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About Robert James VanBemmelen

Bob passed away on August 18, 2020, just 12 days before his 72nd birthday. He died of sudden cardiac arrest which was completely unexpected. 

Bob is remembered with love by his wife, Sandy and their four daughters Katie, Carrie, Krissy, and Claire, siblings Connie and Dave, 7 grandchildren, and many other relatives and friends.

Bob was born on August 30, 1948, to James and Louise VanBemmelen in Muskegon MI. He graduated from Muskegon Senior High School in 1966 and went on to attend the University of Michigan, graduating with a Pharmacy degree in 1972. He worked as both a retail and hospital pharmacist for over 40 years. His favorite part of his job was getting to know his customers and patients who loved talking to him as well.

As a kid, Bob spent his days riding his bike to the creek, playing sandlot baseball at the neighborhood park in warmer months, and sledding and ice hockey in the winter. He even tried out for the University of Michigan hockey team in college and was proud that he made it to the final round before being cut.  

He was intuitive and extremely creative by nature and said his entrepreneurial spirit and fix-it skills started with all the forts and treehouses he made with his childhood friends. Bob felt deeply connected to all of nature but had a special affinity for the mountains. In his 20’s, he lived in a teepee in Montana for a summer and fell in love with the west. 

Bob loved to get his hands dirty with constant garden and landscape projects. We affectionately called him “bigger is better Bob” because everything he did, filled with his great passion and zest for life, he did in a big way, including the time he rototilled up the entire backyard to plant a garden (without discussing it with Sandy first)! He always tended a prolific backyard garden and when he moved to Whitmore Lake he built a 5000 square foot garden complete with 20 4x8 garden boxes he designed and built himself. He had hoped to add another 10 boxes and this area occupies only a portion of the space. We call it “Papa’s Garden”.


While he loved everything about it, he also had a greater vision for it with his passion for helping others become self-reliant. He saw this garden as the beginning of a movement to help others live off the land and provide food year round for themselves. Although he worked tirelessly in his garden and on his myriad of ongoing projects, you would often see him taking intentional rest under the shade of the lone tree outside of the garden, communing with God and staring up at the sky watching for hawks and anything else he could observe. One of his mottos was a phrase from the Rule of St. Benedict - “Ore et Labora” - pray and work. Like Benedict, he combined contemplation with action and always experienced God in nature. 

As a young husband and father, Bob took up beekeeping and had an all natural soap and honey business for a number of years. He went on to create a leash (+ harness) for walking 2 dogs, which he was able to patent after several attempts over 10 years. He hoped to eventually market a mailbox flag, preparedness classes, and raised bed garden kits that he designed and handcrafted. He almost single handedly built a large garden at a small neighborhood church which now provides food for the surrounding community, and he hoped to inspire other churches to do the same - helping communities come together and support each other. He and a close friend who is also a journalist, created a monthly newsletter called “The Unity Herald:  Bringing People & Ideas Together” and Bob’s regular column was called “The Pharmer’s Corner”. He often enlisted his daughters’ help (usually computer related!) with aspects of his creations. He had recently decided to devote more of his time to Young Living Essential Oils, the business that the girls have been active in for several years and he had his own idea for a way to help empower people to better support their teams in building their businesses. His forever dream of having a family business was finally fulfilled working with all of his daughters. Bob never felt like he had enough time, but he pursued his passions to the end. Even with all he had going on, he was generous with his time and resources and was always willing to help someone if they had a need. 


Bob had amazing mental and physical energy right up to the end of his life. No one could keep up with his many interests and ideas, which at times woke him up in the middle of the night for several hours. He had an insatiable appetite for information and was constantly researching. He read incessantly and watched all kinds of videos, always searching for truth. He had a passionate belief in freedom and fought to preserve it in whatever ways he could.

Bob often jokingly said, “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” He was right about that...we miss him dearly and pray that his legacy will live on through each of us.


We would love to hear your stories of Bob. Please share them on the ‘Share a Memory’ page.

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©2021 Robert James VanBemmelen

In our thoughts and hearts forever and always...

We would love to hear your favorite memories of Bob! 

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