Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Harriet Oliver would agree that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out. She was guided by an unwavering faith, and through the life she lived she exemplified what it means to be a woman after God’s own heart. Deeply devoted to her family, Harriet was blessed to be a wife and mother, but she just might have argued that nothing was better than becoming a grandmother later in life. She was active in her community, and she blessed the lives of so many area families through her work. Life will never be the same without her here, but she leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The year 1929 is often remembered as the year that our nation and much of the world was sent spiraling down into the depths of the Great Depression after the crash of the stock market on October 29, 1929. The days that followed were anything but easy, but Americans came together to weather the storm in whatever way they could. It was just prior to this historic day that Edward and Grace (Langland) Heethuis were pleased to announce the birth of the baby girl they named Harriet Jane on September 19th, in Muskegon, Michigan. She was the youngest of four as she was raised in the family home on Orchard Avenue alongside her brothers, Everett and Andrew, and her sister, Katherine. Her father’s family operated a grocery and hardware store on Apple Avenue in Downtown Muskegon.
In many ways, Harriet was a young girl of her generation. Their family home wasn’t far from the family store, and since they didn’t have their own vehicle when Harriet was young they had to use the truck from the store as transportation. They did finally get their own vehicle after WWII was over in 1945. Harriet would often go with her father when he went to the wholesale supplier. She then helped him stock the shelves. As a family they attended the Berean Church. As a student Harriet attended Angel Elementary School and then went on to Muskegon Junior and Senior High School.
She enjoyed going to the basketball games at Muskegon High School.
After graduating from high school, Harriett went on to Muskegon Junior College. She helped pay for school by selling Brach’s candy. After two years she got a job as a teacher in Bailey, Michigan. She rented a room there and became lifelong friends with her landlord. After teaching for a year she went back to school at Western Michigan University and received her teaching degree. Harriet then took a position at Froebel School in Muskegon while also continuing her own education during the summers at WMU. Soon, she had her master’s degree.
It was while at Froebel School in 1952 that she met a fellow teacher who would prove to be the man of her dreams. His name was Howard Oliver, and it didn’t take them long to fall in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together they were married on August 10, 1956. Together they welcomed their son, Craig, into their hearts and home in 1957. Their first home was a house on Giles Road on the North side of Muskegon. Eventually, they built a home on Lancaster, which is the place Harriet called home until she moved into a condo in the North Forest development in 1993. As a family they attended various Methodist churches around Muskegon, and Harriet was always active in the United Methodist women group. As a family they enjoyed annual summer family vacations around the states, often to attend NEA conventions and ADK gatherings. They usually traveled by car, and Harriet eventually visited every state except Hawaii. Unfortunately, Howard died unexpectedly shortly after they both retired in 1986.
In addition to caring for her family, Harriet found great reward in being a teacher. She taught primarily third and fourth grade for 20 years before becoming a principal at Bluffton, Phillips. and Craig Schools before retiring after a long career. During that time Harriet was also active in the Michigan and National Education Associations (MEA & NEA). In addition, she was also a longtime member of Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK) teachers sorority.
There was never anything of greater importance in Harriet’s life than her family. Although she was deeply saddened with Howard’s death, she continued to embrace the life she was given. After his death she remained very active with volunteering and also in the many organizations she was a part of. Over the years Harriet was a member of Central United Methodist Church, United Methodist Women, and a board member of the North Forest Condo Association. She was also a part of PEO Chapter Y, Alpha Delta Kappa, MEA, Big Red Education Club, Service League, Red Hat Club, Michigan Association of Retired School Personnel, volunteered at Hackley Hospital, and participated in many other organizations. There were spring break trips to Hilton Head with her friend, Patrice Ludwig. Harriet was always in charge of the MHS Class of 1946 reunions. She was an avid fan of Chicago sports teams and listened to WGN talk radio nearly everyday. Harriet also like watching soap operas and the Statler Brothers on television.
Family was always of the greatest importance to Harriet. She maintained a close relationship with her siblings and their families. When her son married and had children, Harriet was thrilled! She loved spending time with her grandchildren. There were plenty of trips to the beach and picnics where Harriet taught her granddaughter the proper way to get a suntan. Family holidays were always at her place where she made fantastic meals. She continued to be active in the lives of her grandchildren as she grew older. In fact, she even went sledding with them on the hills by her condo!
Eventually, the years started taking a toll on Harriet’s body. She had shoulder surgery in 2015. She stopped driving and eventually moved to Friendship Village in Kalamazoo so that she could be close to her son and grandchildren. Although her body was weaker, her mind remained sharp and she continued being able to pay her bills. Recently, Harriet suffered a fall and was unable to recover.
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around her, Harriet Oliver was a blessing of all who were near. She willingly served others in endless ways, and her dedication to her community was unmatched. Kind, compassionate, and strong, Harriet will be forever missed.
Harriet Jane Oliver passed away Thursday, February 7, 2019. Harriet’s family includes her son, Craig (Elisa) Oliver of Kalamazoo; grandchildren, Neal (Emily Weimer) Oliver of San Anselmo, CA, Kelsey Oliver of Kalamazoo. Harriet was preceded in death by her husband, Howard. Services will be held on Saturday, February 16, 2019, 11:00 a.m. at Central United Methodist Church with Rev. Mark D. Miller officiating. Internment in Laketon Township Cemetery. Visitation will be held on Friday, February, 15, 2019, from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. & 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at Clock Funeral Home - Muskegon. Memorials can be made to Big Red Education Fund at the Community Foundation. Please visit www.clockfuneralhome.com to leave a memory or sign the online guestbook.
Clock Funeral Home - Muskegon