On January 12, 2022, Harriet Millicent Engbers (Wissink) passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by her loving family. Harriet was born in Muskegon, Michigan on June 20, 1938, to Reverend Charles and Geraldine Wissink. As a preacher’s kid, she moved between the west Michigan area and Wisconsin, graduating from Washington High School in Milwaukee. While in high school she frequently performed on TV and at events as part of a singing trio known as Pur-gold. She then attended Hope College where she majored in English and minored in voice. While there she joined the Sigma Sigma sorority and the Hope College Chapel Choir where she was a frequent soloist. Most importantly, while at Hope College she began a relationship with the love of her life, James Engbers.
After marrying Jim, she taught first grade in Madison Heights, Michigan, while Jim attended law school. They soon returned to Grand Rapids with their two young sons and rounded out the family with a daughter and another son. Harriet became active in many organizations in the Grand Rapids community including Mary Free Bed, Good Will Industries, the Women’s City Club and the Grand Rapids Junior League, for which she served as the co-chair of the very popular Grand Rapids Junior League Cookbook. Harriet had a beautiful singing voice and was often a soloist in the choir of Eastminster Presbyterian Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Harriet also had a passion for fashion and sales. For over 25 years, she worked as a top selling fashion consultant for Doncaster and was appointed to its National Fashion Advisory Board. Harriet was gifted at cooking and entertaining. She set a beautiful table and, together with Jim, loved welcoming friends and family into their home. Magnificent meals often ended with guests lingering for hours sharing conversation and many, many laughs.
Harriet’s service to the community and many talents do not tell the most important part of the life she led. She created a kind and loving home for her family with an emphasis on learning, understanding and compassion. And for those who were lucky enough to know her well, Harriet was a selfless friend and confidant. She spent many evenings sitting at her kitchen table with a glass of wine, counseling a friend or child through the trials and tribulations of their lives. She was a tireless listener who offered sound and loving advice entirely without judgment. Her children, in particular, benefited from her supportive, patient parenting and unconditional love (even when they probably didn’t deserve it). Though she will be missed dearly we know she left this world on her own terms – in the home she loved, at peace with her passing and eternally grateful of having lived such a blessed life full of love and joy with a wonderful family and seemingly endless friends.
Harriet was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Rodney Winston Wissink and her baby son (lost in childbirth in 1965). She is survived by James, her loving husband of 60 years; children Charles Engbers (Sonya Thomason), James Engbers Jr. (Jeanne Pepin), Nancy Falk (Steve), David Engbers (Amy); eight grandchildren: Sage, Alex, Charlotte, Abigail, Harriet, Helen, Eleanor and Edward; her brother Reverend Doctor Charles Jay Wissink of Boca Raton, Florida, and many nieces and nephews who knew her as “Auntie Toot.”
Funeral Services will be held for Harriet 11am on Friday January 21 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The family will greet friends after the service from 12pm to 1:30pm in the Narthex of the church. In lieu of flowers, donations in Harriet’s name can be made to the Hope College Heritage Fund, a scholarship fund for deserving students with financial need, may be made to Hope College Philanthropy Services, P.O. Box 9000, Holland, MI 49422.
A very sincere and grateful thank you to those at Faith Hospice who provided such supportive and tender care. Additional thanks to the many friends and family members who, through their kind gestures, have helped the family through this difficult time.
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Hope College Heritage Fund
PO Box 9000, Holland MI 49422-9000