Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Marlene Blank-Vorenkamp

August 19, 1933 - April 6, 2020
Kalamazoo, MI



Wednesday, August 19, 2020
5:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

A reception will follow in the Life Story Center.

Driving Directions


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Ransom-Blank Family Endowment Fund for Education
402 East Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 381-4416

Checks payable to: Kalamazoo Community Foundation (NOTE: Ransom-Blank Endowment in Memo Line)

Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Marlene Blank-Vorenkamp was a loving and dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, and a loyal friend to all who knew her. Her warm personality and sweet hospitality made her a special favorite at any family gathering. Marlene lived her life without regret and never settled for less than the very best for her children over the years. Her family was her greatest treasure and she loved to entertain them especially at Christmas time, her favorite time of the year. Deeply loved, she leaves behind a rich collection of memories to be cherished by all who knew and loved her.

Despite the 1930s being marked by tough economic times, the decade also saw an expansion of new technologies. Bringing great joy to their world, Albert and Irene Nygard welcomed home their daughter, Marlene on August 19, 1933, in Caspian, Michigan. Born one of six children, her birth brought great hope and promise during an era of tough economic times.

Growing up in Iron Mountain and later Escanaba, Marlene lived a typical childhood of the times. Her father worked as an iron ore miner and her mother was a wonderful homemaker. Marlene was active as a child and loved to spend time outdoors. She enjoyed picking berries as well as seeking adventures. The Upper Peninsula was known for its epic snowstorms and Marlene often enjoyed the thrill of downhill skiing even off the roof of their house when they had freshly fallen snow! She also enjoyed ice skating and spent a large majority of her childhood keeping herself busy outdoors.

In high school, she had a close friendship with her friend, Joan, and the two of them stayed in touch throughout their adult years. Studious as well as ambitious, Marlene graduated at the top of her class from Escanaba High School earning her a full private scholarship to attend college. With a strong desire to become a teacher, Marlene attended the Western Michigan College of Education. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in 1965 and later returned for her Master’s degree in 1972. Optimistic as well as driven, anything she put her mind to accomplishing she was sure to succeed!

Not to be forgotten, however, was the meeting of William Blank, the man who would change the course of her life forever! While she was working at Western Michigan University as an assistant to the President, Bill came in to request his transcript. Immediately smitten by her sweet personality, he asked her out to lunch and the rest was history! They joined in marriage on April 26, 1953. Together they raised seven wonderful children; William, Christine, Brad, Craig, Rodney, Carrie, and Kelly.

Marlene cherished her role as a mother. An avid reader, she shared her love of reading with her children. She also modeled for them a lifetime of hard work and dedication to her career as a teacher. A large majority of these forty remarkable years were spent at Comstock Public Schools where she was well-loved by both the students and staff alike. She treated her students as if they were family and many of her teaching partners were some of her closest friends. Marlene was thrilled when all three of her daughters also pursued the path toward education.

She enjoyed the many years she spent creating the best memories with her family at Christmas time. She always insisted on getting the largest tree in the county and loved to set it up early and leave it up late in the new year! Many of her ornaments were special to her as they were gifts from her parents or Bill’s parents. Each and every time the family were joined together to celebrate the season there was plenty of laughter and no one ever went home hungry!

In addition to Christmas, her second favorite season was mushroom season! Marlene nearly counted down the days until it was time to venture out into the woods to gather mushrooms to fry! Once when a scheduled back surgery conflicted with a good day of hunting mushrooms, she ended up heading home from the hospital to find some delicious treasures before officially checking in for surgery later that day! There was no way she was going to waste a good morning of picking mushrooms! Marlene shared her love of mushrooming with her children and grandchildren. Each and every hunt had its own special story and her family was sure to enjoy a grand mushroom fry once or twice during the season.

After fifty-three wonderful years of marriage, her husband, Bill passed in 2006. Marlene continued on independently for the next several years. She still enjoyed her mushroom hunts as well as her seashell collecting. Over the years she had enjoyed many wonderful vacations collecting shells along the beaches of Emerald Isle, NC, Gulf Shores, AL, Don Pedro Island, FL, and Marco Island, FL. She could walk for miles looking for unique shells and enjoying the warm sunshine. Marlene was very fond of dancing. She mostly enjoyed the Polka and could make a good dancing partner out of just about anyone who was willing! She never thought however that she’d find another dance partner than her Bill, but luckily she met Vernon Vorenkamp at a church bizarre in 2011. He asked her to join him with a group that was going dancing. She was reluctant yet agreed to go along. They danced the night away! Sharing many commonalities they joined in marriage in 2012 on Marlene’s birthday! They danced down the aisle together and shared nearly seven years together before Vernon’s passing on June 18, 2019.

In addition to her enjoyment of physical activity over the years, Marlene also enjoyed many quiet moments reading and completing puzzles. All who knew her would agree that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out. She enjoyed so many of the best things that life has to offer, yet above all else, she enjoyed the time she spent with her family. Any visit with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren was special. She hung on their every word and enjoyed sharing in their many successes. They appreciated the wisdom that came from someone of her time. Marlene had a special place in her heart for children, and she treasured every moment spent with loved ones. When reflecting on her life it is easy to see the love and dedication she had for her family. Generous beyond measure and cherished by so many, she will surely be missed by her many special friends and family for generations to come.

Marlene Blank-Vorenkamp, age 86, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, passed away Monday, April 6, 2020. She is survived by her loving children; Christine Marie (Mark) Ransom, Brad Lee (Sue) Blank, Craig Steven (Tammie) Blank, Rodney Keith (Missie) Blank, Carrie Lynn (Michael) Wendell, and Kelly Sue Blank-Tucker. Her sixteen grandchildren; Keith (Christine) Ransom, Travis (Kristin) Ransom, Lindsey (Jim) Guitar, Shelbie Blank, Conor Blank, Raeanna Blank, Steven Blank, Rachel (Marcel) Jorg, Mitch (Elizabeth) Blank, Kalynne (Adam) VanWieren, Thomas Blank, Amberly (Andrew) Watson, Kelsey Wendell, Nathan Wendell, Heather Tucker, and Amanda Tucker; and her twelve great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, as well as her loving husbands; William B. Blank, Vernon Vornkamp and her son William A. Blank. A Memorial service will be held on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, at 5 pm at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a gathering and reception afterward from 5:30pm-7 pm. Please visit Marlene’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook.