Marie Alberta Van Sweden, age 85, passed away October 3, 2019, at Bronson Hospital. Marie was born November 1, 1933, in Kalamazoo to Henry and Lucy (Dekema) van Nus. Due to the closeness of Halloween, Marie told her children that she was "dropped down the chimney" by witches flying overhead on their brooms. For years, her young children believed her. In reality, Marie was the last of six children, born to a mother who did not speak English when she arrived in the US, and a father who died of a stroke when she was just two years old. Her mother, Lucy van Nus, remained a widow and raised her children by renting out rooms in an eight-bedroom home on Burdick Street in Kalamazoo. Marie became a hard worker at a very young age as she helped with all parts of running a boarding house. As a high school student at Kalamazoo Central High School, Marie started singing, traveled to Chicago bi-weekly for professional voice lessons, and ultimately performed both locally and across the Kalamazoo region in the 1950's version of todays "America's Got Talent," often taking home the first place award of $5.00.
On March 20, 1956 she was united in marriage to John M. Van Sweden. After marriage, Marie continued performing, but restricted her talent to the Civic Auditorium that featured shows such as The Sound of Music. In this role, Marie was one of the singing nuns. So in the span of a few decades, she went from a witch raised by Dutch Immigrants to a Catholic Nun in Austria.
John and Marie started Van Sweden Jewelers in 1974 in the basement of the ISB building and later moved onto the downtown mall. Marie continued to work hard and stay busy. She was a typical housewife, perhaps frustrated by lack of opportunity. She developed friendships though Sweet Adeline's, Kalamazoo Central Reunion committee, Class of 1951(still meeting monthly for breakfast!) various charities and school/church roles, and together with John, opened her home to a number of young people, some who stayed years and really are a part of the family (you know who you are, including Rick, Michele, Chi Chow, Jake). She always did this with an open heart.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 62 years, John Van Sweden, parents and all five siblings.
Surviving are four children: Paul Van Sweden of Kalamazoo; Rebekah Van Sweden of Boulder, CO; Elizabeth (Ron) Bloomfield of Ridgeland, MS; and Daniel (Sally) Van Sweden of Kalamazoo; as well as her grandchildren: Hillary and Allison Bloomfield; Adrianna, Joshua, and Aneka Van Hansen; and Lillian, Nora, Lucas, and Ava Van Sweden.
Marie remained a hard worker her whole life (hard worker sometimes being translated into "stubborn dutchman" as she proudly boasted), living ten additional years with a cancer/leukemia diagnosis that had a twenty month lifespan. Winters were spent with John at the second home in Springhill, FL. In the end, Marie Van Sweden's final role was as an Alzheimer's patient, and while it was true even in this family that the diagnosis fractures four out of five families, she also re-discovered laughter and found time to give out hugs to anyone within four feet, one time declaring that she had hugged over sixty people in one day, many of them the nurses at the Cancer Center.
A visitation will be at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 247 W. Lovell St., Kalamazoo on Tuesday, October 8th, from 1:00-2:00. The funeral will begin at 2PM at St. Luke's and immediately following a reception in the church hall. A private family burial will take place in Riverside Cemetery. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Kalamazoo County Area Agency on Aging, St Luke's Church, or a charity of your choice. Please visit Marie's personalized guest book at https://www.langelands.com.
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