Marlene Lorraine Vandenburg, age 82 years of Niles, wife, mother, grandmother, creative crafter, seasonal celebrator, photographer, and cat lady died peacefully at 3:23 p.m. on Saint Patrick’s Day Tuesday, March 17, 2020 with family at her side in the Emergency Department of Spectrum Health Lakeland Hospital – Niles following a brief illness.
She was born on May 7, 1937 in Niles to Irving S. and Gladys M. (Williams) Boulton, and graduated from Niles High School with the class of 1955. She was employed for eighteen years administering employee benefits in the former Buchanan and South Bend offices of Clark Equipment Company.
Marlene was a lifelong member of the First Baptist Church of Niles, and was elected to the City of Niles Board of Review where she served for nineteen years. She was very creative and had a great sense of humor. She best used these talents to display seasonal decorations on lamp post outside the family home at Ninth and Hickory Streets. Photographs of the display were often published in the Niles Daily Star, and one winter scene was selected by the Associated Press for national publication.
She was also a talented amateur photographer, focusing mostly on her family, which left her out of most of the family’s photos. Shortly after moving into the house on Hickory Street, a cat wandered in, beginning a legacy of household cats, continuing in the new house in Ballard Hills, with the ultimate successor cat still in residence there.
On Saint Patrick’s Day of 1957 fellow 1955 classmate Donald K. Vandenburg proposed marriage to Marlene. She agreed, and they were wed on August 17, 1957 in the First Baptist Church when it was a white frame building at Fourth and Broadway (now Harding’s parking lot). They celebrated last year the remarkable sixty-second anniversary of their wedding.
She was preceded in death by her parents and by a granddaughter, Alexandra Marie Vandenburg who died on December 4, 1996.
Surviving family includes her husband, Don Vandenburg and their children, Steven Vandenburg of Niles, Michael (& Christine) Vandenburg of Union, Kentucky, and Lisa (& Norman) Sowards of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; grandchildren Elaine (& Michael) Rowland, Paul (& Raquel) Vandenburg, Thomas Vandenburg, Sarah Vandenburg, Morgan Sowards, and Grant Sowards; great-grandchildren Ruby Rowland, Jack Rowland, Parker Earl, and Braxton Vandenburg; and Marlene’s brother, Norman (& Fay) Boulton of Phoenix, Arizona and their children.
The funeral service for Marlene Vandenburg will be attended by only her immediate family at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home in Niles with the Rev. John Schindler officiating. Interment will follow at the Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles. Relatives and friends are invited to witness the ceremony via the livestreamed broadcast available on the Halbritter-Wickens Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/halbritterwickensfuneralservices/
Contributions in memory of Marlene may be made to Fernwood Botanic Garden and Nature Preserve, 13988 Rangeline Road, Niles, Michigan, 49120; http://www.fernwoodbotanical.org/ . During this time of limited social contact, please continue in personal contact using greeting cards and the postal service or with online condolences which may be left at: