Fredrick Bolhuis, 101, of Ellsworth, died October 19, 2020 at Meadow Brook Medical Care Facility in Bellaire, arriving at his heavenly homeland on the 75th anniversary of his return to the States after WWII when he literally kissed the ground.
Fred was born April 18, 1919 in Banks Township, the 10th of William and Tena (Drenth) Bolhuis' 12 children. He grew up on the family farm with a dog named Brownie and a horse named Queen which he rode bareback. When Fred was 9, his dad died. In 1937, his brother Gerrit drowned at a family picnic. When Fred was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, he sold the farm – and Queen – and moved his widowed mother into Ellsworth.
Fred served in Europe during WWII. He drove a 6x6 truck in the 297th Engineering Combat Battalion, a bridge-building unit known as the “Jackrabbits.” When the 297th landed at Utah Beach on D-Day his was the third truck off the barge but the first to make it to shore. The Jackrabbits played a key role in the Allied Forces' conquest at the Remegen Bridge, a turning point in the war. The 297th also participated in the liberation of the Nordhausen Charnal House death camp. Though battered and bullet-holed, Fred’s was the only truck in the motor pool to make it through the war. He drove the truck onto the Autobahn and left it there.
When Fred returned to the States his fiancee Wilma Groenink joined him in Chicago where they were married on November 8, 1945.
Fred used his GI Bill benefits to attend Agricultural School. Fred and Wilma bought their farm on Pleasant Hill Road in 1946. Throughout their 43 years of farming many relatives visited. Nieces and nephews enjoyed “Uncle Fred’s Farm” with tractor rides, hayrides, playing hide-and-seek in the haymow and cornfields, hauling hay and doing “shovel-ready projects” like pouring a concrete floor in the cattle barn.
In 1989, Fred and Wilma retired from farming and moved into Ellsworth. He enjoyed grandparenting, gardening, going for rides, taking long walks, picking cherries, woodworking, making applesauce, watching birds, squirrels, rabbits and deer.
Fred was a lifetime member of the Ellsworth Christian Reformed Church where he served as deacon, elder and teacher. He also served on the Ebenezer Christian School Board and drove Ebenezer’s bus. He was a member of the Antrim County Farm Bureau and served on the Board of the Ellsworth Farmers’ Exchange.
Surviving are his wife Wilma; children Ardith (Jack) Tornga, Celia (John) Hastings and Roger (Sarah) Bolhuis; grandchildren Paul Hastings, Scott Tornga and Ed Boh; great-grandchildren Grant Hastings, Jake Hastings, Mick Hastings and Eddie Boh; many nieces and nephews. Fred was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, Tillie (Peter) DeZeeuw, Gerrit (Henrietta) Bolhuis, Abel (Emma) Bolhuis, Margaret (Elmer) Huizinga, Henrietta (John) Boeskool, Minnie Bolhuis who died at age 4, Nellie (Neil) Grimberg, Minnie (Christian “Hooky”) Hoekstra, Clara (Dick) Van Til, Alice (Hugo) Vander Wall and Hattie (Bernie) Veenstra.
Visitation will be at the Ellsworth Christian Reformed Church on Friday, October 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. A service of thanksgiving for God’s grace in Fred’s life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 24 at the Ellsworth Christian Reformed Church with the Rev. James Zwier officiating. The family requests that everyone attending wear masks. Burial will be in Atwood Cemetery. The service will be live streamed and available for later viewing on the church’s web site, www.ellsworthcrc.org.
Arrangements were made by the Hastings/Ellsworth Chapel of Mortensen Funeral Homes. Please sign his online guestbook www.mortensenfuneralhomes.com.