Ralph Bronkema, also known as Don to his family, was a compassionate, empathetic, and gentle man. It is said he had no enemies, only friends. Bronkema passed away on July 30. He was 88.
After graduating from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1954, Bronkema began ministry with two church plants in Muskegon, Mich., and Winter Garden, Fla. In 1966 he joined the United States Air Force as a chaplain and served God and his country for 20 years. He was stationed at many bases across the U.S., served four years in Germany, and was in active duty in Vietnam, reaching the rank of Lt. Col. before his honorable discharge. The following week he became assistant pastor for a three-year term at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Indialantic, Fla. He then served Shalom CRC in Sioux Falls, S.D., until his retirement in 1995. However, in 2003 he became pastor of visitation at Eastminster until his “final” retirement in May 2017.
One of Bronkema’s hobbies was restoring a 1973 Cadillac El Dorado convertible. He and his wife, Louise, were project managers on four CRWRC projects. After Louise had a devastating stroke, Bronkema cared for her for seven years. Following her death in 2010, he married Annette Cooke and was “surprised by joy.” They resided in Florida but spent summers in Michigan.
Grieving his loss are his wife, Annette; his four children and their spouses; 9 grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren. The six Cooke step-children will also miss his gentle spirit.