Distinguished Alumni: Charles “Chuck” Zeilstra Class of 1945
Rev. Peter Semeyn

Charles “Chuck” Zeilstra was posthumously honored as the Distinguished Alumni of the Year. Chuck graduated from Timothy in 1945. He was in the garbage business for his entire career and retired at age 59 after selling his business. He and his wife Carol had four children, Van, Lynn, Julie and David, all who attended and graduated from Timothy. Eleven grandchildren are also Timothy graduates. Several great-grandchildren are, or have been, enrolled at Timothy as well. Other great-grandchildren have attended Christian schools near their residences out of state. Over the years, Chuck served on the Timothy Christian School Board and the Timothy Foundation Board. Chuck left a lasting legacy.


Building a personal legacy is not like building a house where you follow detailed plans to build the structure. Legacies do not follow a precise plan or specific steps. The most enduring legacies are built on values and priorities that are the result of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul describes it this way: But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)

The Fruit of the Spirit is a result of a personal relationship with Jesus. Chuck Zeilstra built his legacy by being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit.


Chuck was known for his generosity. He was generous with his time, his money, and his wisdom. He and Carol were open with their hospitality. Numerous members of Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church (Chuck and Carol’s home church for over 40 years) remember being approached by Chuck and Carol on one of their first visits to the church and being invited to their home for coffee or a meal. They kept an eye out for newcomers and wanted them to feel welcome.

Chuck had a gentle spirit and was very approachable. He was easy to talk with and always encouraging. He had a heart for those in need and wanted to make sure they were being helped and assisted. “Even as a little boy, my dad would watch out the window of his home to look for his mom as she carried groceries from the store. He would rush outside to help her,” Lynn recalls.


Chuck never sought the spotlight. He was more comfortable working behind the scenes in a quiet and compassionate way. Chuck’s son, Dave, says, “He was a humble servant prioritizing what is often referred to as the three-legged stool of Christian education: teaching children about God at home, in the Christian school and at church.” Throughout his adult life Chuck was always engaged in either the Timothy school board and foundation or a leadership role at his church as either a deacon or an elder. And often both at the
same time.

Chuck lived out the adage that values are caught and not taught. He was never one to lecture his children or family members about Christianity, but it was clear to every generation that Christ was the center of his life, that the Bible was his guide, and serving was as natural and necessary as breathing.

Chuck was a prayer warrior personally and as the patriarch of his family. It was clear that not only his children, but his grandchildren and great-grandchildren saw him as the spiritual leader of their extended family.

“He was a humble servant prioritizing what is often referred to as the three-legged stool of Christian education: teaching children about God at home, in the Christian school and at church.”


Chuck was diligent in his professional life developing a successful garbage company. He demonstrated the work ethic that accompanied his Dutch heritage and theology. Chuck rode the highs and lows of business economics believing that his company was not a job, but a calling. True to his personality, Chuck sought out new ways to assist his employees with their work. He invented a way to put wheels on large garbage totes to make it easier for his crew to roll containers to the truck. His son, Van, joined the business in 1978 and partnered with his dad in finding ways to expand the business until it was bought by a corporation.

Chuck’s forbearance was also demonstrated in his commitment to his extended family as it grew. Son Van commented, “He never missed one of his children’s athletic events and continued to attend all the contests in which his grandchildren competed, including taking spring break trips to Florida to watch them.”


Chuck Zeilstra loved Jesus. When you love Jesus, you are filled with His love and that love pours out into the lives of others. The same formula applies to joy. Chuck was filled with the joy of Christ and that joy was poured out into the lives of others.

Chuck was filled with the joy that comes with being a faithful follower of Jesus. He was not one to be critical or a complainer. He loved to worship and was a joy-filled worshiper. He seemed to always see the bright side of things and his laugh was contagious.

Chuck loved people and his love was demonstrated through his active listening, genuine caring, and his desire to help others. It was clear to everyone he met that Chuck loved people.

Not only does his family describe him as loving, but others as well. Daughter Julie DeVries shared, “Toward the end of his life dad had caregivers who spent time in their home. Several left notes for the family thanking the family for letting them care for Chuck and commented about his loving spirit. They acknowledged Chuck’s legacy by mentioning that the Zeilstras were a uniquely welcoming and loving family.”

One doesn’t decide to build a legacy and follow a template to do so. The pathway to leaving a legacy is to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and let the Holy Spirit fill your heart and mind which pours out into the lives of others.

Chuck Zeilstra, Timothy’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, left a meaningful and lasting legacy.

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