Dolores E. Slikkers, a co-founder of Maranatha Volunteers International and philanthropist who helped shape Seventh-day Adventist Church policy, died in a car crash in her hometown of Holland, Michigan. She was 85.
Slikkers was driving alone when her car hit another vehicle at 1:52 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18, Holland police said. Her car then veered off the street and crashed into a tree.
Firefighters had to extract her from the car, and paramedics rushed her to the hospital, where she died, police said.
The 28-year-old driver in the other car was uninjured, and alcohol was not believed to have contributed to the accident.
Police have opened an investigation but said “very preliminary medical information” indicated that Slikkers may have suffered a medical emergency that was a factor in the crash.
“However, this cannot be confirmed until results of an autopsy are received,” police said in a statement.
Slikkers played an active role in Adventist leadership over the decades, including as a member of the Executive Committee of the General Conference, the top governing body of the Adventist world church. She was serving as a member of both the Andrews University board of trustees and the executive committee of its Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at the time of her death.
“Dolores Slikkers was strongly committed to Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and values,” said Benjamin D. Schoun, general vice president of the General Conference and chair of the Andrews University board of trustees.
“Her special interest was in Adventist education, which she promoted strongly,” Schoun said. “She was currently on the Andrews University board and is the longest-serving member of that group. She was active in that responsibility, asking pertinent questions at nearly every board meeting.”
Slikkers and her husband, Leon, also contributed financially to many church projects from revenues made at their successful boating manufacturer S2 Yachts, Schoun said.
“From the success of those efforts, they were able to generously give financial gifts for various church projects, including assisting students with tuition costs for Adventist education,” he said.
Perhaps the highest-profile project that Slikkers helped initiate was Maranatha Volunteer International, a non-profit Adventist-affiliated organization that she co-founded with her husband and John Freeman in 1969. Today, Maranatha mobilizes volunteers to construct urgently needed schools, churches, orphanages, clinics, and houses around the world.
“Dolores and Leon were part of the original group of pilots who flew missionary trips to the Caribbean and Central and South America,” S2 Yachts said in a statement in 2007.
Since its inception, Maranatha has constructed more than 3,800 “One-Day” churches, 600 “One-Day” schools, 115 education and evangelism centers, and 760 water wells, according to its website. It mobilized more than 2,400 volunteers in 2013 alone.
Slikkers also served on the boards of It Is Written television in California and Griggs University in Michigan.
More recently, she was a member of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee, which was formed at the request of the General Conference to find out whether a group of Adventist theologians, scholars and laypeople could reach a consensus on women’s ordination. The committee was unable to reach consensus during a two-year study.
Slikkers was “quiet and kind-hearted,” said Ingo Sorke, a professor of religion at Southwestern Adventist University who sat with her on the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. “She had a sincere love for her church and a genuine expectancy of the Second Coming.”
But Slikkers was not shy about speaking out when she felt it necessary. When a large majority of faculty at the Andrews seminary approved a document on the biblical principles of headship in August 2014, she joined a group of theologians and pastors who signed an appeal for the faculty to reconsider parts of the statement. The seminary faculty ultimately stuck with the original statement.
Slikkers also had a fondness for celebrating birthdays and skiing. She sent out more than 2,000 birthday cards every year and went skiing regularly with her husband in the U.S. West.
Dolores Slikkers nee Parker was born June 22, 1929, and is survived by Leon, her husband of 67 years, as well as four children, six grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her sisters, Marjorie and Lela, and is survived by two brothers, Bill and Ted Parker.
Visitation will take place Sunday, Dec. 21, at the S2 Yachts Showroom in Holland, and the funeral will be held Monday at the Holland Seventh-day Adventist Church, where she was a member.
Niels-Erik A. Andreasen, president of Andrews University, expressed “deep sadness” about Slikkers’ death in an e-mail message to faculty. He said Slikkers and her husband took an active role in campus life starting in the 1960s and noted that the university had recognized their business accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors by giving them honorary doctorates in law in 2007.
“Please remember Dolores’ family and friends as they mourn her loss this holiday season,” Andreasen said.