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Dewey D. Westra Collection


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description



Psalm Versifications


Christian Education

Personal Materials

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Dewey D. Westra Collection, 1551-1981 | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

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Collection Overview

Title: Dewey D. Westra Collection, 1551-1981

Predominant Dates:1919-1978

ID: COLL/327

Primary Creator: Westra Dewey D. (1899-1979)

Extent: 9.0 Boxes. More info below.

Arrangement: Folder level description

Date Acquired: 00/00/1980

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Dewey Westra was a teacher and administrator in Christian Day Schools for forty-five years in Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. (See his biography elsewhere in this collection). He is probably better known, however, for his avocational pursuits as an amateur poet, translator of Friesian and Dutch poems, and versifier of all 150 of the Psalms. His works appear in both the 1934 and the Centennial Christian Reformed Church Psalter Hymnals. He also did extensive work in a hymnal for the Canadian Reformed Church, and in hymnals of two smaller church groups in the Midwest. Most of his correspondence was carried on with Church hymnal committee members. They include, among others, professors K. Schoolland, Wm. Heyns, J.G. Vanden Bosch, H. Van Andel, and S. Swets as well as The Banner editor, H.J. Kuiper. He communicated freely with a dozen or more Dutch and Friesian poets in Europe. Occasionally he expressed his personal views to prominent political, press, and religious figures. His poems cover a rather wide range of religious and secular subjects from bells to humor, from Christmas to heaven. Besides the boxes of Psalm versifications, his most voluminous work reflects his great love for nature, particularly apart of God’s marvelous creation. Westra’s papers also indicate an interest and amateur ability in music. He wrote many arrangements for his school singing groups, as well as four-part sacred numbers for church choirs. There is proof, too, in his papers that he was not easily satisfied with the quality of his work. He worked constantly to improve it. As was stated in the closing paragraphs of his biography, Westra was not greatly concerned with receiving recognition for his lifetime of poetical endeavor initially inspired by his mother at an early age. He only desired that his first love, the Psalm-versification’s would help in a small way to make Psalm–singing in this country as vital an element in worship as it was to Dutch Psalm-singers.

Biographical Note

Dewey D. Westra was born in Holland, Michigan in the last year of the 20th century, 1899. His mother with her interest in poetry composition inspired him to seek a full liberal arts education as a basis for his work with lyrics. This he did, graduating from Calvin College in 1921, with an A. B. degree. Dewey Westra worked in education for forty-five years in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa as a teacher and administrator.  He founded Christian Schools in Byron Center, Walker, and Grosse Pointe, Michigan. His avocation in the field of poetry seems to have been his overriding interest, however.  In his involvement with the Psalms, he transcribed all of the 150 Psalms, fitting each one to its historic Genevan melody, as well as providing versions of the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simon, plus a hymnal version of the Lord’s Prayer.  Most of this was done in the late twenties at the request of the Christian Reformed Synodically appointed Psalter Hymnal Committee.  Twenty-five of Westra’s songs were selected for the ‘red’ 1934 Psalter Hymnal.  When the ‘blue’ 1959 Centennial Psalter Hymnal appeared, an equivalent number from the older version was retained, with revisions and modifications by Mr. Westra.  He always felt his work must by an on-going effort in improving what he had already done. In 1971, forty of his Psalms and songs appeared in The Book of Praise, published by the Canadian Reformed Church. Dewey Westra was not too concerned about the lack of recognition he received for his work.  His hope was that the Psalms would become as dear to the English speaking audiences as they were to Dutch psalm singers. His other poetry consists of translations of selected works of a half-dozen or more favorite Friesian poets, plus a voluminous number of poems on nature.  Special occasions and family events also moved him to pen his poetic thoughts. According to Stanley Wiersma, professor of English at Calvin College, “Westra was in the best sense an amateur… He wrote because of his own love for life and language… It augurs well for the Calvin literary tradition that the first poet we trained was Dewey Westra.” One of his former pastors, the J. Eppinga, said of him, “In this man there was only humility, a humility that caused some to assess him to be less than he was.” Dewey Westra died October 15, 1979 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  His wife, Nellie Koetje, preceded him in death.  He left three sons, a brother and five sisters.

Administrative Information

Repository: Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Alternate Extent Statement: 4.0 cu. ft.

Acquisition Source: Eugene Westra

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, 1922-78],
[Series 2: Poetry],
[Series 3: Psalm Versifications],
[Series 4: Music],
[Series 5: Christian Education],
[Series 6: Personal Materials],

Series 1: Correspondence --- 1922-78
Box 1
Folder 1: Edward H. Baer --- 1929-1936
Folder 2: Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary Faculty Members --- 1934-1976
Folder 3: Canadian Reformed Church --- 1958-1961
Folder 4: Canadian Reformed Church --- 1962-1966
Folder 5: Canadian Reformed Church --- 1967-1975
Folder 6: William B. Eerdmans --- 1929-1960
Folder 7: European correspondents --- 1932-1978
Folder 8: Adrian Hartog --- 1936-1962
Folder 9: William Heyns --- 1930-1932
Folder 10: H.J. Kuiper --- 1930-1944
Folder 11: Correspondence with nationally known political, press and religious figures --- 1952-1978
Folder 12: Correspondence  re: poetic work --- 1933-1978
Folder 13: Correspondence  re: school matters --- 1922-1968
Folder 14: A.J. Strohm --- 1937-1960
Folder 15: H.J. Van Andel --- 1929-1940

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, 1922-78],
[Series 2: Poetry],
[Series 3: Psalm Versifications],
[Series 4: Music],
[Series 5: Christian Education],
[Series 6: Personal Materials],

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