Tamara Lee (Lachmiller) van der Valk, a resident of Terry, Montana, passed away peacefully in her sleep on January 3rd, 2018.
Tammy was born in Santa Monica, CA on September 20th, 1944. She was the second child born to Ethel and Henry (Hank) Lachmiller. Her brother, Raphael, was five, when she was born. Their family were very active in their church and community.
Tammy graduated from Eagle Rock High School in 1962 and became actively involved in the alumni association. After high school, she took her passion of creative writing and literature and pursued her bachelor’s degree in English at Cal State Northridge. In 1966, she started working in the communications department at the Union Oil Company of California headquarters in Los Angeles where she met the love of her life, Robert “Bob” van der Valk.
Bob and Tammy met in 1967 over a shared water cooler at their office. He asked her out and their love story began. They were engaged several months later when Bob popped the question over a romantic dinner at Julie’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, followed by an evening watching the Ice Capades at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. They married four months later on September 14, 1968 in the Sherman Oaks Lutheran Church and the reception was held at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, CA. They honeymooned in beautiful San Luis Obispo, CA at the Madonna Inn.
One incredible trip Tammy and Bob took when they were still newlyweds was to Holland, where Bob lived the first 15 years of his life. They traveled there in July of 1969, went to The Hague, where Bob grew up and saw all the amazing sites Holland has to offer. One story Tammy shared was that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon while they were there. The Dutch people in the lobby of their hotel were clapping and congratulating them because they were Americans. She recalled this as being a delightful experience.
Bob and Tammy moved several times throughout their lives. They started out in Downey, CA and then moved to Cerritos, CA where the most important part of their lives began; their four children were born. Eric was born in 1970. Next, Danielle in 1971; Marissa in 1972; and the baby of the van der Valk crew, Inger, was born in 1974. It was no small feat having four kids under the age of five, but Tammy seemed to do it with ease. She said she always wanted a big family with lots of children and the Lord certainly blessed her four times over!
Tammy, Bob and their kids moved again two weeks after Inger was born to Goleta, CA. They later would move to many cities and states over the next two decades; Bakersfield, CA, Ventura, CA, San Gabriel, CA, Duarte, CA, Las Vegas, NV, Lake Oswego, OR, Issaquah, WA and their most recent move was to Terry, MT in 2009. In the beginning, the moves were related to Bob’s jobs in the petroleum industry. Later, they moved to be close to their kids and grandkids as Tammy took great joy in babysitting and helping to homeschool some of her grandkids. Her family has always been so important to her and a big part of her life revolved around being there for them.
Tammy loved to teach all of her grandkids how to draw, do all kinds of crafts, how to bake, and how to sew. She sewed doll clothes, stuffed animals, pillows, blankets and matching robes for both her grandkids and their stuffed animals! She had a wonderful imagination and came up with lots of creative ways to keep them all entertained by telling stories, drawing imaginary pictures with their feet on the ceiling or just looking up at the sky and discussing what they thought the clouds looked like.
She was also very passionate about sharing her love for the Lord with her kids and grandkids. She read the Bible to them when they were little and discussed important stories and how they might apply to their lives. She loved to sing Christian songs with them too. One of her favorites was Jesus Loves Me.
Tammy always had a strong faith and love for the Lord. She was eager to share His word not just with her kids and grandkids, but anyone she would meet. She and Bob attended Our Savior Lutheran Church in Arcadia, CA, where Tammy was the church secretary for five years with Pastor Roger Sonnenberg.
Tammy fought and beat breast cancer from 1992-1993. She said she felt incredibly blessed to have had another 25 years to live before she was diagnosed in August of 2017 with Leukemia (AML).
Another great passion of hers was volunteering with both the American Cancer Society and through her church with terminally ill and hospice patients. She went to sit with these patients, listen to their stories, read them the Bible, pray with them, or just sat with them holding their hand. It was not lost upon her when she was receiving hospice care in her final months that she knew what to expect and was so grateful for the many hospice volunteers, nurses and other staff who sang to her, read to her, brushed her hair, painted her nails and just sat with her holding her hand. Life came full circle for Tammy in this way. She was able to give for so long and in the end was able to receive with an open heart. God is good!
Tammy is survived by Bob, her husband of 49 years; son, Eric (Jayne), daughters Danielle (Todd), Marissa and Inger (Jerry); grandchildren, Kayla, Emily, Ryan, Cassidy, Nathan, Leo, Sam and Jason; and many aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers in laws, cousins, nieces and nephews. Preceding her in death were her parents, Ethel and Henry Lachmiller and her brother, Raphael Lachmiller.
Tammy’s family invites you to a celebration of her life on Saturday, January 27th at 3pm. The service will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church at 402 S. Adams Avenue in Terry. In lieu of flowers, Tammy’s family thought she would be honored to have donations made in her name sent to Trinity Lutheran Church at P.O. Box 644, Terry, MT 59349. Pastor Jacob Hanneman has been an incredible support to Tammy and Bob and even more since she was diagnosed with AML about five months ago. His regular visits and discussions always brought comfort and peace. Condolences may be made by visiting www.stevensonandsons.com