PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 500 of Bob Eleveld’s closest friends got together Saturday afternoon to celebrate his life.
The would-be guest of honor, who placed his own “no”bituary in The Grand Rapids Press to announce the end-of-life party, was unable to attend. Eleveld’s family said the 80-year-old, who recently stopped treatment for a rare form of leukemia diagnosed in 2015, was too weak to make it to his party.
At least 500 people gathered at Thousand Oaks Golf Club north of Grand Rapids during the two-hour open house.
“My father’s really a creator of community, and it’s his last chance to really create community around this event,” Eleveld’s daughter, Kerry Eleveld, explained earlier this week. “He’s always said, ‘When I die, do not throw a funeral for me. Throw a party.'”
Bob Eleveld had planned to be at the celebration. Instead, his partner, Michele McIsaac, and his children and grandchildren mingled with well-wishers, eating, drinking, laughing and trading stories.
A granddaughter shared that the Grand Rapids attorney, a lover of people, had lunch with someone new every month for 25 years.
One of those lunch companions, Tabbi Brown, was immediately drawn to Eleveld when she met him by chance one day at Rose’s restaurant in East Grand Rapids. Brown approached Eleveld, who was sitting alone, to ask if he wanted to eat with her. He told her he was already meeting someone for lunch, but that he was free Thursday. That started a friendship that blossomed over lunches held once a month for eight years.
Brown attended Saturday’s celebration with her husband, Alex, and her baby girl, Cora.
“This is Bob’s newest friend,” beamed McIsaac, who explained that Eleveld was recently able to meet Cora.
Brown has been able to spend more time with her lunch partner in her role as a hospice nurse. She didn’t realize she had been assigned Eleveld as a patient until she arrived at his condominium near Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids.
She cried as Eleveld, frail from the leukemia that will soon end his life, took her face in his hands and said, “I know your face.”