Born Grand Rapidians, Jan and John Heerspink graduated from Calvin University (formerly Calvin College) before heading off to Ann Arbor. “We were married in 1966 and said we were never moving back to this provincial town,” Jan shared with a laugh.
Open teaching positions led the Heerspinks to Battle Creek in 1968. In their free time, they played in the Battle Creek symphony—Jan on timpani and John on violin. During this time, they also welcomed their two daughters, Amy and Andrea, to the world.
Eventually, the Heerspinks found themselves drawn back to their hometown. “Grand Rapids had changed so much, and we had changed, too. We had kids, both of our families were here, and he was offered an interesting professional position, so we came home,” Jan said.
John was hired to be the planned giving director, an emerging profession at the time, for Calvin University. While in this role, he started a group that is now the West Michigan Planned Giving Group. Jan also secured a position with their alma mater. She joined Calvin’s academic support team, where she served students for 29 years.
John left Calvin University to start his own consultancy. It was during this time that he became involved with Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Liking what he saw, he encouraged his parents to create a Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation. When he and Jan revised their estate plan, they included a gift to the Community Foundation, as well.
John retired in 2007 and Jan followed in the fall of 2010. Just months later, John suffered a severe stroke. He spent months hospitalized and in inpatient rehab. He passed away in June 2012. “We had many things that we wanted to do together, but we didn’t get the chance,” Jan said.
Since John’s passing, Jan has found joy in spending time with her children and grandchildren. This past summer, they took a trip of a lifetime together to Alaska. It was something she and John had dreamed of experiencing.
Jan is an active volunteer and is very involved with LaGrave Christian Reformed Church. She’s an avid supporter of Opera Grand Rapids and she serves on the Friends of the Opera Board. She made a qualified charitable distribution from her IRA to Opera Grand Rapids last year.
Scholarships are a big part of the Heerspink family giving. “During the Depression, John’s dad was attending Calvin College. Money was tight, so he decided that he could not return to college. A relative heard about this and gave him the money to continue through graduation. Later in life, when he could give back, he and Mom gave to scholarships and educational supports, among other good causes. This is one way that we learned to be donors,” Jan said.
Long before his health took a turn, John created a notebook with all their important documents. “At least once a year, he’d say to me and our daughters, ‘you know where this notebook is, right?’ When he had a stroke, I needed that notebook. Now I’m working on getting it back in order,” Jan said.
Jan is committed to supporting the things she holds dear after her lifetime. She plans to leave a gift to the Community Foundation in her estate plan and will continue working with the team to ensure her and John's intentions are met.
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