Gilbert Paul Vander Wal was born on February 20, 1928, in Oskaloosa, Iowa, a gift from God to his loving parents Peter and Johanna (Leydens) Vander Wal. An only child, he felt privileged to grow up on a farm in the Lower Grove area, where he could appreciate God’s beautiful world and enjoy caring for his pets and livestock.. Cherry Grove country school was just up the road from home, and he attended there for eight years. Much of that time the teacher boarded at Gilly’s home. He attended Pella Christian High School in Pella, Iowa, where he played trombone and joined the basketball team. During that time, his father passed away which meant that young Gilbert had to take full responsibility for the farm even before he graduated with the Class of 1947.
After high school, Gilbert nurtured his talent for playing guitar and singing by joining an alumni quartet. When the group needed a new accompanist, Gilly suggested asking young Iris Joan De Jong, who, though still in high school, was an accomplished pianist and had caught his eye. She joined, and their interest in each other grew, finally leading to their marriage on June 2, 1954. They were blessed with four children, Loren, Kris, Lisa, and Bruce. During those happy but busy years, Gilbert worked hard as a farmer and dedicated time to the Peoria Christian School, his children’s activities, community Messiah concerts at Christmas, as well as the Peoria Christian Reformed Church in Peoria, Iowa, of which he was a lifelong member. He was a very loving father and husband, and always had a smile or kind word for everyone with whom he came into contact.
After 35 years, when son Bruce married and took over the operation of the family farm, Gilbert and Iris moved into Pella. They enjoyed town life together for over 23 years. Gilbert took a part time job as a custodian at Vermeer Manufacturing for 18 years, continued to help on the farm, volunteered in the community, and traveled with Iris to interesting places. Many in Pella would often see Gilbert driving his B Farmall around town—with Iris sitting on the axle beside him. He also enjoyed being a part of the Red Rock Threshers Tractor Club. Although he never became a pilot himself, Gilly loved airplanes. He got to enjoy the thrill of flying when his friends would take him up for a spin now and then. He was a dedicated grandfather and great-grandfather, and loved holding a baby on his lap or attending concerts and other events that featured his beloved family.
A true gentleman and honorable man, Gilbert showed his love for the Lord by the life he lived. He was a true father figure to his family and had an impact on the lives he touched. The Lord called him home suddenly on December 6, 2012, as a result of a fatal vehicle/pedestrian accident in Pella at the age of 84 years. His family and many friends will miss him dearly.
Gilbert is survived by his wife, Iris, and their four children and their families Loren and Marilee (De Groot) Vander Wal of Pella, Jonathan and Trista Vander Wal and heir daughter, Anya of Congo, Africa, Joy and Jordan Roose and their children: Timothy, Arie, Lydia, Peter of Peoria, Jenae and David Van Ee and their daughter, Arianne of Orlando, FL, Julia Vander Wal of Fort Carson, CO, Kris and Dale DeWild of Pella, Amber and Jake Reed and their son, Jackson of Dallas, TX, Alison and Craig Naish of Chicago, IL, Charles and Laural DeWild and their children: Ethan, Audry, Abigail of Orlando, FL, Lisa and Bruce Groenendyk of Leighton, lan and Lindy Groenendyk and their daughter, Natalie of Jenison, MI, Nathan Groenendyk of Phoenix, AZ, Bruce and Noreen (Van Weelden) Vander Wal of New Sharon, Greg Vander Wal of Grand Rapids, MI, Lucas Vander Wal of Chicago, IL, Karyn Vander Wal of New Sharon, Michael Vander Wal of New Sharon.
Gilbert’s family includes the following brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law: Kenneth and Arene De Jong of Pella, Eugene De Jong of Pella, Norman and Helen De Jong of New Sharon, Verna and John Vander Kooi of Akron, Ohio, and Gaylord and Twila De Jong of New Sharon.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Peter and Johanna Vander Wal and his parents-in-law, Gerrit M. and Frances (Blom) De Jong.
Funeral services were held on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at Peoria Christian Reformed Church in Peoria. Arrangements were handled by Van Dyk – Duven Funeral Home.