Rev. Elton Piersma, 83, avid Bible student, man of subtle humor, accomplished counselor, articulate preacher, and specialist in congregational health, passed away on Feb. 8 following a five-month struggle with leukemia.
Piersma was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he attended both Oakdale and Baxter Christian schools. He graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School in l945. He held a number of jobs and gained proficiency in the printing trade, eventually forming a printing business known as “The Advanced Press.”
While in business the desire grew in his heart to seek his vocation in the gospel ministry. He graduated from Calvin College in 1957, and from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1961, followed by graduate work at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Penn.
He earned a Master’s degree in theology from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1982.
Piersma pastored Trinity Chapel Christian Reformed Church in Phildelphia, followed by Spring Lake (Mich.) CRC.
In l974 he took a leave to study marriage and family counseling, subsequently establishing Christian Life Enrichment Ministries in Muskegon, Mich. In l981, he became a counselor at the Marriage and Family Center in Muskegon.
Piersma retired in l989.
Piersma’s skills lay in his personal ministry to people in need. He did considerable academic work in the areas of pastoral counseling and life enrichment. His leadership gifts in that area were widely sought. His warm personality and sincere faith will be long remembered by those who benefited from his care.
Retirement could not keep its grip on Rev. Piersma for long. He moved to Florida where he became director of Good Samaritan Christian Ministries, a ministry to persons with AIDS.
In 1990, he accepted the position of parish associate with North Palm Beach Presbyterian Church, where he served until his leukemia diagnosis this past September.
Piersma was predeceased by his first wife, Evelyn. In l993 he married Aleda Dekker. During their later retirement years Aleda struggled with illnesses and Piersma lovingly cared for her.
Those were also the years that he became known among his colleagues as an elder statesman. They were always impressed with the breadth of his knowledge, widely read as he was. The fact that he had a delightful sense of humor added to the joy of the many visits of which he was part.
All the while he pursued the hobbies he loved: gardening, fishing, and carpentry.
Piersma was predeceased by his son, Dan. He is survived by wife Aleda and by his children: Sharon and Warren Hecker, Tom and Linda Piersma, Faith and Joe Weaver, Steve and Sharon Piersma, Kathy and Steve Klobucher, Michelle (Dan) Piersma, Mary and Ralph Wilkins, and Beth Piersma, as well as 19 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
He is also survived by Aleda’s children: Shirley and Jerry Ritsema, Beverly and Larry Dekker-Davidson, three grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.