Rev. William (Bud) Ipema, 81

Social justice and community activist

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Rev. William (Bud) Ipema, 81, died on April 14, 2019 at his home in Oak Park. A larger-than-life figure, he leaves a 60-year legacy of urban ministry on Chicago's South and West sides where he was instrumental in promoting racial reconciliation and social justice. 

Born on March 14, 1938 in Evergreen Park to Ben and Gertrude (Venhuisen) Ipema, immigrant Dutch farmers, he graduated from high school in 1956 and later enrolled in Calvin College. He withdrew for a period to lead the family's construction business after his father suffered a heart attack and eventually re-enrolled. Graduating in 1969 with an M.A. from Calvin Theological Seminary, he became an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church. He blazed his own path in ministry, creating opportunities, and raising funds that supported programs benefitting the individuals and communities he was called to serve. 

He applied his lifelong skill and passion for building throughout his career — building relationships, organizations, and bridges to connect individuals and communities. In 1968, he joined Young Life, moving to Chicago's Englewood neighborhood as the organization's National Urban Trainer to work closely with gangs. During his first 45 days working with the program, he attended 12 funerals, 11 of which were murders. Each summer, he would take busloads of young people from Chicago's urban communities to Young Life Camp at Star Ranch in Colorado, where many who'd never ventured from the confines of their immediate neighborhood experienced a faith-filled and life-changing transformation. Their only requirement was to check their weapons in a lockbox on the bus before its departure. 

He became associate pastor at Lawndale CRC in 1975, a position he held until his death. He either launched or played a leadership role in MidAmerica Leadership Foundation (today called Goodcity); Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE); Synodical Committee on Race Relations (SCORR); Chicago Orleans Housing; Council of Leadership Foundations; and Timothy Leadership Foundation (TLTI), where he served as executive director. He was part of a delegation sent by SCORR to examine South Africa during its oppressive apartheid system and served on the faculty of North Park Seminary, creating a master's program for Young Life staff. 

He played an important role, along with other church leaders in the landmark creation of Atrium Village, a 300-unit housing project located near Cabrini Green and one of Chicago's first mixed-income housing developments. MidAmerica Leadership Foundation, the nonprofit he founded that promoted emerging community leaders in Chicago, incubated 42 nonprofits under his leadership. 

He befriended and mentored many, making an impression on everyone he met with his strength, faith, wisdom, and sense of humor. A skilled carpenter who loved woodworking, he built numerous projects for his extended family. He enjoyed summers at his son's Holland, Michigan home, where his favorite moments were family gatherings over food and card games, ending with a joyous toast to another beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. 

Bud Ipema is survived by his two children and their spouses; and his seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by Donna, his wife of over 52 years, and his son, Brad. 

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 27, at Lawndale Christian Reformed Church, 1240 S. Pulaski Rd. in Chicago. Visitation will precede the service at 10 a.m. and a luncheon will follow at 1 p.m., followed by private interment. In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates donations to the Endowment for Lawndale Christian Reformed Church or to the Endowment for Chicago Westside Christian School, both at 1240 S. Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60623. A second memorial service will be held on June 29, 2019, at 2581 N. Lakeshore in Holland, Michigan from 5 to 8 p.m. 

Additional information is available from Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home at or 708-383-3191.

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