Departure: June 2021
Listen to Funeral Sermon
A Life of Love
Thea was born and raised in Seattle, the firstborn of six to Ted and Jo DeKoekkoek. From them she inherited strength of character, a sharp, ordered mind, compassion, artistic excellence and a deep love of her heavenly Father. She was a helpful big sister for Jim, John, Don, Franci and Deb. Throughout her life she was an artist and a lover of literature, poetry and music. While attending Watson Groen Christian, she saved every penny earned from babysitting and working as a key punch operator so she could go out to Calvin College in Michigan after graduation. She sometimes lamented that her entire life savings disappeared in the first semester. At Calvin, she worked overtime in food services, nursing homes and then, as a secretary for the Education Department professors. Thea could actually decipher the scribbles of her future father-in-law, Dr. Henry Beversluis.
Thea met Ladd in 1969, in an Art class: first, in Cinematography they made a short film, and then, in a sculpture class, where she made sparks welding a scrap-metal sculpture (earning a festival award) while Ladd played with clay, smiled at her a lot and was immensely impressed by her beauty and many talents. He wormed his way into a ‘date’ by asking her for a haircut and thanking her with a movie and burgers.
By spring of 1970, they were dating regularly and enjoying time together. Once, as Ladd was setting up an auditorium for a concert, she waited in a front row seat with a girlfriend and was asked out by the musician Isaac Hayes, who thought she was a groupie. She didn’t go.
That summer, after returning from a visit with her parents in Seattle, Ladd (shaking in his boots) called Ted to ask for permission/blessing on a marriage proposal to his daughter. He said yes… then she said, “Yes.” Their wedding in took place in Grand Rapids on December 26, 1970 during a snow storm. After leaving the reception, the newlywed’s VW got stuck in the snow and Thea had to get out and push the car—the beginnings of her life-long labors of love.
After finishing the school year, their ‘Bug’ was traded for a Dodge van in which they moved to Seattle, where Thea worked as secretary/receptionist for the Seattle City Engineering Dept., supporting Ladd through his last year of school. They bought a beater Morris Minor and property under a condemned house (boarded up for 10 years) and immediately moved in—no plumbing, water or windows. But it had good bones, lots of dirt, spiders and leaks.
Over the next 17 years with lots of family help, they slowly remodeled the home and Thea landscaped the yard. She developed her love of gardening and planted large vegetable and flower gardens while raising eight kids—the first four home grown: Mike, Laura, Sarah and Adam— and the next four adopted: Naomi, Cari, Chris and Jeff.
Although private and reserved by nature, Thea served, by God’s help, as Sunday school teacher, girls’ club leader, VBS teacher and, with Ladd, a youth group leader. For many years she hosted holiday and Christmas gatherings for the extended family, planning and working for many days, baking, cooking and decorating.
In 1981, Thea took on the rare calling to home school their children. One of her greatest joys was singing with and reading to her children and later, to grandchildren. She developed an extensive ‘Memory Work Notebook’, which laid out a monthly schedule of Bible passages, hymns, poetry and good literature. As an artist, she encouraged in her kids the love of design and expression. As a fine pianist, Thea promoted music appreciation and participation. The family enjoyed many field trips to museums and businesses, as well as hiking and camping in the spectacular Northwest. For six weeks In 1984, the family traveled the country in a stretch van, which was converted every night into beds for six. History and geography on the road.
In 1990, wanting to get out of the city, Ladd and Thea bought property in Kingston and immediately hauled a beater single-wide mobile on to it, moving the family in July. The boys slept in an old travel trailer. For a while, the family of ten had only a porta-potty and hauled-in water, then a bathroom by appointment only. Thea persevered.
The next 18 months were spent building a home—living on site, alternating between dust and mud. More than a trooper, Thea was always eager and excited to work on multiple DIY projects. The kids learned construction first-hand, with jobs like drilling holes and pulling wire. Many animals and activities were added over the years—cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, goats, ponies, horses… bikes and dirt bikes…as well as a ‘Mom’s-In-Touch’ Bible study that Thea hosted.
In 1995, with the older kids gradually off to college, Dan, Hannah and Andrew were adopted. They quickly adapted to country life, with animals to care for, ponies and dirt bikes to ride, trees to climb, a trampoline and a pool.
Thea was very organized. She kept detailed records year-after-year of every gift planned and given to each child, grandchild and other family members for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. Re-reading her Christmas letters, we treasure her memories and most especially her humor and wit. One year, Thea was feeling behind schedule and the 6 dogs ‘asked’ if they could write the annual letter. Of course, Thea said, “Sure, go for it.” Samples: “Alvin, Mike’s dog, is no longer with us, having gone the way of all flesh; Mike is no longer with us, having gone the way of a grad student to the University of Rochester.” “Kapo saved Laura from an ugly encounter with a burglar….and also dabbles in day trading.”
Thea filled journals with sermon notes, poems, and prayers written at night when she couldn’t sleep, and letters drafted to those for whom she prayed. They also included reflections on various relationships, life and death. We discovered a shopping receipt from 1998, the backside filled with questions and thoughts about heaven jotted down as we drove home.
Her life was prayer without ceasing, built on her rock solid foundation of faith: her relationship with her heavenly Father was her treasure. Even in her last few months, while drowning in disability, her mind sometimes scrambled by drugs, Thea cried out, “Help me, Lord. Free me from this horrible time; let me come home.” And then she could submit and say, “Your timing… Your will be done.” And now, by His design, she delights in the splendor of His glory.
To any who don’t know the Father, or have turned away to ‘master’ their own fate, know that you can, in Christ, have a rock solid foundation on which to live and die “… like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.” Luke 6:48