Meet Our Donors

Ken Boerma

Ken Boerma

Anyone raised in the Catholic Church would have learned early on that each of us is, “A light of the world.” But few, perhaps, have taken that lesson to heart as much as Ken Boerma. The former altar boy and Eagle Scout credits strong role models at St Mary’s Church and School in Spring Lake with helping him to grow into a man able to inspire others - and who will continue to do so for years to come through a charitable legacy.

In a recent interview, Ken was eager to describe faith’s role in his life. Smiling and proudly wearing an Air Force baseball cap as he sat down with staff from the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan, he told stories of his first experiences in the Church, his service in the Armed Forces, and his children. His son sat beside him to oil in details occasionally, but, at 92 years old, his memories were clear and illustrative. Their rapport is tender, affectionate, and a fitting representation of their family’s strong connections and supportive bonds.

Formation at an Early Age

Ken discovered his own light through the inspiring example of others, and that began at home. His parents came from two different faith backgrounds, but their shared Christian values provided a key foundation for the young Boerma. Through his parents’ character and conduct, and in their devotion to each other (which included Ken’s father converting to Catholicism to honor his mother’s wish), Ken saw the power of faith and commitment.

He became an altar boy, intrigued by miracles and drawn in particular to Mary, the Mother of God, and to her transcendent stories, in which he found inspiration and solace. His relationships with the priests at his parish home were instrumental, he says, in shaping his spiritual journey as a young man.

As role models, he explains, they provided guidance and support during his formative years and ultimately had a profound impact on his unwavering dedication to the Catholic Church and its teachings. Also, in his young life, Ken embarked upon what would be a lifetime of service in the Boy Scouts. Here, too, he found strong role models who helped to form his character.

All of these moments shaped his first steps into adulthood - getting married to his first wife, Donna, in 1951, and then, just 12 days later, he reported for duty and was deployed overseas with the United States Air Force.

The early years weren’t easy; Ken was far from home and traveling the world in the military, yet his commitment to faith and family remained his top priority. Though he wasn’t earning much, he continued to send pledges to St. Mary’s and support Donna while he was overseas.

Faith-filled Family

Like so many, Ken’s legacy is first identified through his family. A father of four, grandfather of nine, and great-grandfather of 15, Ken knows he’s blessed. Though he does not put himself at the top of the family hierarchy. With great admiration and respect, Ken credits that position to Father Tony Vainavicz, a diocesan priest and longtime pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Spring Lake.

For Ken and his family, life has been filled with joy, yet it has not been without heartache. Nearly 50 years ago, Ken’s son Mike passed away on Thanksgiving Day. And after a long battle with cancer, Donna passed in 1999. Ken’s faith, always strong, sustained him through these tough times.

Of Mike’s passing, Ken says, “I figured God needs him worse than I do.”

As for Donna’s death, Ken found comfort in the relationships he’d built through St. Mary’s, and particularly the bond he’d forged with Father Tony. Ken shares that Father Tony was there for so many important milestones in his life, from his first wife’s funeral to presiding over his second marriage.

The Holy Spirit continues to work through the special relationship between Ken and Father Tony. It Just so happens that Father Tony started the St Mary’s School endowment back in 1992, which ultimately inspired Ken to arrange a legacy gift to the school when his earthly duties are complete - just part of his impact as a light to future generations.

Ken’s commitment to his faith remained a key part of his life through moments of joy and sorrow. Through his regular attendance at Mass, Ken met his second wife, Barbara, and the two were later married - by Father Tony.

A Heart of Generosity

Ken and Barbara shared a love of St. Mary’s, a commitment to faith, and a love of family. Sadly, Ken lost Barbara in 2023. However, their shared commitment to their community is manifested in their legacy with St. Mary’s Church and School, the top priority of their charitable intentions. Ken is delighted he can share his blessings with a strong endowment that supports the school’s financial viability for future generations of students.

Inspired by wonderful role models dating back to his youth, Ken Boerma grew into the kind of man who inspires others - and who continues to inspire them as a light of this world. Reflecting on his life, this man who’s done so much for so many through his faithful and generous stewardship, makes a pointed observation about creating opportunities for the next generation:

“Catholic education is so needed right now,” he says, “and I know this is going to help some little kids get a good Catholic education.” “Anyway,” he jokes, “You can’t take it with you. And it’s going to make a lot of happy kids.”

Catholic Foundation of West Michigan Donor Ken Boerma