By Shirley Madany
Yesterday, October 2, 2007, was Alonzo Day.
His funeral was at the traditional 11 a.m. worship time in the First Christian Reformed Church of South Holland., Illinois. He had reached his 89th year. His family occupied seven rows of church pews. All ten sons and daughters were present, plus many grandchildren. Truly it was a "celebration" of a Christian life and much more about joy than sorrow. Our dear friend Leona was given abundant grace to be her smiling, cheerful self. One could feel her relief that she was able to "enjoy" the whole occasion.
Our Pastor is gifted with saying the right things at the right time. Bassam brought a few memories and an opening prayer which he took from The Book of Common Prayer, special for such occasions. We sang "To God be the Glory" and "Amazing Grace" as a congregation.
Dan Roeda was assigned the task of giving the eulogy about Alonzo and told us of his experiences while courting Jan, Alonzo and Leona’s 8th child. Dan happened to be working at the Park Press. One day Alonzo invited him to join him on a bench in the back yard because he wanted to talk to him. Alonzo never side-stepped when he felt it was time to offer advice. So, he shocked Dan by saying that he wasn't an advocate of lengthy engagements--therefore Dan should either forge ahead and get married (he was only 20) or he should break up with Jan! I won't try to repeat all Dan said about his love for Jan, but the stage was set for more such stories. Dan really did a super job of describing his father-in-law and his foibles. Alonzo could be abrupt and opinionated but Leona smoothed the rough edges.
During the church service talk about Alonzo was kept to the minimum. A granddaughter, Stephanie, (daughter of Lois their 7th child)) had asked to be allowed to talk about her Grandpa and how she would miss him. Elaine De Young sang beautifully two special songs by request.
The funeral cortege was lengthy, the day was warm and balmy, and the cemetery welcoming and hallowed (in spite of the Thornton Quarry trucks roaring past).
Harold (second child) recited Psalm 23 very forcefully and the Pastor said a few words. We returned to the church for the traditional lunch and after that their first child Earl’s son Peter; a tall, dark and handsome young man took charge of the mike and of informal talks about Alonzo. This was the opportunity for various members of the family to get up and say something. Many were the stories of Alonzo's love affair with cars and the many, many cars which he had literally given away when people were in need.
Daughter Jan got up first and told us her favorite story dating from when she was a very little girl. She got thinking about Evers' Office Supply, and Dekker Electric and she said: Dad - why can't we call your place "Kallemeyn Press". Her Dad answered: "Because it is God's Print Shop." And so it remained for all of his life. He was in business for the Lord and profits were meant to be spread and scattered wherever there was a need.
Arlo, 9th child, told of getting his license and then a car. and driving to Chicago with his girl friend. But he couldn't figure out how to get back on the Express way. He saw the sign, Halstead Avenue, and decided that would take him home. Unfortunately he had an accident in an intersection, and had to leave the car behind (Dave came and fetched them home). He had it towed to their driveway. When his folks came home from some travels he explained. Alonzo asked, “What do you plan to do? Arlo wondered if he could put it in the garage and try to work on restoring it himself. He just remembers his Dad thinking about this for a minute and then saying "We're in this together."
But for sure no one will ever know the extent of help given to a vast army of worthy causes, all because of “God’s Print Shop.” When Alonzo had the vision that Bassam should go back to the Middle East for a visit --- who started that ball rolling? Alonzo went to The Back to God Hour office, and put down the money and suggested that some professor from our nearby Trinity Christian College go along as well. Bob Vander Vennan went as far as Liberia and Nigeria with Bassam. As Dan Roeda had said in his speech, Alonzo was into "sharing". He wanted to share cars, vans, furniture, funds, anything to help God's work get done.
We all know the kind of life style he persisted in living. No wasteful expenditures. Though Dan made us laugh over all the gadgets which Alonzo accumulated. If he found something and liked it he always wanted others to have it. A simple example of that was the vegetable steamer which I use more than twice a week. Alonzo discovered a bargain on steamers and we, his friends all benefited!
When we first arrived in town he went to see Bassam in the study of the old parsonage of the First Christian Reformed Church and offered the Park Press services to do the printing of Arabic language books. Alonzo reveled in helping small ethnic groups. His was a happy life.
When Junus Atmarumeksa came from Indonesia to study at Reformed Bible College and later at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Kallemeyns built a special room for him in their basement which he could consider "home". Operation Mobilization discovered Alonzo through his children and made frequent stops at his door and I am sure never went away empty handed. The whole story cannot be told and he would certainly not want it to be.
Alonzo Kallemeyn is an example of what can be done when the Lord takes hold of your life.
A few more memories from that special day.
Our eldest son Roland worked at the Park Press one summer. Here is his memory in his own words: “Mr. Kallemeyn was unique and the memories are many. I have one funny one to share. I don’t know how many of you remember or even know that the summer between my junior and senior years at Illiana (Christian High School) I worked at the Shopper. Very smelly work. My main memory is cleaning out the ink trays with Naptha. Mr. K’ s foreman bought us a new vacuum cleaner, an industrial one to clean out paper scraps from underneath the presses. Well, one night we spilled some Naptha, more than just a bit of it, and one of our brilliant co-workers decided it was time to use that new vacuum to clean up not only the scraps but the puddle.
“Boy, was that a bad idea! The vacuum did its job (it was an industrial one after all!!) and once there were enough fumes inside the canister, it blew up. I’m still not sure why no one was hurt. What’s that expression, not the sharpest knife in the drawer? Well, it’s been all “up hill” since that moment. How this relates back to Mr. K. is how serene he could be when touched by teenage stupidity. I thought sure he’d fire the kid who thought it beneath his dignity to get on his knees with a rag, but instead roar away with this new device. Didn’t happen. I don’t recall, however, that we got a replacement vacuum; I think it was back to brooms for the rest of the summer.”
Our daughter Martha had this comment for her absent brothers: “It was uplifting, joyous and touching. He was such a gentle but expert businessman. There were so many cute stories about how he ran a rescue mission for used cars and handed them out to those in need. He and our Dad started the nursery at our church, as well as the Mission Fund, back in 1964”
Alonzo Kallemeyn played an important part in our Arabic radio and literature ministry, as well as being a life-long valuable friend.
To God be the Glory.