Sylvia Catherine Vandehey
Sylvia Catherine Vandehey, 89, a resident of the Forest Grove community passed away peacefully on October 31, 2019 at the Jennings McCall Assisted Living Home.
Sylvia was born on May 8, 1930 and raised in Hillsboro on the family dairy farm. She was the eighth of nine children and was always close with her siblings throughout her life. Her parents Benoni and Maria (VanNiewenhuyse) Coussens immigrated to the US from Belgium. At Hillsboro High School Sylvia sang in the choir and was on the ski team all four years. Sylvia met the love of her life, Gene Vandehey at a dance in the hall above the Roy store. Two years later they were married at St. Matthews on April 21, 1952. Sylvia was an operator at the local phone company before becoming a home maker raising their five children. Gene and Sylvia lived on the Hendricks Farm in Forest Grove before moving to the Heesacker farm on Kansas City road in 1965. Sylvia assisted with the farm and was a baker in the school kitchen at Neil Armstrong Middle School and Forest Grove High School.
Gene and Sylvia loved to square dance and spend time with family and friends. Everyone that came to their home was greeted with a cold beverage, a tasty meal, and likely a lively card game. You always knew if Sylvia had a good hand in pinochle based on the amount of casual conversation allowed at the table. If her cards were good, she was all business wanting to play the hand, but if her cards were average then table talk was welcomed. Sylvia believed strongly that if you want to win at cards you have to sit the same direction as the bathtub in the home. When Sylvia would leave the table Gene would frequently stack her hand just to see how excited she got to win. Sometimes it was too obvious, and she would make everyone re-deal, and other times she would brag about that hand all night long.
People knew Sylvia for her faith,family,farming,frugality and fashion. Sylvia was very devoted to her faith. She was a regular parishioner at St. Matthews in Hillsboro as a child, at St. Francis in Roy while raising their kids and then as a member of the Visitation parish. Gene and Sylvia believed strongly in the importance of raising their kids with faith and sacrificed to send them to school at St. Francis and Valley Catholic. Her granddaughter asked Sylvia a month ago if she ever considered a different religion and she replied: “Absolutely not. My grandparents were Catholic, and so were my parents. They were smart people and if they believed in the Catholic faith then who am I to question it?” Following Gene’s death Sylvia volunteered in the kitchen of the Verboort hall for hundreds of funerals and was dedicated at sewing and crocheting gifts for the Verboort Sausage feed fancy tables all year long.
Sylvia loved to have family and friends over. She would spend weeks preparing for the entire family to gather for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sylvia and Gene would save all the change they won in penny poker games with visitors throughout the year to put in the Easter eggs. The grandkids always knew if Grandma and Grandpa had a good or bad year gambling based on the weight of their eggs. There was no need to use chocolate because there was always a fully stocked drawer of various candy and chocolates in the kitchen at everyone’s disposal. At Thanksgiving Sylvia would always cook both a ham and a turkey, as well as a new dish she would find in a cooking magazine. The highlight of the meal was always her unmatched turkey stuffing, lemon meringue pie, pumpkin pie, and her marionberry or raspberry jam. The family will always remember eating most of the meals primarily in the dark because grandma wanted to set a cozy and intimate ambiance by only having centerpiece candles for light at the perfectly set and decorated table. Christmas was Sylvia’s favorite holiday of all. She would leave parts of her house decorated all year round, and would start shopping on December 26th for next year’s gifts. Sylvia always made sure that everyone in her home at the holidays had gifts to open and felt welcome. Sylvia sewed personalized stockings for every member of the family.
Sylvia expressed her love for her family through her fingers. She spent years working side by side with Gene on the farm. Sylvia would pick, cook for the crew, check berries, hoe and get what was needed to make their family farm a success. All while raising their five children. In the evenings Sylvia would quilt and sew for everyone she loved. She sewed clothes,quilted for her kids and their spouses as they got married, and made dozens of quilts and diapers for all her grandkids. She would get so excited when someone in the family would get engaged or have a baby because she would get to make them something personal or go hunting for a good deal in town. Sylvia truly enjoyed putting together a look, both for herself or others. Her family all loved to see the joy she got from a triumphant buy or a completed project she poured her love into.
Sylvia and Gene enjoyed traveling the world and seeing new places. In retirement they took many trips around the US and Europe. Sylvia was one to appreciate a good meal but not an adventurous eater. She took everyone to eat at the Banks Chinese restaurant and would comment that hot tea should be complimentary on cold days and iced tea should be free on hot days, even though that is not how it works.
Sylvia has left a legacy of showing what it looks like to love God, your family and your community through hard work, acts of love, and sacrifice for others. She was a strong woman with strong opinions, and her family counts themselves lucky to have had her as long as we did.
Sylvia is preceded in death by her loving husband Gene of 67 years who passed on September 27,2011, her son Nick who passed on November 11, 2014, her parents and six siblings.She is survived by her four living children and their spouses; Debbie and Ken Collyer of Georgetown, TX, Julie and Rod Rose of Gresham, Jeff Vandehey and his significant other Debby Ray of Baker City, Mitch and Cherie Vandehey of Banks, daughter-in-law, Joan Vandehey of Banks, two siblings; Alice Meeuwsen of Hillsboro and Ann Bickford of TX, twelve grandchildren (Jamie, Brittany, Charlie, Michael, Stephanie, Sam, Tyson, McKenzie, Madison, Danielle, Matthew, and Bethany,) and twelve great grandchildren (Dane, Brayden,Alander, Adonis, Peyton, Lauren, Awbrey,Macey, Kate, Carter, Jackand Maverick.)
She is survived by her four children and their spouses; Debbie and Ken Collyer of Georgetown, TX, Julie and Rod Rose of Gresham, Jeff Vandehey and his significant other Debby Ray of Baker City, Mitch and Cherie Vandehey of Banks, daughter-in-law, Joan Vandehey of Banks, two siblings; Alice Meeuwsen of Hillsboro and Ann Bickford of TX, twelve grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren.