Duane Allen VanDerWerff

July 4, 1936 — November 29, 2023

The first of five children, Duane Allen VanDerWerff was born July 4, 1936, to Albert Roy and Bertha (DeVries) VanDerWerff in Holland, Mich. Respected as a godly man in both his public and private life, he died at home Nov. 29, 2023.

As a young boy, Duane’s family relocated to Lynden, Wash., where he graduated from Lynden High School in 1954, having enjoyed sports (especially basketball and baseball), as well as 4-H, FFA and participating in the Northwest Washington Fair. He was an honor student, played the trombone, sang in a church quartet and helped milk the family’s dairy herd before school each morning.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Whitworth College (Spokane) in 1958, he paid for his education by scrubbing the cafeteria’s pots and pans, loading trucks each morning at Early Dawn Dairy, and doing odd jobs. With summers in construction (including upper Baker Dam) and stints in the Army Reserve at Fort Ord, Calif., Duane deemed $1,000 adequately covered each year’s expenses. The need to work limited his athletic involvement in the intramural program yet was a positive experience. He then completed the USMCR Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va., before marrying his college sweetheart, Marilyn Kay Burkhart, August 8, 1959 at Millwood Presbyterian Church in Spokane Valley.

Following the fulfillment of his Marine Corps obligations by 1962 as Supply Officer at Santa Ana Air Facility, the family headed to the Pacific Northwest, becoming Oak Harborites when he was employed by Sid Eelkema at Whidbey Furniture in 1963, before opening his own store next to McDonald’s in 1978. Semi-retiring after two decades, he joined Church Fakkema’s Westgate sales force for several years.

Duane modeled a personal faith in an unassuming manner, quietly expressing itself and epitomizing the essence of Christian discipleship, loving his family well (blessed with Jeff in 1961, Jennifer in 1967 and eight grandchildren from 1995-2006); that and serving others with integrity stemmed from a commitment to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He took pleasure in Bible study, trailer travel and camping, golf (the camaraderie!), history, coffee time with friends, “klompen volk” dancing, and occasional snowboarding. He served on the city’s planning commission, as an elder and deacon at First Reformed Church, sang in the choir and spent five years as church custodian, allowing Marilyn to stay home with their young children.

Besides his wife, Duane is survived by their children and spouses, Jeff and Kara VanDerWerff and Jennifer and John Zora; four VDW “grands” – Jakob, Kathryn, Ian, and Elin; six Zora “grands” – Abigail and fiancé David Ross, Benjamin and wife Mackenzie, Issac and Julia; his brother Warren and wife Tena; sisters Darlene Weeda, Beverly and husband Ron DeBoer; sister and brother-in-law Joanne and Bill Cole, as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews. Preceding Duane in death were his parents, sister Mary Ann, brother-in-law Harvey Weeda, and sister-in-law Janette Burkhart Mills.

A Celebration of Life is planned for 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 29, 2023 at First Reformed Church, Oak Harbor, Wash.

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