In Memory Of Grace DeWitte

Submitted by Sandy Ferencz for Island Eye News

Grace DeWitte, better known as Nana Grace, passed away in her sleep at Roper Hospice Cottage in Mount Pleasant, SC on Aug. 8, 2022. Nana loved The Simpsons, but she would only watch the show when her grandson Drew turned it on. She would watch Homer’s antics and laugh and laugh and laugh and with her sly smile proclaim “He’s baaad.” Nana had a soft spot for those who made trouble even as she held a strict adherence to her religious convictions. She was fiery and funny and took no guff. She will be missed, especially by us troublemakers. Nana Grace was born Grietje Balkema on Nov. 24,1923, in Groningen, The Netherlands to Joseph Gaaije Balkema and Sadie Sijtske Keegstra. She immigrated to the United States with her parents in 1925, passing through Ellis Island on their way to settling in Midland Park, New Jersey where they joined the Christian Reformed Church. Nana Grace attended Eastern Christian Elementary and Pompton Lakes High School. She learned to speak English along with her family by translating the Bible. Nana was a speed skater, barrel jumper, and tomboy sister to her brothers Jacob and Henry. She left school before graduating to nurse her terminally ill mother and a few years later married Marinus DeWitte on August 6, 1944. Nana was now a Navy wife. 

She raised her two children Sandra and Marvin in San Diego, Norfolk, Bayonne, and Washington DC, before the family settled and built a house in North Charleston, SC in 1954. 

Nana Grace was well known on those Navy bases for her Sunday dinners where her family would welcome as many as ten homesick sailors in need of some home cooking. Her kitchen was always adorned in the style of her Dutch heritage; Delft porcelain, lace curtains, lots of chocolate. In her 50s, Nana Grace began working as a Kindergarten Teacher’s Aid at Howe Hall Elementary School. As a retirement gift her coworkers gave her a bicycle.

She promptly rode that bike through the school hallways to the delight of the students gathered to see her off. 

Nana Grace was a founder of The Church Creek Presbyterian Church, a knitter of baby hats for Roper St. Francis Hospital, an avid Citadel Mall walker, and a lover of outrageous Halloween costumes. At 90 years young while living on the Isle of Palms with her daughter Sandy and son-in-law Richard, Nana Grace became a dedicated IOP Rec Rat. Gather & Knit and Keenagers were two of her favorite Rec Center activities. Nana’s talents and spirit spread from IOP to Goose Creek, from Park Circle to West Ashley and beyond. Fond of the expression “Do it right or don’t do it at all” and addressing scraped knees and elbows with “It’ll be better before the time you get married” Nana Grace DeWitte passed her wisdom on to four grandchildren and five great grandchildren (with one on the way). 

The family would like to thankfully acknowledge Theresa Ponessa and her team at Roper Hospice Home Health for their dedicated attention to Nana’s final needs. A remembrance party and internment at Mepkin Abbey Columbarium will be held at a date to be announced forthcoming.

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