Francene (Francena) L. Schilt Poortinga was born on February 10, 1914, at Cappella aan den Ysel, South Holland, the Netherlands, the oldest daughter of Andrew Schilt and Elizabeth Verwaal Schilt. At the age of eight Francene immigrated to the United States with her parents, brother Gerrit and sister Lena. Her oldest brother Bertus decided to remain in the Netherlands as he was soon to be called into military service and also was engaged to be married.
Upon their arrival in America, the Schilt family settled near Percy, Iowa and later lived on farms near Prairie City and Monroe, Iowa. In 1935 Francene and her family moved to a farm that her father had purchased west of Pella. It was while living here she met her future husband, Francis G. Poortinga at a neighborhood sledding party.
Francene and Francis were married on February 1, 1939, in the parsonage of the Otley Reformed Church. The following day was moving day as Francis's parents would be moving from their farm to a house they had purchased in Pella. Francis and Francene started their married life on the Poortinga farm and continued to live there until 1980. Their daughter Lorraine was born in 1940, and their son, Gene in 1946. After farming for 40 years, Francis and Francene moved to the home they had built in Pella and their son and his family moved to the Poortinga farm.
Francene made profession of her faith in the Christian Reformed Church of Prairie City, Iowa. After her marriage, she transferred her membership to the Otley Reformed Church where she was an active member, attending the Banner Bearers Society and Dorcas Circle, helping with DVBS, serving on the church building committee and singing in the Otley Church Dutch Choir.
Francene like to travel and she and Francis traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Hawaii, Mexico and Europe. They also were able to return to the Netherlands to visit Francene's brother Bertus and his wife and visited the farm in Friesland, where Francis's father had lived before immigrating with his parents to the United States. Following Francis’s death in 1985, Francene continued to live in their home on West First Street until 1990. She then moved to an apartment and did some more traveling in Europe and took several bus tours throughout the United States. Francene was an avid reader, a self-taught oil painter, loved doing jigsaw puzzles and liked to challenge herself by doing the crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper. She also made floral pictures using old jewelry. A daily walk was something she continued to do into her 90’s.
In 2008, Francene moved to Fair Haven and lived there until she suffered a stroke and came under Hospice Care. However, her health improved and after living a short time in the Oskaloosa Care Center, she moved to Hilltop Manor in Pella in 2010, where she lived until moving to the Cottages in 2013. On August 26, 2019, Francene passed away at the advanced age of 105.
Francene is survived by her two children and their spouses; six grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren, three great great grandchildren and four nieces. She was the last surviving member of her original family. She was preceded in death by her husband, Francis; her parents, Andrew and Elizabeth Schilt; parents-in-law Gerrit and Dena Poortinga; brother Frank and sister Geertje both who died at a young age; brother and sister-in-law Bertus and Teuntje Schilt; brother Gerrit Schilt; sister and brother-in-law Lena and (Gerald) Van Zee; and sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Blanche (Poortinga) and Gerald Vander Linden.
Francene often said she didn’t think she would live to such an old age but felt she had a good life and was blessed and we, her family, feel blessed to have had her as our mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
Lorraine and Norman Verros, Pella, Iowa
Steve and Zena Verros, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Sarah & fiancé Tyler Lyons
Lynn Verros, Sully, Iowa
Gene and Helen Poortinga, Pella, Iowa
Christine and Curt Van Kooten, Pella, Iowa
Nathan & Taylor Van Kooten
Katelyn & Bryce Grober
Michelle and Charles Fritz, Clive, Iowa
Carmen, Madeline and Anna
Rebecca and David Cook, Pella, Iowa
Grant, Spencer and Avery
Sandra & Jamie Tyrrel, New Sharon Iowa
Braden and Emma
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Otley Reformed Church