Oral Histories

Historic Preservation Commission

About Kentwood Oral History
Since the information provided in the oral histories is provided by third-party contributors, the City is not responsible for the reliability of any content residing within those histories.  The content is being made available for educational purposes only.  For any other use of the content, or any reproduction or distribution of it, it is the user's obligation to obtain permission as required by copyright and other applicable law, and each user must make his or her own assessment of rights and obligations in view of the proposed use by the user.  For more information about copyright law, users may want to visit the website of the Library of Congress Copyright Office.

Interviewer Date of Interview Transcript (pages) Audio
(file size)
Other Files/Photos

Mary Smith Hale

Joyce Thompson



48 MB


Mrs. Hale is the daughter of Marion and Josephine Smith who owned and operated a farm on 52nd Street at Breton (Walma) Road.  She attended Smith School on Wing Road and provided information about early farm life in that area.

Note:  Oral histories from Josephine Smith (OH 15-1974) and Bernie Smith (OH 041-2003) are on file in the Heritage Room

John Oosterhouse

Joyce Thompson



72 MB


The Oosterhouse name appears in various sections of Paris Township.  This particular branch resides in a historic home located near the corners of Kalamazoo Avenue and 44th Street (formerly the Noorman home).  He attended Shaffer School and later Seymour Christian School.  He shared information about farm life and the impact of The Great Depression.  He owned and operated Clear Air Heating & Cooling.

Donna Barnes

Joyce Thompson



53 MB


Although Donna Barnes grew up in Grand Rapids, she served as a teacher in Godwin and Kentwood schools.  She played an active role in the Citizens of Kentwood for Consolidation Committee which fought off the transfer of Hamilton Elementary School into the Grand Rapids School District.  She also served on the Library Board and worked diligently for the establishment of a Kentwood library.  In 1975-76 she served on the Bicentennial Commission.

Cora Bowen Stauffer (006-1972)

Howard Warmels & Sue Conklin

August 1972




Cora (Bowen) Stauffer was a major contributor to the life in Paris Township through her promotion of education.  Her family settled around 44th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue - the home and surrounding area now being designated a Kentwood Historic District.  She donated the land for the Kentwood Public Library.  The Bowen name appears in many places:  Bowen Elementary School, Bowen Street, and Bowen Park among a few.


Cora describes her life at the turn of the century, based upon an agrarian lifestyle.  She introduces her neighbors and friends, while relating activities and events of the day.

John R. Vanderlaan


Mrs. Jack Anderson





Descendent of early setters in Paris Township; attended Shaffer School.  Well-known as barn builder and constructed a number of barns in Paris and Gaines Township, including one located at East Paris and 52nd Street on the farm of his uncle Fred VanderLaan.  Provides information regarding "barn raising" activities and other farm-related events.

Lived in the Wing Road/52nd Street area.

Doug Karel
Lisa Golder 07/26/1996 88 None None
Description:  The Karel family lived at 204 - 52nd Street and later moved further east.  Doug Karel and his mother described living around the 52nd and Eastern Avenue area as well as the surrounding community from Division to Kalamazoo Avenues.  Earlier members of the family owned a farm on 52nd Street and helped to found the Kelloggsville Christian Reformed Church.
Bernard "Bernie" Smith
Joyce Thompson





Bernie Smith shares his memories of life on the Smith Farm which was located at 52nd and Breton Road.  He attended Smith School (on Wing Road) and graduated from Godwin High School, like Dale Heyboer, Les Alcumbrack, and others.  He continues the story of farm life that his mother, Josephine Smith, began in her oral history, and provides more information about his neighbors and friends.
Cyrus Fisher
Joyce Thompson 06/05/2003 41 107MB Photo
Adelaide Gleason
Joyce Thompson 09/23/2004 47 111MB None
Alice (Huisman) VanLuinen
Joyce Thompson 07/05/2007 39 529MB None
Alice (Huisman) VanLuinen lived on Wing Road with her family.  She attended the one-room Smith School which stood on the opposite side of the road from her home.  She shared information about live on the 20-acre family farm and her days at Smith School.  Alice experienced The Depression and the events of WW II (her father emmigrated from the Netherlands).
Arlene Keyes
Joyce Thompson 02/08/2007 30 60MB None
Born in Paris Township and attended Godwin Public School, Arlene describes suburban life--including the paving of Division Avenue.  Her father served as Paris Township Treasurer and Justice of the Peace.

Bernard Terrell (husband of Shirley Keyes) is Arlene's brother-in-law.
Bernard Terrell
Joyce Thompson 02/14/2007 26 471MB None
Bernard Terrell's father was born in Dutton and relocated to the Madison Square area where Bernard was born.  Bernard attended Godwin School and served in World War II.  He married Shirley Keyes and together they raised a family off Division Avenue on Adams Street.

Bernard Terrell is the husband of Shirley (Keyes) Terrell, daughter of Earl Keyes who served as Justice of the Peace and Paris Township Treasurer.
Dale Heyboer
Joyce Thompson 03/03/2003 54 135MB
Farm Photos
Other Info
The Heyboer family has owned and operated a farm on 52nd Street for more than 100 years.  They have served the community in a variety of ways -- political, educational and religious.  Dale was one of the founders of the Kentwood Historical Society and served on the Kentwood Historic Preservation Commission until he passed away in 2008.  He has held several offices within local government.