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Beacon Archive

May 2004
PDF Version

 

Elwood VanAntwerp

Twenty-three-year Island resident and retired master finish carpenter Elwood VanAntwerp passed away in his fifteen-sided home at Appleby's Point during the night of April 16th. Van, as he was called, was known for his life-long interest in alternate energy technology (he built his first wind generator 60 years ago), a dedication to fine craftsmanship, his fondness for lawyer jokes, and for living by the high moral values he learned as a youth.
Raised on a farm near Tustin, he had to walk over five miles to school each day, and then walk back, and then do his chores. His upbringing forbade alcohol and tobacco, and he was not allowed to waste his time playing sports. The one exception: his father let him join the debate team.

Upon graduation he worked in the CCC camps before enlisting in the Army. After the war he and his wife, who grew up near Skip McDonough in Grand Rapids, began to raise a family. He lived and worked in various places around Michigan, including Suttons Bay and Marshall, where Van built an underground home. In 1981 he moved to Beaver Island with a vintage Packard convertible and the tools he'd accumulated over a lifetime, many of which no one but him knew how to use. Although technically retired, work was his love, so he stayed busy. He built custom cabinets here and there, and took on the taxing project of converting the former Coast Guard Building into a McDonough Avenue home. One of his last projects was the gazebo and deck system at the A-frame on Cable's Bay.

A regular member of the Christian Church, he was a Christian who practiced his beliefs. He was known for his honesty and his helpfulness: if a friend needed a hand, he was always there. He had been taught from McGuffie's Reader at home, and went to school already knowing how to read and write. The poetry he memorized as a child stayed with him, and he was able to recite several poems on request, as he did for Museum Week's Music on the Porch. When he helped the Museum prepare for its opening a few years ago, the work went on until 1:30 a.m. He remarked, “That’s the latest I’ve stayed up in sixty-eight years.”

He and his wife Betty left the Island on the last boat for her home in Bellaire, which allowed them to travel to Florida during the brunt of winter. He had bought a nearly new Town Car, which they enjoyed pointing towards the back roads, where they could see “the real sights and meet interesting people.” He returned to the Island on one of the first boats only to find his water line had burst; he wound up making new fittings in one of his extensive shops. The day before his death he talked about only 5 of 18 being left from his graduating class, whose reunion he had recently attended. He was looking forward to accomplishing the projects he'd set for himself: “I can't do as much as I used to, so I've got to budget more time.” Unfortunately he had no time left.
Survivors include his wife, Betty; children, Howard (Diana) VanAntwerp of Cadillac, Roy (Dawn) VanAntwerp of Traverse City, Jay (Cindy) VanAntwerp of Marshall, Virginia Porteous of Cadillac and Connie VanAntwerp of Traverse City; stepchildren, James (Cindy) Shawl of Florida, Nathan (Kathy) Shawl of Bay City, Jonathan (Debbie) Shawl and Timothy (Tammy) Shawl, all of Bellaire, and Ruth Ann (Don) Nast of Florida; eight grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren; two step-great-grandchildren; brothers, Malcolm (Benita) of Iowa, Stanley (Margaret) of Hudsonville and Alan (Leah) of Tustin; and sisters, Lois Hodgson of Grand Rapids, Ruth (Ken) Cole of Vermontville and Irene (Nels) Nelson of Minnesota.


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