DEMOTTE — Although removed from the public eye the last few years, Jeanette Roorda had a lot to do with turning the town of DeMotte into its current state. During her tenure as a public servant, Roorda had her fingers in almost every major project undertaken by the town. Roorda, 88, a lifetime resident of DeMotte, passed away on Sunday, July 5, 2020, at Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village.
Long-time DeMotte Town Council Member and former President Mark Boer put it best when asked about Roorda.
“She was a great friend of the town of DeMotte,” said Boer. “She was definitely my mentor and a good friend, as well.”
Boer related that early on, Roorda impressed upon him two statements that have guided him through his tenure on the town council.
“She said you should always do what you think is right and never take no as a final answer,” said Boer. “She liked to think of that no as just the first step towards getting to a yes.”
Roorda was a dedicated member of the town council, serving first as the clerk-treasurer from 1976 — 1979. She became the first woman to serve on the council from 1980 — 1987 and the only woman to serve as president of the town council, doing so from 1982 — 1986. She then served as the town manager from 1987 — 1994 and finally was the special project coordinator from 1995 — 2002. In that final position, Roorda worked with various organizations and the town to secure funding and grants to help improve the community. Prior to entering public service full-time, Roorda worked as a medical secretary for 19 years for DeMotte Physicians.
Some of the special projects that she worked on during her time with the town included the purchase of Field of Dreams Park, the placement of sidewalks along Halleck, the Memorial Tree program in the parks, and the refurbishing of little Garden Park downtown. Roorda also was in on the process to secure the double-turn lane that widened Halleck through town as well as the beginning of the development of a town water system.
Her tenaciousness was well known and respected throughout the area, as was her outspoken support of the Town of DeMotte and its citizens.
Roorda was born in Merrillville in 1931 and married Joe Roorda in 1951, two years after graduating from Fair Oaks High School.
She is survived by her children, Joe Roorda, John (Kathy) Roorda, and Jenny Tillema; grandchildren, Eric (Jen) Tillema, Neil (Luz) Tillema, David (Linda) Tillema, Jeni Rae Tillema, Matthew (Erin) Roorda, Adam (Carrie) Roorda, Courtney (Adam) Vogel and Christy (Kevin) Nelms; nine great-grandchildren, Kody, Ethan, Noah, Tyler, Logan, and Elena Tillema, Collins and Cannon Vogel, Talon Nelms, Sunny Anderson, Ollie Rusk and one great-grandchild on the way; sisters, Margaret Swart and Anna Winger.
“That lady was something special,” said Boer.