Pastor and historian Gerrit (Gary) Bieze died Dec. 15 after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 83.
Born in Chicago, Ill., Bieze graduated from Calvin College and Seminary and was ordained in 1962. It was rare in those days for a minister born in the U.S. to serve Dutch-speaking congregations in Canada. However, Bieze, who had learned Dutch when he was young and was fluent, accepted a call to Alliston (Ont.) CRC. He went on to serve three other Christian Reformed congregations in Canada: Vauxhall (Alta.) CRC; First CRC, Taber, Alta.; and Athens (Ont.) CRC.
Bieze is remembered as much for his involvement with his congregation as for his solid preaching. He would be at the pulpit on Sundays, but on any other day one might find him helping to put a new roof on the local Christian school or meeting a member of his congregation in the local coffee shop.
In 1989, Bieze wrote a history of the first 125 years of the Netherlands Reformed congregation in South Holland, Ill., titled The Remnant Remains: The True Dutch Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois. He also contributed articles about the history of the Chicago-area Dutch to the journal Origins.
After he retired in 1992, two of Bieze’s hobbies were doing counted cross-stitch needlework and studying the lives and writings of 17th-century Dutch theologians. He became well acquainted (by email) with Hans Nootenboom of Den Hertog Antiquariat, a used bookstore in Houten, The Netherlands, which provided him with many volumes for his studies. He also had a continuing interest in his research into the history of the Netherlands Reformed denomination and the history of Dutch immigrants to Chicago.
In 2007 Bieze moved to Grand Rapids to live with his sister. Predeceased by his parents and sister-in-law, Victoria, Bieze will be lovingly remembered by his brother, Duane, and sister Linda.