The Janssen Family
Generations of Giving
The Jay and Hazel Janssen Family Advised Fund
The Janssen family has deep roots in Zeeland and a long history of both working hard and giving back. M. Jay and Hazel Janssen wanted to leave a legacy of giving that their children could be a part of long into the future.
To do so, they established the Jay and Hazel Janssen Family Advised Fund, a Donor Advised Fund that named their five children as the advisors, through their estate plan.
Jay and Hazel’s generosity will live on for generations to come through their memories, their children, and the fund established in their name.
While Jay and Hazel are known in the community for launching the successful Janssen Farms Hatcheries Inc. in Zeeland, the most important thing in their life was family. “Whether it was the large family he grew up in, the family he and mom raised, his turkey industry family of employees and colleagues, or his Resthaven family at Boersma Cottage, Dad loved family. It’s what he and mom were all about,” remembers his son Dave.
“They taught us how to love one another. It’s a big family of five kids, four spouses, 15 grandkids and 11 great-grandkids. All they ever wanted for us was to be happy and to get along. As it turns out they taught us so much more, as we all truly love and support each other, which is a great testament to our parents. We owe that love to them and the values they instilled in us.”
Born in 1920, Jay Janssen was the ninth of ten children in his family. His father died when he was 5 years old, leaving his mother and the children to run the family farm and chicken hatching business. After high school, Jay took a business course and then immersed himself in the family business. In the late 1930s to early 1950s, Jay and his brother Albert and sister Geneva made many strides in the business and began hatching turkeys and sold many baby turkeys, known as poults. Jay took such pride in his work that he was notoriously known around the farm for sleeping amongst the turkeys during hatchings.
Over the years with Jay as the driving force, the family’s breeding and hatching business grew and succeeded through sheer persistence and hard work, traits that he instilled in his children. He later told his children that he had simply inherited an opportunity.
“He always made sure that John, Micki, Jim, Charley and I had our own ample opportunities to work to further the family business. Dad was respected and earned a reputation for being firm but fair and he always delivered on his promises,” noted Dave.
“His work ethic was described as unmatched and unparalleled. The turkey business was in his blood through his very final days.” Jay was recently honored with the National Turkey Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which his children accepted on his behalf.
While Jay was an extremely hard worker, he was always grateful for Hazel’s help in running the business and raising the family. “Mom was so gracious. She balanced him out and kept him grounded. They were a real team,” said Dave.
Married for 47 years, “they dedicated their life’s work to an industry in which they took tremendous pride and dearly loved. Quality, Service, and Reliability — that really sums up what Jay Janssen represented during his career.”
By the time Jay retired and his sons took the reins, Janssen Farms was hatching 3–4 million baby turkeys per year, a number that grew over the years to 6 million annually.
Even in retirement, he held an active role in the business, driving to the hatchery office daily until he was 92. “It wasn’t just about keeping his eye on the business. It was about seeing his family and friends there who were so important to him,” said daughter Micki. “You could often find him wearing his ‘Let’s Talk Turkey’ t-shirt and promoting turkey right up until the end. He loved to see an old friend, new trend, and make sure we didn’t overspend,” said Dave with a laugh. “He greeted all with smiles and always offered words of encouragement.”
Jay and Hazel not only gave of their time and talents to the business, but were generous in the community. Jay served on many church boards and was a past president and board member of the Zeeland Board of Education. Hazel volunteered at church, Ladies’ Aid, Red Cross blood drives, and Hospice.
“Even while raising us, working on the farm and in the office, she always found time to help others. She made coffee and baked goods twice daily for all of the farm help. Mom donated so much of her time, countless meals and a listening ear to many in their time of need,” remembered Charley.
Their children have continued in their footsteps, getting involved in their communities and giving back. Inspired by their parent’s generosity, they’ve started their own giving traditions, including creating Donor Advised Funds at the Community Foundation.
Dave and his wife Barb established the David and Barbara Janssen Family Fund. John and wife Sally established the John and Sally Janssen Family Fund. Micki established the Martha L. Janssen Donor Advised Fund.
Janssen family members have also been significant contributors to our “Today. Tomorrow. Forever.” campaign for our Community’s Endowment, including “today” gifts and “tomorrow” gifts through their estate plans.
In addition to their individual giving, the siblings are excited to work together to give through the fund in their parents’ name that has been passed down to them.
“Giving together through this fund furthers what our parents wanted for each of us, to be happy and to get along. It’s about giving together, and having fun while making these decisions and carrying on our parents’ love for this community,” said Dave.
Originally featured in the Community Foundation’s 2015 Annual Report. While this was written by CFHZ’s Communications Manager Nicole Paquette in 2016, we believe that stories of generosity are timeless and always relevant.