Marilyn Joy Van Dis, 89, of Battle Creek, Michigan died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, November 12, 2022.
Marilyn was born in Ames, Iowa on January 24, 1933 to Edyth (Tegland) and Harold M. Byram. They moved to Michigan several years later when Harold became a professor at Michigan State University. Marilyn graduated from East Lansing High School in 1950 where she was active in the performing arts as a drummer in the school band and a member of the theater program. She attended Michigan State University, earning a BA in Home Economics in 1954. Marilyn was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority and loved living in the “wee room” in the attic of the Pi Phi house. She remained close to her East Lansing and Pi Phi friends her whole life, attending many college, high school, and sorority reunions. She also belonged to the Kappa Delta Pi and Omicron Nu honorary fraternities. During her college years she worked summers at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and made many return visits there during her life.
After college, Marilyn taught home economics in the Battle Creek Lakeview school district where she met her husband Neil who was a 6th grade teacher there. They were married on April 2, 1955 in the MSU Alumni Chapel. In 1956, Marilyn and Neil moved to Big Rapids, Michigan, where she continued to teach part time in the Stanwood schools. In 1959, she and Neil moved back to Battle Creek where Marilyn began work in the shoe department at Jacobson’s Department Store while Neil worked for Battle Creek Public Schools. As the boys hit their teenage years, Marilyn stopped working altogether to be fully present at home, saying “they need you more when they’re that age”.
In 1994, Marilyn went back to college and earned her Master’s Degree in Education from Western Michigan University. She then dedicated the next 20 years of her life to public service, first working as an instructional aide in the Culinary Arts & Hospitality program at the Calhoun County Career Center and later as a substitute teacher for the Pennfield and Lakeview school districts. After Neil retired, they both spent many years serving as Red Cross volunteers at the Bronson Battle Creek Hospital.
Marilyn was a long-time member of the First Congregational Church of Battle Creek, serving many years as a greeter and usher. In her free time, she sang with the Sweet Adelines chorus, even attending the National Barbershop Convention in Seattle one year. Additionally, she performed with a synchronized swimming group, loved her daily walks, doing crosswords, and was an avid reader, which she passed along to her children and grandchildren. She loved attending the theater and had a fond appreciation of musicals. Marilyn was always playing the soundtracks of great Broadway shows around the house with My Fair Lady, The Music Man, and Annie among her favorites. Marilyn and Neil loved traveling to Traverse City and Mackinac Island with their children and grandchildren, making an annual trip each summer for many years. They also enjoyed their time alone together in Arizona each winter to escape the cold.
Marilyn and Neil were married for 67 loving years, and were able to celebrate their anniversary in April before Neil passed away on July 21, 2022.
Marilyn is survived by her sister Barbara Lasala of Northridge, California; and her sons Robert N. (Linda) Van Dis of Kalamazoo, Richard H. (Bree) Van Dis of Traverse City, and Jeffrey M. (Lara) Van Dis of Battle Creek. Also surviving are her grandchildren Chelsey, Matthew, Ashley, Kerry, Erik, Samantha, Jacob, and Claire; as well as seven great-grandchildren.
Cremation has taken place and there will be a family graveside service. The family thanks Bree Van Dis for her care for mom during her last three weeks. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Michigan State University in memory of Marilyn Van Dis allocated to the MSU College of Education mailed to: Michigan State University, 535 Chestnut Rd, Room 300, East Lansing, MI 48824.