Dr. Francis X. Van Lieshout “Dr. Van,” age 92, of Little Chute, passed away peacefully on September 6, 2020 surrounded by the love of his family.
He was born on October 11, 1927 to Frank and Mayme (Van Heeswyk), the 8th of 10 children. He graduated from Holy Name School in Kimberly and Kimberly High School. He enlisted in the Navy and served 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days. Following his discharge he enrolled at Marquette University, and completed his course in pre-med. In 1949, he met his best friend and the love of his life, Josephine June Mayhew. To differentiate him from his father, his nickname was June, shortened from Junior. Jo did not appreciate her first name and encouraged friends and siblings to call her June. June and June bonded over their Catholic faith and dedication to Marquette. Their common nicknames were left behind after they married on August 11, 1951 at Holy Name Church in Kimberly.
That same year he enrolled at Marquette School of Medicine. Dr. Van and Jo resided in Milwaukee until the completion of his internship at St. Mary’s Hospital. For a time they lived above a funeral home across from Gesu Church. In 1956, they moved to Little Chute where Dr. Van joined the practice of D.W. Curtin and Ralph Gage, whom he considered his mentors through his medical career.
Dr. Van served his patients with honor, integrity and a passion for hard work. His practice included house calls at all hours and numerous telephone calls to his home, which he answered religiously. He never took appointments but saw everyone in order of need; the waiting room was always full, including Saturdays. Dr. Van spent time with every patient and knew them all by name. He delivered 2,500 babies, gave free physicals to student athletes, and it felt like he was constantly on call. But he loved every minute. In a tribute to his mother, who had been widowed at a young age, he provided free medical care to widows, the priests and nuns of the Fox Valley and the long term unemployed, all in return for “homemade candy for my kids at Christmas.”
In 1962 he underwent surgery for carcinoma of the bowel; a complication resulted in further surgery and a colostomy. At that time, he was father to 7 children aged 8 and under. These challenges only served to heighten his empathy and compassion for his patients. When many people with ostomies began to contact him, he recognized the need for a support group and helped form the Fox Valley Ostomate Group. That group, which he served for 50 years, remains active today.
Dr. Van served as health officer of the Village of Little Chute, Combined Locks and the Town of Vandenbroeck until those duties were assumed by the county health department. He spear-headed meetings training local restaurant employees on performing the “Heimlich Hug” for choking clients; his efforts resulted in several successful outcomes.
He was a humble servant of the Lord and his community. When Dr. Van noticed one of the nuns from the local school walking in the rain, he and the Kiwanis Club raised funds in one day to purchase a car and garage for the St. John’s Dominican Sisters. A staunch supporter of Catholic education, Xavier High School named him and Jo Honorary Alumni. In 2011 he received the Affinity Theda Care award for his volunteering at St. Vincent De Paul. He was extremely proud of his honorary appointment to the Little Chute Volunteer Fire Department and his induction into the St. John’s Athletic Hall of Fame and receipt of the Little Chute High School Bud Kohn 110% Award. At his many acceptance speeches, he always thanked his wife Jo as the reason for his success.
Dr. Van was blessed with an outstanding office staff and colleagues. He sang their praises regularly. He cherished annual reunions with the staff members and often said his staff worked “with Dr. Van not for Dr. Van.”
When he retired from the practice of medicine, the people of Little Chute honored his life of service with a community park dedicated in his name. Van Lieshout Park has served as a venue for many unforgettable family occasions these past two decades.
Fishing with master anglers like Richie Solberg was how he spent his retirement years. He also enjoyed eating tasty food prepared by Marge Solberg and Dick Salm, walking in the woods with Dr. Jack Meyer, chopping firewood with Joe Gloudemans so he could make maple syrup with Lisa and Curt Haen, driving to church with Uber driver Harley Hietpas, and beating his friends at cards. He loved to tell stories and was an oft-requested speaker at community events. In younger years, he and Jo had many adventures traveling with their dear friends, Bob and Mary Look and have spent many wonderful times with his special niece Jean Erdmann and husband Don.
Dr. Van will be deeply missed by his 7 children; it was a final blessing that each of them could be with him to say goodbye as he passed from his physical life to his spiritual life. He is survived by: Susan Kelley (Nick Vollendorf) of McFarland; David Van Lieshout (Megan) of Appleton; John Van Lieshout (Missy) of Milwaukee; Monica Van Lieshout of Milwaukee; Mary Van Lieshout of Dublin, Ireland; Paul Van Lieshout (Liz) of Reston, Virginia; and Ellsbeth McGowan of Whitefish Bay. He is further survived by his 16 grandchildren, Fran Kelley (Claire), Eileen Kelley (Joe Rasmussen), Bob Van Deurzen, Amie Campbell (Tim), Nichole Hermes (Josh), John Van Lieshout, Foley Van Lieshout, Michael Dowd, Caitriona Dowd, Ciara Dowd, Martha Van Lieshout, Emma Van Lieshout, Nick Van Lieshout, Phoebe McGowan, Felicia McGowan and Georgia McGowan, and his 9 great- grandchildren, Mila and Niko Kelley, John and June Rasmussen, Ella, Grant, Brock and Oliver Campbell, and Jayden Hermes. Dr. Van is survived by his brother Tom Van Lieshout (Betty) and his sister Therese Smaxwell Livermore as well as his sisters-in-law Mary Jane Van Lieshout and Nancy Mayhew and brother-in-law James Mayhew (Thelma). Upon the early death of his parents, his sister and brother-in-law, Marie and Joe Gossens, took him and 5 of his siblings into their home, for which Dr. Van was eternally grateful. Marie and Joe’s children became very close to Dr. Van, and his family recognizes the love and support they showed him and Jo. He is also survived by numerous cherished nieces and nephews and countless friends, especially dear friend, Jan DeKleyn.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 65 years, Jo, his siblings Marie Gossens (Joe), Martha Block (Fritz), Georgia Van Lieshout, Kathryn Prasher (Dick), Joe Van Lieshout (Mary Jane), Jack Van Lieshout (Betty), and Patricia Kools Harvey (Tom), his brothers-in-law George Mayhew (Betty), Macklin “Mike” Mayhew (Fran), Donald Mayhew, Harold “Hal” Mayhew (Deloris) and sisters-in-law Harriet McBride (John) and Evelyn Wilson (Gene).
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a viewing of Dr. Van (with no family present) will be held from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursday September 10, 2020 at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, 323 Pine Street, Little Chute. Friends who wish to bid goodbye to Dr. Van at that time are asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing. A private Mass of Christian Burial will be held for the immediate family by invitation only at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, with concelebrants Father Ronald Belitz, Monsignor James VandenHogan and Monsignor John Schuh. Military rites conducted by the Jacob Coppus American Legion Post 258 will follow. Video of the funeral mass may be viewed starting on Saturday September 12, 2020 at 12:00 noon at: http://www.stjn.org. Committal will be held at St. John’s Cemetery in Little Chute where Dr. Van will join with his loving wife Jo. A memorial service truly worthy of Dr. Van (who loved visiting with people at funerals) will be held when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. For online condolences, please visit www.verkuilenfh.com.
Dr. Van wished to acknowledge the loving support he has received throughout the Village of Little Chute and St. John’s community, especially all the people who assisted him through the past few years after the loss of his dear wife Jo. You are too numerous to name, but the family will hold you in our hearts with gratitude forever. Dr. Van also wanted to thank the loving and compassionate staff of St. Elizabeth Hospital and Ascension.
In lieu of flowers, Dr. Van requested memorials to VIDA (f/k/a Mother and Unborn Baby Care) 526 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Appleton, WI 54911.
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him.”
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