Steve & Suzanne Williams and Dog Murphy – GJ Chamber’s Grandville Citizens of the Year

Pictured Emily Foster, Executive Director/Administrator of Brookcrest | Steve & Suzanne Williams & Dog Murphy | Mayor Steve Maas 

The following excerpts are from a nomination for Suzanne Williams submitted by Shelia Carney, Sunset Retirement Communities & Services 

“I am sure some Brookcrest residents feel that Murphy is their dog, and I just happen to be taking care of him,” says Suzanne Williams.

Suzanne, a true nurturer, has spent much of her life surrounded by people. She was a teacher at Jenison’s Bursley Elementary School for 35 years and counts some Brookcrest staff members among her former students. When she retired in 2006, she felt the need to continue helping people so she began volunteering at a local hospital. She also spent a lot of time visiting people at Brookcrest, including a former colleague’s mother.

Suzanne says, “I got to know people at Brookcrest, and I felt God’s hand moving me into this path. I started to volunteer here and brought Oliver, the collie I had at that time, with me a few days a week. When Oliver passed away, it broke my heart. A Brookcrest resident wrote a poem to him; his loss was felt by everyone.”

In 2014 Suzanne welcomed eight-week-old Murphy into her home, and Brookcrest was the first place they visited. He was a little over 7 pounds as a puppy, but now he weighs in at 77 pounds. Suzanne volunteers with her loyal companion almost every day for three hours.

“Murphy recognizes the word ‘Brookcrest’ and can’t wait to come,” she says. “He lets me know when it’s time to leave! As soon as we walk in the door, I let go of the leash and people in the lobby immediately call his name.”

Volunteers sign in at Brookcrest when they arrive; Suzanne signs her name and stamps the book with a paw print for Murphy. While Suzanne covers the desk during the lunch hour, Murphy sits in front of it as the official greeter. He leads people where they need to go and snuggles in with all who hold out a hand. After lunch, Suzanne and Murphy stroll the halls and visit residents in their rooms. Suzanne has a kind word and a hug for all, and Murphy is always willing to provide some affection of his own.

Suzanne says, “Murphy is compassionate; he instinctively knows who is having a bad day and has a way of comforting them. I’ve seen a grown man cry while hugging Murphy. Many times, when I leave a room to get a blanket for someone, I find Murphy in bed, keeping his friend warm. Murphy is perfect for this because of his disposition. He doesn’t jump, and he has a gentle spirit. Brookcrest is the niche that provides all the things he loves, especially people!”

Carole Micaliff met Murphy years ago when she visited her husband Joe, who lived at Brookcrest. Joe has since passed away, and now Carole is a resident herself. Hers is one of the first rooms that Murphy visits each day. “Joe loved Murphy too,” she says. “We were married aver 60 years, and we almost always had a dog. When Murphy looks at you, you melt. He is part of our lives here, and he’s the highlight of my day. I’m so thankful that Suzanne is willing to donate her time this way.”

“This relationship with Brookcrest has been one of the biggest blessings in my life,” she continues. “Here it feels like you are wrapped up in God’s arms. I walk away from Brookcrest every day feeling much better than I did when I arrived. I tell people, ‘Look at the word “dog” and spell it backwards; dogs are one of God’s blessings.’ I don’t feel like a volunteer, I’m here as a family member. Brookcrest is warm and close, and part of that is because of Murphy.”

The following nomination for Steve Williams was submitted by Martha & Eric Vermeulen – Friends and neighbors of the Williams

There are a few folks who enhance Grandville under the radar, steadfastly providing random acts of kindness wherever they go, never expecting anything in return. Our neighbor Steve Williams, is one such individual. Steve, a Jenison elementary teacher for over 30 years, is now retired and resides in Indian Springs Condominiums in Grandville. There he served on the Condo Board, is always ready to help a neighbor, and is instrumental in two water protection groups that impact every citizen in Grandville.

One of Steve’s neighbors has failing eyesight and relies on Steve to drive him to and from work each day. Troubled young men in Grand Rapids have depended on Steve to mentor them and drive them to support groups. Eric and I can always count on him to check our home, even feeding wildlife, when we are gone for months at a time.

Steve has stepped up to the plate to support Grandville environmental efforts. He was involved with the initial organization of Friends of Buck Creek, a local grassroots organization that works to improve the health of the creek that meanders through our beautiful city. He worked side by side with Mayor Steve Maas to achieve the group’s non-profit status, and continues to volunteer at every FOBC clean up and event., including helping middle school youth plant a creek-protecting rain garden. He has participated in every parade, Harvest Festival, and Chocolate Walk to help educate the public about Buck Creek and its fragile state.

Recently, Steve organized residents who have an interest in the health of Indian Spring Lake, a retention pond that flows into Buck Creek. He and his wife, Suzanne, have funded treatments for algae, and rental for a dumpster for neighbors to place raked up algae from the lake. Of course, he did a great deal of that raking. Steve also monitors the flow of water from the lake into Buck Creek and a Facebook page keeping interested parties informed.

Steve is often a visitor a Brookcrest Rehabilitation Center to support Suzanne with her volunteer work there. Their collie, Murphy, is part of their healing team, who thrived on the organic meals Steve would prepare for him when he was a puppy.

Even strangers are lifted a bit higher when Steve Williams crossed their path. A few years ago, a homeless man, with his worldly possessions crammed into one suitcase, took regular refuge at the Grandvllle Public Library. Steve noticed that the man’s winter boots were wrapped in duct tape, certainly not winter-worthy. He quickly bought new boots, and presented them to the appreciative man. How do we know this? Steve’s wife shared their story with us weeks later. He never said a word.

Eric and I feel extremely fortunate to have Steve Williams in our community, and are proud to nominate him for Grandville Citizen of the Year. Thank you for your consideration.

Martha and Eric Vermeulen