February 2, 1972 - September 20, 2021
Ellen Melissa Berends passed away suddenly on Monday September 20, 2021, hiking in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming while celebrating her 28th wedding anniversary with her husband, Ryan. She was born on February 2, 1972 to Robert Lynn and Linda Ruth (Carlen) VanGeest in Grand Rapids, MI. After meeting in gym class, Ellen married her high school sweetheart, Ryan Andrew Berends on September 18, 1993. Together they raised their four children, Jacob, Christian, Emma, and Grace in North Muskegon. Ellen had an arrangement of jobs over the years, but all were dedicated to helping others succeed and improving communities. Some of her work included creating the Kids Area at the Grand Rapids YMCA, bringing many events for families and sports enthusiast to the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, and fund developing for the Muskegon Child Abuse Council. She entered the Downtown Development career with Muskegon and spent several years dedicated to the development of the community and generating support for local businesses and artists. Some of her legacy includes coordinating the Taste of Muskegon and moving it to its new Hackley Park location and bringing the First Friday events to the downtown area as family friendly entertainment for all. She spent two years with that same passion in Coopersville before moving North to the Traverse City area. Ellen loved spending time with her children while they were growing up and stayed active with their various sporting and school activities. She helped run the ski/snowboard club for many years, was a “backyard swim instructor” to half the child population of North Muskegon, coached and was the president of the youth soccer program, was considered one of the Norsemen Soccer Program Moms whose voice could be heard from the press box every game night and opening her home to countless team dinners and fun. Ellen had a kind, generous heart and always gave back to others. She could create a home for anyone who may need it. She loved and cared deeply about those in her life and would fiercely protect those around her. If Ellen gave you a hug, it was a mama bear hug and you were part of her tribe. She absolutely loved living so close to the water and spending time at the beach and enjoyed exploring new areas with no destination in mind with her family. Ellen loved her family and friends and will be forever loved by her husband, Ryan; children, Jacob (Jessica) Berends, Christian Berends, Emma Berends, and Grace Berends; parents, Robert and Linda VanGeest; brother, Jonathon (Sarah) VanGeest; mother-in-law, Lois Berends; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father-in-law, Jack Berends. A Funeral Service will be held 2PM, Wednesday, September 29 at The Lee Chapel of Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services, 6291 S. Harvey St., Norton Shores, MI 49444. Visitation with the family will be from 5-8PM, Tuesday, September 28 and one hour prior to the service, from 1-2PM. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids, in honor of Ellen's father, a Vietnam Veteran. Please feel free to share a memory with the family online at www.sytsemafh.com.
Ellen Melissa Berends passed away suddenly on Monday September 20, 2021, hiking in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming while celebrating her 28th wedding anniversary with her husband, Ryan. She was born on February 2, 1972 to Robert Lynn and... View Obituary & Service Information
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