DeVrieses are ‘caring, loving, humble people’

Published 9:33 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

Those who know the DeVries family of rural Hayward — who are receiving a home makeover this week through popular ABC TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” — describe the five-member family as talented, down-to-earth, humble people who are deserving of the blessing of a new home.

The father, Dirk, 50, is a former farmer who works at Royal Sports in Clarks Grove. A farming accident from his younger years left him with only one arm.

The mother, Susan, 42, is a music and reading teacher at Hollandale Christian School.

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They have three children: April, 17, Derik, 15, and Hanna, 12.

The Tribune sought out stories of people who are close to the family or who have had acquaintances with them in the past.

The following are the responses received:

– Carole Ziebell of Lewiston, who is a close friend of the family, wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune stating that hearing the news of the DeVries makeover was some of the best news she has ever received.

Ziebell said her husband, Kevin, went to vocational school in Austin with Dirk in the late ’70s, and every year they have class reunions. This year’s reunion was at the DeVries house this past August.

At that reunion when the women were socializing, Susan was telling them about how the “Extreme Makeover” crew had come to visit her family’s house, Ziebell said. While the other women were on the edge of their seats, Susan sat calmly, as though it would never happen for her.

“They are the most caring, loving, humble people we know,” Ziebell said. “They are out there willing to help any way they can. Sue — being a teacher — always comes up with ideas of games or crafts to do while at their house for a reunion. They are the easiest people to talk to; they open their door to everyone.”

Though their house was not perfect, she said, that did not deter them from having people over to enjoy each other’s company.

Ziebell described Susan as a crafty person, who paints beautifully on rocks and walls, letting her imagination take her everywhere. She crochets and enjoys making things for people in need.

The family friend described Dirk as a man that is so pleasant and welcoming.

“He isn’t afraid to take jokes; he laughs right back,” Ziebell said. “He is a hard worker; he has so many friends; he is a loving father who tries to provide for his family the best he can.”

She said she contacted all of Dirk’s old classmates to spread the word.

“We all agree that ‘Extreme Makeover’ has picked the best there is,” Ziebell said. “They are the most deserving family we know and we can’t wish them enough congratulations and all the hugs and love for winning this privilege.”

– Mary Ellen Johnson of Celebrations Party and Gifts in Albert Lea said she was thrilled to find out “Extreme Makeover” was coming to the area, and when the selected family was announced, she realized she knew the mother of the family, Susan.

Johnson wrote via e-mail: “Susan probably doesn’t remember me, but I remember her. A few years ago I wanted a German prayer written in calligraphy and was told that a Susan DeVries could write it for me. I wasn’t sure that the prayer was grammatically correct — my mother had recited it to me and I had written it down.

“I was able to contact Susan, and she told me she had spent some time in Holland as an exchange student and was able to correct the grammar for me. She also wrote it out for me in calligraphy, so that I could have it framed. This project turned into a beautiful piece of art which we framed and gave to my mother for Mother’s Day. I was thrilled.

“Since that time I learned that Susan has designed cards and is very talented. She did some more calligraphy for my store, Celebrations, for brides. Her work is lovely and precise. I haven’t seen her for about ten years now, but I sure am glad she and her family are getting a new home.”

– Dave Callahan of rural Clarks Grove said he has known Dirk for about 16 years through the Arctic Cat dealership where Dirk works as a mechanic.

“I know he’s a wonderful, humble guy,” Callahan said. “On the mechanical end of it, the stuff he can do with one arm is pretty amazing.”

He said Dirk is “not real flashy or anything like that” and he is a “pretty mild-mannered type of person.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard him swear,” he said. “He’s not boisterous at all in demeanor … He’s just a great guy.”

– Mike and Roberta Czaplewski said they know the DeVries family, particularly Susan, from the years their children attended Hollandale Christian School.

“Susan is a gifted musician who often enhanced the annual school musical with her writing and music talents,” the couple wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune. “They are a good Christian family and very deserving of this blessing.”