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Maxine "Sunny" Van Wyngarden

April 7, 1920 - November 21, 2019

Maxine Frances “Sunny” Van Wyngarden, age 99+, passed away on Thursday, November 21, 2019 in her residence at Capital Manor in Salem, Oregon of natural causes. Sunny, as she preferred to be called, was born on April 7, 1920 in Harrisburg, Oregon in her grandmother’s home to James H. Holt and Nora Alice (Hawke) Holt. She was their only child. The family moved to Salem when she was just 8 weeks old. Sunny attended Grant Elementary School, Parrish Junior High School, and Salem High School, when it was located where Macy’s department store now stands. While in high school, she met the love of her life, Bruce Van Wyngarden. It was in the halls of Salem High School that Bruce came up to her as she stood with a group of friends and said, “I think I’m going to call you ‘Sunny’ (due to her natural disposition).” From that point forward, it was easy to distinguish between her early day school chums and others in her life, as her fellow students called her Sunny. Following their graduation from Salem High in 1938, she and Bruce attended Willamette University, graduating in 1942. It was the graduating class of 1942 that planted the ‘Star Trees’ on campus. To this day, an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony still takes place. In November 1942, following her graduation, she married Bruce Van Wyngarden while he was on a short leave from the U.S. Navy. They were married in the First Presbyterian Church in Salem.

Sunny followed Bruce to Seattle, Washington and Miami, Florida during his service with the Navy that lasted from his graduation from Willamette University in 1942 to the war’s end in 1945. Following the war, Sunny worked for a time at both Miller’s and Meier and Frank department stores before working for the family business, Day Heating Co. In August 1946, the couple had their first born, Larry, followed by the birth of their second born, Richard (“Rick”) in November 1948, and their third born, Stuart (“Stu”), in September 1952. Sunny and Bruce were active members of the community, participating in the church, civic organizations, and local sporting events in which their three sons were involved. Sunny also sang in the church choir for many years. In the 60s and 70s, the First Presbyterian Church sanctuary was beautifully adorned with two extraordinarily-ornamented Christmas trees, all done under the creative and dedicated eye of Sunny and her ‘crew’ (a friend and her son, her own sons, and a few years later, her daughters-in-law). Sunny managed to balance her work with raising three young boys, participating in two Bridge clubs, starting her own dance ensemble, serving on her Willamette University alumni committee for many years, and in the later years, caring for her parents. Sunny was well known for her generous and giving spirit. Through the years, she supported numerous charities, including our military veterans, the visually impaired community, and a couple of organizations dedicated to the elimination of childhood diseases, including cancer and physical disabilities, and more. Sunny drove for Meals on Wheels for many years until reaching her mid-80s. Sunny was also well known for writing letters and sending greeting cards in the hundreds in an effort to reach out and inspire others. By so doing, and in many other ways, she created countless lifelong relationships.

Sunny was predeceased by her husband Bruce, who passed in April 1996, and her son Larry (Lin), who passed in May 2005. 
Her survivors include sons Rick (Marsha) Van Wyngarden and their daughters, Kerry (Bjorn) Hinrichs and Trieste (Beau) Vaillancourt; Stu (Diane) Van Wyngarden and their daughters, Kristi (Scott) Lineburger and Kelsey (Justin) Reed, and granddaughters Renee (John) Pelster and Kristen Van Wyngarden (Jon Squally), as well as 12 great-grandchildren.  Sunny was an inspiration to others. She had an extraordinary smile, the voice of an angel, a laugh that would awaken any room, and a world full of friends. The joy that emanated from her has left a positive legacy with her sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. While the sky may be a little dimmer here on earth, surely the heavens are celebrating her presence!

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 11 at 10:00 a.m. in the auditorium at Capital Manor, 1955 Salem-Dallas Highway NW in West Salem. She will be privately interred at Belcrest Memorial Park in Salem. The family wishes to express their deep gratitude to the management and staff at Capital Manor for the many years of dedication and caring they provided during Sunny’s time there. Anyone wishing to donate in her name may contribute in the name of Sunny Van Wyngarden to: Capital Manor Foundation 1955 Salem-Dallas Highway NW Salem, Oregon 97304.


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I remember fondly the times I shared sitting beside her in the ironing room of her home on Saginaw.  The neighborhood children were always welcome to play in the backyard or games on Summer evenings in the front yard.
My sincerest sympathy for your loss.
Carolyn Byars Potter

I remember Maxine as always being so kind and cheerful to the folks who lived at the Methodist Home.  Her many acts of kindness are long remembered. May she rest in eternal peace.

I knew Sunny from our visits at Capital Manor. She was always gentle and kindhearted; a joy to be around. Her church family here at Salem First Presbyterian Church are praying for her family and friends as they move through this season.  We share our blessings and hopes for many beautiful memories.