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Elmer DeRitter Jr. of Kentwood, Mich. — beloved by his family and devoted to them, to God, and to the men he served through his prison ministry — died of cancer on Dec. 14, 2020, at age 78.

With his broad smile, easy laughter and big heart, he brought joy and light to the world and will be dearly missed.

He was born Jan. 16, 1942, in Paterson, N.J, to Elmer and Lena DeRitter and grew up in Glen Rock, N.J. From an early age he loved nature and gardening and in his final days was still enjoying the trees and birds outside his window.

After attending Eastern Christian High School, he graduated from Calvin College in 1963 and married Lorraine (Lori) Brandes. He then attended Rutgers Law School, graduating in 1966, and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1970, after serving in the U.S. Army.

Elmer was drafted into the Army in 1966 and served until 1969, attaining the rank of First Lieutenant. After basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., he attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., then was transferred to Adjutant General School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, before returning to Fort Dix.

Elmer and Lori’s son and daughter were born during his second stint at Fort Dix. The family then lived in Flanders, N.J., for many years as Elmer commuted to work at the Veterans Administration office in Newark. He received a Master of Public Administration degree from Rutgers University in 1975, and he retired from the V.A. in 1997 as head of the Loan Guaranty Department for the State of New Jersey.

During his years in New Jersey, Elmer spent many summer days at Green Pond, visiting his parents, teaching his kids to swim, and defeating his sister and brother on the tennis courts. In 2000, Elmer and Lori moved to Rockford, Mich., to be near family members who had moved to the Grand Rapids area. By then, they were proud grandparents.

Elmer’s Christian faith formed the core of his life and motivated his volunteer work. In his retirement years, he volunteered countless hours in prison ministry through The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), training prisoners at Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, in Muskegon, in a seminary-level course to become Christian leaders. He talked often about this work and how important it was to him. He also served on the boards of Alpha Prison Ministries and Living Water Ministries Network, organizations whose purpose was to help former prisoners integrate back into society. He served as an elder multiple times while a member of three churches in New Jersey and Michigan. And for six weeks every spring for 13 years, Elmer and Lori volunteered as landscapers at Camp-of-the-Woods, in Speculator, N.Y., where the family spent happy summer vacations for 40 years.

In addition to Lori, his wife of 57 years, Elmer is survived by his children Glenn (and Kim) DeRitter and Cyndi (and Rod) Staat; grandchildren Benjamin, Joshua (and Emily), Hannah, and Leah DeRitter, Teagan (and Paul) Buhrer, Wyatt Staat, and Courtney Dykstra; brother Pete (and Diane) DeRitter and sister Margaret DeRitter; brother-in-law Larry (and Marcia) Brandes; former foster son Joe Rindfleisch (and family); several nieces and nephews and their children; and many cousins.

A graveside ceremony for the immediate family is being held December 16, 2020 at Ridgeview Memorial Gardens, in Grandville. A Celebration of Life Service is planned for 2 p.m. January 16, 2021 at Calvary Church, 707 E. Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, where Elmer was a member. Those who are unable to attend in person can see the service live-streamed at This link will go live a few minutes before the service begins.

Memorial donations may be made online or by check to Camp-of-the-Woods, P.O. Box 250, Speculator, NY 12164 or to Faith Hospice, 8214 Pfeiffer Farms Drive SW, Byron Center, MI 49315.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Elmer’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit:

Burial arrangements were entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, 616-452-3006, exclusive providers of Veterans Funeral Care.


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19 Condolences

  1. Carol Snoek, for the Heirs Together class at Calvary Church on December 18, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    Lori and family,
    We offer you our deepest sympathies. It has been such a joy to have you and Elmer be a part of the Heirs Together class at Calvary. Elmer will be greatly missed, but we rejoice that he is now at home in heaven with his Savior. We pray that in the coming days, weeks and months that you will feel God’s presence, peace and strength in a special way.

  2. Alice/Henry Luinenburg on December 18, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    Dear Lori Pete and Marg. Our deepest sympathy to you and your families. We have many fond memories of Elmer and our De Ritter times together May our Loving God walk with you thru the days ahead. You are in our prayers

  3. John F Wierengo on December 20, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    Wow Lori I’m so sorry for your loss and my deepest heart felt condolences to you and your family. I do remember those first days when Elmer and you moved into our neighborhood at 10 mile Rd. Rockford, MI. with all your possessions and yes your delightful “New Jersey” accent. From that day forward something just clicked-was to be I gained an older brother and sister into my family. Thank you Lori and Elmer for allowing me into your family and sharing some wonderful memories. I will miss him dearly.

  4. Mary & Carl Engle on December 25, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Loved Elmer’s smile! Elmer dedicated his life to serve others and share the love of Jesus Christ!! What an impact he made with you by his side!! Prayers for you and your family.

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