Charles Adam Burkholder passed away peacefully at his home in Grandville on May 12, 2023 at the age of 89 with his loving family at his side.
Charlie’s appreciation for the wonder of life, unshakable compassion and persistent taste for mischief will be missed by the love of his life, his wife Aleda (Sikkema); his daughters, Christina Cooper and Anne Engvall (Steve); stepchildren Randall te Velde (Susie Chang), Debra Hoekstra (John), and Laurel te Velde (Mark Shepard); eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Blanche (Herr) and Clarence Burkholder; and his two brothers, JR and Harold.
Charles was born into an Old Order Mennonite family in Lancaster County, PA on January 17, 1934. Later an active Unitarian Universalist, Charles approached life with a strong sense of responsibility to serve others. He found purpose in caring for his family and advocating for the needy, serving both his local and the global community.
After graduating from Goshen College in 1955, Charles served his country during the Korean War as a conscientious objector, providing parental guidance in a home for troubled boys. He completed his education with an MSW from Ohio State in 1959.
Charles once wrote about his life of service: “As much as I can, I believe in, and respect, the inherent dignity and worth of all people. I seize opportunities, in kindness, to care for others and to care for the earth…reducing suffering and conflict through social justice.”
After working as a counselor in Elkhart, IN, Charles served the greater Grand Rapids community primarily in his role as Executive Director of Family Service Association, which provided a variety of counseling services to individuals and families. During his twenty-three years there, he led the organization through two phases of expansion. He founded the Family Outreach Center. He was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to craft legislation providing counseling services to fractured families through the Circuit Courts, funded by marriage license fees. He served as Chair of the Michigan Federation of Private Child and Family Services, and he served on the board of the Family Service Association of America.
Charles also found many opportunities for service outside of his professional life, both before and after retiring. He served on the boards of churches in Michigan and Arizona, including Fountain Street Church and All Souls Community Church.
He was especially proud of his and Aleda’s work with the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans in Arizona. He wrote: “We took numerous opportunities to be compassionate…searching the southern AZ desert, providing water, first aid, clothing, food, personal care to migrants…and advocating with Border Patrol and other authorities to ameliorate the suffering.”
In retirement, Charlie and Aleda traveled much of the world together, joined retirement communities in both Bonita Springs, FL and Green Valley, AZ, filling much of their time with biking, playing tennis, playing cards, following Cubs baseball and Ohio State football games.
Charles was a formidable opponent in all games he played (among others, gin rummy, cribbage poker, backgammon and dominoes) and was rarely defeated, even in his last days. He remained fascinated by chance, and wrote: “What I find real pleasure in…is the intrigue and mystery of each deal of cards, or roll of dice, or draw of tiles. Plus watching how opponents play their hands and respond to the play as it moves.”
Charlie radiated grace and gratitude. As he left this phase of life, we knew that his brilliant light was not extinguished, but will continue, refracted in the hearts and minds of everyone he touched. For the privilege to share in the gift of his life, we give thanks.
The family invites all to join in celebration of Charlie’s life at Fountain Street Church, Saturday, June 24th at 12 noon for services and afterward, at 1pm to share memories and visit with the family. Those so moved are invited to send donations to Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans in his name at: http://www.gvs-samaritans.org/donate.html.
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