Carol Jean Chase (Schellenberg) aged 67 of Grand Rapids, Michigan, died peacefully at her home Tuesday, September 1, 2020 surrounded by her family after a 2 ½ year battle with cancer. Her courageous soul, dedication to justice, and open heart were always committed to advocating for those in need of a hand; it was her life’s work. She found so much joy being in her garden or losing herself in a book, but her greatest joys were spending time with her grandchildren and family. She treasured her close bond with her sisters and best friends, Ruth and Nancy as well as her in-laws Mike and Mary whose property in Free Soil, MI brought her so much peace.
Carol was a trailblazer in her field — becoming a lawyer in a time when there were firms in West Michigan that refused to hire women attorneys. She served as one of the founding members of the Women Lawyers’ Association of Western Michigan where there are now hundreds of members. The organization awarded her the “Outstanding Member Award” for her commitment to the advancement of women’s rights in society and the legal profession. Over her 38-year career, she was instrumental in shaping the Chapter 13 bankruptcy practice of West Michigan and mentored many of the consumer bankruptcy attorneys practicing here today. She was presented with the first ever “Distinguished Colleague Award” from the Debtors’ Bar of West Michigan which acknowledged her extraordinary leadership, mentorship, and influence over the local bankruptcy practice in the Western District of Michigan.
Her early experiences as a female attorney were influential in the shaping of her own firm, Chase Bylenga, which she started with Steve Bylenga in 2010 and not long after, added partner April Hulst to form Chase Bylenga Hulst. The firm was nominated for the Top Women Owned Businesses by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2017. The Bankruptcy Section of the Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Michigan awarded Carol with the Nims-Howard Civility Award “in recognition of conduct, skill and advocacy that exemplifies the tradition of civility of the bench & bar of this District.”
Carol is preceded in death by her father, Robert William Schellenberg. She is survived by her mother, Leona Schellenberg; her devoted and loving husband of 47 years, Mike Chase; her 2 children, Dan (Katie) Chase, Anna (Marc) Udelhofen; 4 grandchildren, Otto, Juniper, Easton, and Chase; sisters, Nancy (Don Brightman) Schellenberg and Ruth (Mike) Sprague; brothers Tom (Joan Young) Schellenberg and Bob (Kathy) Schellenberg; plus many in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends, and colleagues.
Carol’s family wishes to thank all of the doctors, nurses, and staff at Spectrum Health Lemmen-Holton and Faith Hospice who were involved in her treatment and end-of-life care.
A private memorial celebrating Carol’s life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, you may make a donation to the Women’s Resource Center of Grand Rapids in Carol’s memory by following this link: https://grwrc.org/donate/donate-now/ and clicking “In Memory of”. Or, you may send a check with “Carol Chase” in the memo to:
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