Profile in Service: Bud VanderMale
During his tenure as Executive Director at Porter Hills, A. E. “Bud” VanderMale performed a variety of roles, engendering loyalty from staff and appreciation and good will from residents. Significantly fewer employees worked there then, and the small administrative staff had a strong esprit de corps. As director, he held meetings, did financial planning, and solved problems, all the while ensuring the staff were treated with fairness and kindness and that residents had their needs met in timely and gracious fashion.
As director, Bud often gave a tour to prospective residents, and his warm, vibrant personality shone through doing it. Visitors and residents alike were especially impressed with the dining room with its elegant character and inviting spaciousness, to say nothing of the delicious food served there. He once organized a bus excursion to a cottage in Holland so residents could enjoy Lake Michigan views, games, and burgers on the grill. He loved organizing parties for them in the Porter Hills dining room, so they could celebrate special occasions. For staff he would sometimes make up word puzzles and games to play with them during noon hours. They had fun.
One day a cute, dappled fawn sauntered around near his office, and Bud approached it gently and befriended it briefly in a photo scene captured by The Grand Rapids Press. He was known to do some simple repair jobs, so residents needn’t bother making a formal request through Facilities Maintenance. He was adamant that all corridors and common areas be kept nothing short of pristine. The executive offices were located where the west side of Dogwood Court is currently. In fact, Bud’s wife, Jayne later lived in the very same apartment where Bud’s office was situated for a time back in the day.
The area north of the main campus was largely lawn and open fields then, with less parking and more open area. A major construction project undertaken during VanderMale’s tenure was the pond and environs. It went from a small non-descript piece of property to the picturesque water feature it is today. Bud considered having a putting green put in beside it, but changed his mind on that concept! He did imagine and implement the pond’s architectural design and buildout with its attractive sight lines, well-made overlooks, and peaceful, scenic contouring. A pair of swans were also involved, lovely but feisty.
VanderMale was thoroughly and personally engaged in many facets of the goings-on at Porter Hills and took great pride in its preeminence as the area’s finest retirement home. One day during a bad snowstorm, he borrowed a Jeep and picked up nurses who otherwise were snowed in. Driving them to work to be able to tend to their patients in the Health Center exemplified his dedication. Elected President of the Michigan Non-Profit Homes Association, VanderMale earned the respect of many, and thoroughly enjoyed and worked hard at his job with its many dimensions of satisfaction and challenges. But Bud told his own family that what gave him the most satisfaction and pride was when people expressed appreciation for the extraordinary care and attention shown to their loved ones who were residents. His daughter, Anne VanderMale Tuuk, recalls that in her first job, as a law clerk for newly appointed federal judge Douglas W. Hillman, her boss had just moved his mother into Porter Hills. His Honor asked Anne on several occasions to pass along his heartfelt thanks to Bud VanderMale for personally helping Mrs. Hillman settle in, feel welcome, and receive such excellent care. Her case was, of course, no exception.
Bud’s outstanding leadership, along with that of his staff, was tailored to the residents’ continued well-being. He personally ensured they were respected and understood and able to lead their best lives. That priority was valued then and should be for years to come — as a foundation for the reputation and legacy Porter Hills continues to call its own.
Learn more about Porter Hills on our website: https://mybrio.org/best-retirement-communities-in-michigan/