Since I was only 11 years old at the time, I was hooked on learning more.
|Stanley VanTuinen, 1949|
Ralph's younger brother Peter was born in Michigan in 1903. Peter and his wife Alice (DeVries) had six children, the third eldest being Alvin who married Dolores Groendyke on December 3, 1948. Alvin and Dolores were the parents of Lee High School retired football coach Bernie VanTuinen, and the grandparents of Lee Middle School science teacher Troy VanTuinen. Bernie is Stanley's first cousin one-time-removed and Troy is a first cousin two-times-removed. They share common ancestors in the likes of Simon K. and Ida (Bylsma) VanTuinen, both immigrants from Holland who arrived here in 1901.
Ralph and Cora were married in October 1921 and eventually took up residence in Wyoming, Michigan. By the time young Stan, the fifth-born of six children, had been enrolled at Godfrey School for kindergarten, the family was residing in a home on Johanna Avenue south of Burton Street. At some point later on while Stan was still in school, they moved to Cleveland Avenue, just a couple houses down from today's Wyoming Veterans Memorial Garden.
|1947 Lee Echo Yearbook|
A slightly tall student in comparison to most of his classmates, he played the big base horn. Stan must of enjoyed his time with the band because its what came to mind when asked to write a line for the traditional yearbook Senior Class Will: "I, Stanley Van Tuinen, do hereby bequeath my ability to make music on the base horn to Gary Vander Scheer."
Stan's younger sister, Shirley was also a student at Lee at the time and was a member of the junior class during his senior year.
|Senior Band 1948-49. VanTuinen is second row center.|
|LimeLite Room Bar, 725 S. Division Avenue, c.1963|
Photo from the GRPL Local History Collections
|Residence of Robert C. Woods, 854 Madison Ave SE|
The front and rear doors are directly opposite each other.
Photo from the GRPL Local History Collections
|Headline of Sunday, December 4, 1966|
|Stanley VanTuinen Family|
The Grand Rapids Press, December 5, 1966
At the gravesite, Grand Rapids Police Captain Francis Pierce, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient, commanded the police firing detail that rang out three volleys over the grave. Taps was played as a final tribute to a Lee Rebel's "end of watch." As the Press noted, "Soft sobbing was heard as the notes hung in the air. The widow and children left the grave, crying softly and quietly. Supt. of Police William A. Johnson said, 'We are all grievously shocked. Stan was a fine gentleman and we'll miss him. I think the turnout today was a fine tribute to him and his family.'" (GRP 5/7/67)
In addition to his wife, Esther, and six children (ages) - Gary (14), Gayle (11), Carol (9), Marcia (6), Nancy (4) and Marilyn (2) - he was survived by his parents and five siblings. At the time of his death, VanTuinen's brother William was also a member of the Grand Rapids police force and would serve 38 years before his retirement. He passed away in 1995.
|Wyoming Alliance edition of December 8, 1966|
Prior to VanTuinen's murder, only three Grand Rapids officers had been fatally wounded in the line of duty: Detective George Powers was shot by a train bandit in 1895; Officers Samuel Slater and George Brandsma were gunned down in 1921 trying to apprehend a bank robber.
A preliminary hearing was held the week of Christmas 1966 before Police Court Judge Roman Snow. The accounts of the attending police officers as well as witnesses, both from the LimeLite Room incident and the murder of VanTuinen, were provided in detail over two days to determine if enough evidence existed to charge Woods. Judge Snow determined there was and the following month, Woods stood mute in Circuit Court so the judge entered a plea of innocence on his behalf. The case was remanded to Circuit Court Judge John T. Letts. A venue change was immediately requested by Woods' public defender but after consideration, it was denied. A jury was soon selected and the case went to trial in May.
During the trial, an attempt was made by Woods' defense counsel and his wife, also named Esther, to connect the shooting with his military service during World War II, where she claimed part of his duties included the morbid collection and burial of dead soldiers. Subsequent expert testimony by a psychologist and two psychiatrists ultimately refuted that contention and on Friday evening, May 26, 1967, after deliberating for less than three hours, the jury found Robert C. Woods guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Sergeant VanTuinen. The verdict carried a mandatory life sentence without parole and Woods eventually died in prison on July 30, 1988.
The Grand Rapids Bar Association posthumously honored Sergeant Stanley VanTuinen with the 1967 Liberty Bell Award, along with Lt. Commander Roger B. Chaffee who had died in the Apollo 1 fire in January of that year.
During the annual Police Memorial Day Service in May, VanTuinen is honored along with other officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. His name is inscribed at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Judiciary Square, Washington, DC.
|The Thin Blue Line|
Stan's son, Gary VanTuinen told The Grand Rapids Press in December 1966 that he wanted to become a police officer. He joined the Kent County Sheriff's Department in 1976 and was recognized for 30 years of service by the Board of Commissioners in December 2006. He's now retired.
Stan's second youngest daughter, Nancy VanTuinen Niewiadomski passed away in April 2017. She was 55.
Update: Today was December 3, 2017, fifty-one years to the day that Sergeant VanTuinen was gunned down in a senseless act. Although I never knew him personally, I now feel somewhat close having spent the last month researching his life and death. It was a beautiful sunny day in contrast to the day he lost his life. I stopped by Pine Hill Cemetery in Kentwood to pay my respects to a fellow Rebel.
Updated 1/11/2020: VanTuinen was selected last November to the Lee High School Rebel Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony honoring five former Lee students and staff will be held on January 24, 2020 at approximately 6:30 pm in the Lee Gymnasium on Havana Street SW. This is a long overdue honor and his plaque includes the following inscription:
Lee High School Echo Yearbooks 1947 and 1949, Wyoming, Michigan
Multiple editions of The Grand Rapids Press from 12/4/66 to 6/9/67, Grand Rapids Public Library Local History Collections
Grand Rapids Bar Association website http://www.grbar.org/?72 retrieved 11/7/17
Betty Gibout Real Estate Listing Cards, Grand Rapids Public Library Local History Collections
Facebook messages with Bernie VanTuinen 11/5-6/17
Wyoming Alliance, 12/8/66, p. 1 courtesy Tom Maas, Wyoming Historical Commission
Officer Down Memorial Page, www.odmp.org, retrieved 11/7/17
Ford Press Releases - Fifth District, 1966-1968, https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/document/0054/4525538.pdf, retrieved 11/7/17
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial website: http://www.nleomf.org/memorial/, retrieved 11/29/17