December 30, 2021
Redmond, Washington – Grace Kathleen (Mills) Koopmans, also known as “Stubbie, Mom, Aunt Grace, Grandma Grace, Beppa, Gracie, the Matriarch, and Amazing Grace,” was born on February 13, 1920 in Hemet, California. She was the youngest daughter of Chester E. and Clara D. Mills. She died peacefully on December 30, 2021 at her home in Emerald Heights in Redmond, WA, just six weeks before her 102nd birthday.
Grace spent her childhood and teenage years in Whittier and Pico, California, where she graduated from Whittier Union High School in 1937 and was voted “Highest Probable Girl”.
In 1939, after her sophomore year at Whitter College, Grace was married to Rev. Dr. Theodore “Ted” Koopmans married. The two ministers married and made headlines around the world.
For over 50 years, Grace was an active pastor in Ted’s ministries: La Crescenta Presbyterian Church (La Crescenta, CA); Woodland Park Presbyterian Church (Seattle, WA); The Little Church on the Prairie (Lakewood, WA) and in Ted’s transitional ministry in West Washington.
While raising three young children and serving actively in the churches with her husband, Grace received her bachelor’s degree from Whittier College in 1955. After raising her children, she received her masters degree from Pacific Lutheran University in 1973. At the age of 98, Grace received an honorary doctorate from Pierce College (Lakewood, WA), only the second honorary doctorate ever awarded in the college’s 50-year history.
Professionally, Grace was director of (Helen) Bush Preschool in Seattle in the 1950s, curriculum director for the first Head Start Program in Pierce County in 1965, and parent education coordinator for Bates Voc-Tech in Tacoma in the 1960s. In 1969 she founded the Early Childhood and Parent Education Program at Fort Steilacoom Community College (now Pierce College) and was its first director. She was known as the Washington state authority on outdoor equipment and indoor environments for young children.
After retiring from Pierce College in 1985, Grace worked for Big Toys, an outdoor play equipment company, and was responsible for developing the children’s activity building (The Cheney Center) in Northwest Trek, Tacoma, WA.
Her professional honors have been numerous, including the Pierce County Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the Education of Young Children and lists in numerous Who’s Who publications. She was instrumental in founding numerous organizations to promote and improve educational programs for parents and young children.
“Amazing Grace” was what her friends and family called her because she was truly amazing. Grace delighted everyone she met with her many stories of her lifelong accomplishments and worldwide travels to more than 100 countries.
Grace’s Christian faith, friendships, and family values have been pillars of her strength throughout her life. Her surviving family members include her three children Kathie Koopmans Neir (daughter), Dick (son) and Sonja Koopmans, David (son) and Lynn Koopmans; her eight grandchildren: Karen Pratt (Steve), David Mills Koopmans (Randi), CJ Neir (Ge), Todd Neir (Anna), Kelly Koopmans Scholl (Michael), Kasey Koopmans, Heather Brewer, Brady Brewer (Darcy); and a dozen great-grandchildren: Ryan and Emma Pratt; Hailey, Ryder, and Kenzie Grace Brewer; Ryan and Kyle Koopmans; Maren Grace and Brody Neir; Charley Neir; and Riley and River Scholl.
She was previously dead by her 67-year-old husband, sister Eloys “Red” Mills Parks, and son-in-law Charles J. Neir.
A memorial service is to take place in the future. Memories can be made at: Grace Koopman’s Endowed Scholarship, Pierce College Foundation, Pierce College, 1601 39th Ave. SE, Puyallup, WA 98374 or Kathie Koopmans Neir Endowed Scholarship, Whitworth University, 300 West Hawthorne Rd., Spokane, WA 99251.
Published by News Tribune (Tacoma) on January 9, 2022.