Linda Wilfong VanDerGraaf, a beloved wife, mother, and childcare director who lived life with purpose to serve God and love all unconditionally, passed away on October 14 from metastatic breast cancer.
Linda fought for two and a half years until her liver could not take the chemotherapy anymore. At her bedside was her husband Jon VanDerGraaf, son Casey VanDerGraaf, daughter Paige Fallis, their spouses, Madeline VanDerGraaf (Fugate) and Charles Fallis. Also, by her side was her two dogs Caly and Luna.
Linda was the third of four sisters, born June 23, 1967 in Pontiac, to her father, Charles Robert Wilfong, and mother, Sharon Mehrman Wilfong. Growing up on Big Fish Lake in the small town of Ortonville was as fun as it sounds. She would tell stories of her sisters Kim Wilfong Hahn, Sandra Wilfong Eggert and Suzy Wilfong Kearns out all day on the water, skiing, catching turtles and cruising the lake at night. As a teenager she was popular and busy with basketball, softball, and all student body responsibilities that her role as Class President for Brandon High School Class of 1985 gave.
She enrolled in Central Michigan’s child development program, an amazing and obvious fit for her future, where she earned her bachelor’s degree and where she met her husband of 31 years, Jon. She was also a loyal sister in her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. She started her career as a preschool teacher, then a co-op teacher, ran in-home daycare for over 15 families over 10 years, and finalized her career as the director of the KidCare program at Kensington Church. Her entire career was spent molding the young, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Her children, Casey and Paige, were the apple of her eye. She put everything she had into their growth, from late night homework sessions, teacher conferences, fundraisers, to endless early and late sports practices and games. She was able to witness both of her kids graduate from college and was able to be a part of both of their weddings; she was so happy! Linda did it all and still had time to build relationships with her amazing friends. On top of it all, she always found time to call her mother, Sharon, every night to check-in. She never stopped growing friendships; she was a warrior till the end.
Linda was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and immediately adopted her determined attitude and fought harder than anyone could imagine. Despite the difficulties of treatment, she continued to work with the kids while undergoing chemotherapy. With the support of her family and friends, she participated in five Susan G Komen 3-Day walks where she walked 60 miles for breast cancer research and awareness. Her first walk was with her good friend, Kathy Luby, who tragically lost her battle with breast cancer 6 months after their walk. She traveled to her sister-in-law’s (Caryn Morrissey) city of Washington, DC to walk another 60 miles there.
During her 15 years of cancer free living, Linda and Jon traveled around the world. She saw Colorado, Myrtle Beach, Maine, Costa Rica twice, Bahamas, Punta Cana and then their happy place, Aruba. Feet in the water and hands in the air was all she wanted to do, and Aruba was that place she could not get enough of. They went back five times, taking friends and family to introduce them to that slice of heaven.
In August 2020, Linda was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer which had spread to her liver. Again, she faced it head on with an overwhelming determination to kick its butt. Linda never complained about the hardships she faced in this battle, tackling whatever side effects were necessary to continue living her life to the fullest. When the battle had harder times, she could always turn to the overwhelming support alongside her– family, friends, neighbors, Prayer Warriors, her group of Goddesses, her cancer support groups and her fiercest friend, Angie Okonski, who was always by her side to offer her love and spiritual support.
Linda adored teaching from the Bible and praying for everyone. Linda accepted people unconditionally. She loved to laugh, have fun, and spend time with family and friends. Her idea of heaven was to talk and spread love about anything and everything. Days before she passed, she would say, “God’s got me, I know where I’m going”.
Linda passed peacefully October 14, 2022, with her children, dogs, and husband by her bedside.
Predeceased by her father, Charles Robert Wilfong, aunt, Barb Mehrman, and cousin, Brian Jinnerson. Linda is survived by her mother Sharon Wilfong, husband of 31 years, Jon VanDerGraaf, in-laws Jean and Arie VanDerGraaf, sisters Kim Hahn, Sandy Eggert, Suzy Kearns and Caryn Morrissey, brother-in-law Pat Morrissey, her children and their spouses, Casey and Madeline VanDerGraaf and Paige and Charles Fallis.
A Celebration of Life is scheduled for Friday, October 21, from 3 to 7 p.m., at Legacy 925 Bar & Kitchen, 925 N. Lapeer Rd, Oxford. Look for the Pink Balloon Entrance.
In lieu of flowers, we will be accepting donations on her behalf for her niece who just started her battle with breast cancer. For donations, please Venmo Jon at @Jon-VanDerGraaf. A donation box will also be available at the celebration.