Aunt Elinor passed into the presence of her precious Lord Jesus in the evening of May 12, surrounded by her loving nephews and niece. She lived a life of selfless service to her Lord and her family, and will be greatly missed by all who had the honor to know her.
Elinor Van Gelderen was born on September 19,1933 to Martin and Oma Lee Jacobs Van Gelderen as a 4 pound baby. She caught pneumonia and went down to 2 pounds, and her mother, a woman who knew how to get ahold of God, prayed, “Lord if you know that this baby is going to die, take her before I leave the hospital.” She was known as the “blue baby.” Miraculously, her mother took her home from the hospital and stayed at home constantly for almost a whole year until Elinor’s life was stable and she was thriving. She was the baby sister of Martin Wayne and Robert E. Van Gelderen.
In December of 1941, when she was 8 years old, her parents went to a Wednesday night prayer meeting at their church. The pastor spoke on Acts 16:31, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The preacher asked “Is everyone in your house saved? You are responsible.” Her mother was concerned because she knew Elinor was not saved. When they arrived home, her mother asked her to go to the kitchen table and she came in with her big black Bible. Elinor thought for sure she was in trouble. She told her that everyone else in the family was going to Heaven when they died, but she needed to accept Christ as her Savior, because she wasn’t saved yet. Her mother took a lot of time to explain John 3:16. “For God so loved Elinor, that He gave his only begotten son….”. That night, Elinor accepted Christ as her Savior. Her mother was encouraged by the change after salvation, as she began to love the Word of God, and stopped telling lies (as Elinor said, she had been quite a good liar in early elementary school).
Elinor went to Bob Jones University. After graduation from college, she and a friend went to work with New England Fellowship as they were holding a VBS. The Pastor asked them to give their testimony on his Sunday radio program. Sunday came, and Elinor had the flu and no voice. She could not talk at all. However, the pastor wouldn’t let her out of it. Her mother had taught her to depend on Scripture to get prayers answered. She searched the Bible and the Lord gave her Psalm 71:16, which said, “I will go in the strength of the Lord God.” She said it over and over until faith came into her heart. She went to the radio station and was able to talk to give her testimony. Her cold was gone, and her voice was back. The verse meant much to her throughout life because she knew she could depend on it.
She then taught for several years at Pensacola Christian School. After that, she went to Flint, Michigan to teach. In keeping with her selfless nature, she moved to Miami, Florida after her father’s death so that she could take care of her mother. In Miami, she taught for many years until she retired from the school board. She then moved to Chicago and became the Elementary Supervisor for Marquette Manor Baptist Academy and taught art for each of the grades, later developing an art curriculum for elementary-aged students.
Once again, she moved to Cape Coral, Florida to live with her dear brother, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., after his wife’s death. Then after her brother’s death, she bought a trailer and moved to live near her niece, the late Joy Van Gelderen Hirth, and lived in Ann Arbor Michigan for two years.
She then moved to Menomonee Falls, and became a strategic part of the early years of Baptist College of Ministry. She helped develop the elementary education department, teaching many classes and selflessly pouring into her students. Each student felt loved by her, knowing that she prayed for them by name, and counted them as friends.
During her final years, she lived in Menomonee Falls, and loved time spent with family, making it a point to share the remarkable stories of God’s goodness and answered prayers throughout the years. She enjoyed spending time with her friends and students and attended services and events at Falls Baptist Church as she was physically able. She was cared for by loving family and friends in her final days.
Her whole life was marked by selfless sacrifice - even staying single so she could care for her parents and her brother. She not only was a tremendous teacher in and out of the classroom but was the favorite babysitter. She could put on a holiday spread like none other and was a tremendous hostess. There was hardly anywhere else her family would rather be for the holidays than at her table. She would bring the whole family together for wonderful food, fellowship and spiritual encouragement. Using her artistic ability, she created all the flower arrangements for the weddings of her nieces and great nieces and was like a mother/grandmother and friend to each of them.
She valued the things of God, carrying on the heritage of her Godly mother and brother. The Lord gave her many years to pass on the stories and instill faith into the generations beyond, leaving a legacy even to her great-great-nieces and nephews. Aunt Elinor is survived by her nephews Wayne (Beverly) Van Gelderen, Jim (Rhonda) Van Gelderen, John (MaryLynn) Van Gelderen, and niece Joanna (Mark) Gillmore. She was adored and cherished by her great-nieces and nephews, Elizabeth (Stephen) Zempel, Wayne Van Gelderen, III, Stephen (Jill) Van Gelderen, Anna Grace (Donald) Overmiller, Daniel (Allyssa) Van Gelderen, Mary Faith (Jesse) Williams, Stephanie (Ryan) Swanson, Janna and Annaleese Van Gelderen, John Van Gelderen Jr., Mark (Ariel) Gillmore Jr., Jonathan, Stephen, JoyAnna, Anna Faith, Daniel, Terrilaina, Hadessa, and Linnea Gillmore. Also missing her presence are 23 great-great-nieces and nephews that she loved and prayed for.
The viewing will be held Tuesday, June 6th, 4:30-6:30 pm with a Funeral following at 6:30 pm at Falls Baptist Church. The burial will take place on Wednesday, June 7th at 10:30 am at Sunnyside Cemetery in Menomonee Falls. If desired memorials for elementary education at Falls Baptist Academy appreciated.