Bible scholar, writer, editor, pastor, and theological librarian Harry Boonstra was a wise, gentle, caring man with a playful side and a dry sense of humor. In the days right before his death, he was still walking to Calvin College to have coffee with his buddies and enjoying episodes of “Murdoch Mysteries” and his wife’s good cooking. He died on October 23 following a brief illness.
Following World War II, Boonstra emigrated with his family from the Netherlands to Canada at age 14, where he lived until he attended Calvin College. After marriage and the birth of three daughters, the Boonstras moved to many places over the following years: to the Netherlands to complete a Ph.D.; to Peru to be short-term missionaries; to Lookout Mountain, Tenn., to teach at Covenant College; to Holland, Mich., to teach at Hope College; and to Grand Rapids, Mich., to be theological librarian at Calvin College.
Boonstra earned several other degrees along the way, including an M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary. Boonstra was ordained in 1992 at age 50 and went on to preach at many churches from Indonesia to Grand Rapids until he retired in 1999. He was also an associate editor for Reformed Worship magazine for 12 years.
Boonstra had a heart for immigrants and refugees and anyone he thought might feel like an outsider. He loved the students with whom he worked throughout his career. Spy novels were his number one recreational reading. An active member of Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Boonstra recently wrote a book about the history of the church and received enormous pleasure from doing so.
Expressing his love for his family clearly in his final words at the hospital, Boonstra will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Thelma; their daughters Jeanne, Anne, and Sarah and their spouses; and eight grandchildren.