman served the Calvary Reformed Church from 1943 to 1948 and then from 1948 to 1955, he was pastor of the American Reformed Church of Orange City, Iowa. At the time of Bethany’s 50th anniversary, he was the associate pastor of Third Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, home of Hope College where he began his studies for the ministry. The Reverend Veldman was still serving as an associate pastor when he died at 64 of a heart attack on October 20, 1962.
Adelaide Veldman continued to live in Holland until her death on October 23, 1979 at age 78. Their daughter Marilyn and her husband John VanderVelde live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They have three adult children, Mary, Alison and Jonathan, and six grandchildren. The Veldman’s son Jerry and his wife Lois live in Okemos, Michigan and they have three children, Tim, Jon, and Sarah, and five grandchildren.
The Reverend Jerry Veldman served Bethany for over ten years during some very challenging times. When he and his family arrived in Kalamazoo in 1933, the community was enduring the depths of the Great Depression, and many church families were struggling financially with the family breadwinners unemployed. When the Veldmans left Bethany in 1943, many young men and women were now risking their lives serving in World War II. For Bethany’s 50th anniversary book, the Reverend Veldman fittingly wrote: “The Lord only knows what happened while I was at Bethany with my dear family.” Yet, he continued to say, “I had a great time and so did my family.” These remarks reflect how, despite times of hardship and trial, Bethany could continue to grow and prosper because of the caring leadership of the Reverend Jerry Veldman and his wife Adelaide.