Berdella's Story

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July 20, 1922—Feb. 20, 2015 Mrs. Berdella (Della) Arlene Tonk Wilkinson, formerly of Crossville, went to be with her Lord and Savior Feb. 20, 2015, at American House Assisted Living Center in Spring Lake, MI. She was born July 20, 1922, in New London, WI, to Justin Peter and Blanche Lydia (Rand) Tonk. Berdella grew up in Milan, OH, and graduated valedictorian from Milan High School in 1940. Berdella graduated from Olivet Nazarene College in 1949 with a B.A. in business education and went on to earn a M.A. in education from The Ohio State University in 1952. She taught business education in Milan and Fremont, OH, for several years. While at The Ohio State University, she met her husband, Bruce Wendell Wilkinson, and they were married Oct. 17, 1953. Berdella was a committed Christian, and very active in the Church of the Nazarene and in raising her family. She was an avid reader, crafter, baker and secretary. As her children grew older, she worked as a departmental secretary at Michigan State University, where she studied for and passed the Certified Professional Secretary exam, the first to achieve this at Michigan State University. In later years, she worked in the registrar's office at Spring Arbor College until retirement. Berdella and Bruce relocated to Crossville in their retirement years, and traveled the United States in their motor home, often volunteering as they travelled. Berdella was preceded in death by her parents, Justin and Blanche Tonk; a brother, Merle A. Tonk Sr.; sisters-in-law, Jane Slessman and Ruth Tonk; brother-in-law, Harold Slessman; and niece, Barbara Slessman Hendrickson. She is survived by her husband of 61 years, Bruce W. Wilkinson, of Norton Shores, MI; daughter, Kathy (Mark) Mitchell of Norton Shores, MI; and son, Lee Wilkinson of Wheaton, IL. Also surviving are her grandsons, Peter (Emily), David and Matthew Mitchell; niece, Nancy (Pete) VanKleek; and nephews, Merle Jr. and Andy Tonk. Visitation will precede a memorial service at The Lakes Community Church of the Nazarene, 2270 South Mill Iron Road, Muskegon, MI, today, Feb. 24, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., with a memorial service at 11:30 a.m., with Pastor Aaron Gregory officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice of North Ottawa. The family will be served by Sytsema Funeral Homes, The Lee Chapel, 6291 South Harvey St. 231-798-1100.  Share memories with the family at Della’s online guest book at www.sytsemafh.com.
Published on  February 23, 2015
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