Visitation Information:

February 27th, 2021 at 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery and Crematory
2030 Memorial Park Road Gainesville, GA 30504

Service Information:

February 27th, 2021 at 12:30 PM
Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery and Crematory
2030 Memorial Park Road Gainesville, GA 30504

Mr. Paul Andrew Tjepkema, 81

            Gainesville resident Paul Andrew Tjepkema, 81, died February 19, 2021, in hospice care at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, after declining in health from vascular dementia for the last several years.

            Memorial services will be held on Saturday February 27, 2021 at 12:30 p.m. in the Chapel of Memorial Park Funeral Home. Rev. Mark Tjepkema will officiate. The family will receive friends on Saturday February 27, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the funeral home.

            The memorial services will be livestreamed for those who wish to see the services via the internet- (3) Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries Gainesville Georgia | Facebook

            Paul was born June 23, 1939, in Evart, Michigan, to Vernon “Chip” and Vera B. (Seberry) Tjepkema. A brother, Mark J. Tjepkema, joined the family in 1941. Mark describes their childhood as like a Norman Rockwell illustration or a northern version of Mayberry RFD from the Andy Griffith Show. He and Paul had Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn types of adventures, rafting on a river, playing in a treehouse, and driving a homemade go-cart. Evart stores were real-life examples of Mayberry’s Emmett’s Fix-it Shop, Floyd’s Barber Shop with 50-cent haircuts, and Wally’s Gas Station. The downtown stores stayed open on Saturday night for farmers to shop, and the one-screen movie theater put their popcorn machine on the sidewalk. The corner café had deer antlers for hanging up your coat and hat and a jukebox that had 45s of the scandalous Elvis Presley. Paul and Mark attended kindergarten through 12th grade in the same red-brick school building.

              After graduating from Evart High School as president of the class of 1957, Paul attended Spring Arbor Junior College (Spring Arbor, MI), and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in agribusiness in 1963. He married Barbara E. Parsons, whom he had known from childhood, on October 14, 1961, in Evart, MI. They welcomed daughter Sonya in 1963, daughter Thea in 1966, and son Travis in 1968.

Paul moved his young family to Gainesville from Michigan in 1967 to work for Pillsbury. His interest in agribusiness, in particular the poultry business, grew out of working for his father’s hatchery business in Evart, MI. He began working for his father at a young age and drove delivery trucks starting at age 14. After Pillsbury, Paul worked for other poultry companies, including Crystal Farms and Gold Kist Farms. The family twice moved to Florida, to Jacksonville briefly in 1968, returning to Chestnut Mountain, GA, in 1969, then back to Gainesville in 1971, and to Maitland, FL, in 1974, to Hilliard near Jacksonville in 1975, returning to Dahlonega, GA, in 1975, finally coming to rest for good in Gainesville in 1978. When the family lived in Lumpkin County, Paul worked for Dahlonega Equipment Company. After moving from poultry to packaging with Dahlonega Equipment Company, Paul later worked for International Paper Company and Little Woodall Supply.

             Paul was preceded in death by his wife Barbara, a long-time teacher of science subjects at Lakeview Academy and other north Georgia high schools and private colleges, on September 1, 1989. On August 3, 1991, Paul married Banks County native Betty Jo “BJ” (White) Sanders.

             Paul had many hobbies and interests over the years, but his lifelong passion was fishing. His children and grandchildren have been treated over the past two decades to numerous photos of Paul’s fishing catches, and visits to Gainesville frequently entailed a visit to BJ’s family’s fishpond for fishing and a fish fry on the premises. One of Paul’s prize Lake Lanier bass catches occupies a place of honor over the basement den fireplace.

             In his high school and junior college days, Paul participated in track and basketball and enjoyed hunting with his pet beagle. Throughout most of his adulthood, he played golf whenever he had the chance. He attended more than one Master’s in Augusta and at least one PGA tournament in St. Andrews, Scotland. He taught Sonya how to shoot a hunting rifle when she was in middle school and took Thea and Travis deer hunting when they were kids. He proudly escorted Sonya to a Camp Fire Girls father-daughter dinner, attended countless marching and concert band performances involving his three kids, helped Travis carve the winning box car of Travis’ Boy Scout troop, attended countless Gainesville High School plays featuring Sonya, countless Lakeview Academy basketball games featuring Thea and Travis, and countless Lakeview Academy soccer games featuring Travis. He coached several of Travis’ Little League teams. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Paul and Barbara Tjepkema Family could often be found on Lake Lanier water-skiing or hiking the trails of north Georgia, especially to the top of Blood Mountain, to Anna Ruby Falls, and to Toccoa Falls.

               In later life, Paul took up pool with the purchase of a pool table for the basement den. Visits to Paul and BJ’s home nearly always allowed time for shooting pool while listening to rock ‘n roll and soul hits from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s on their 45s-playing Wurlitzer jukebox. When not holding his cue stick on these occasions, Paul would often indulge his weakness for full-caffeine, full-sugar Mountain Dew that he kept in the basement beverage fridge.       

                 After purchasing a Model A, Paul started another hobby with BJ, motoring with the local Model A Club. Going on trips with the club meant dressing the part, which Paul and BJ did with panache, both sporting their flair for 1920s fashion.

                Paul and BJ were fortunate to have traveled to different parts of the world: Italy, Poland, Cyprus, Scotland and England in the UK, The Netherlands three times. Paul also traveled on church mission trips to Honduras and Guatemala. In The Netherlands, Paul and BJ visited the ancestral Tjepkema province of Friesland and a long-ago Tjepkema relative’s windmill on Tjepkemastraat (Tjepkema Street). Proud of his Frisian-Dutch ancestry, Paul returned to Michigan in 1995, 2000, and 2010 for Tjepkema family reunions and was able to participate in the virtual Zoom Tjepkema family reunion on July 12, 2020. Trips to Michigan usually included fishing, often with his mother’s relatives.

              Family and friends took precedence over all interests and were always welcome at the home of Paul and BJ. Paul leaves a hole in all their hearts. Paul was a dedicated member of Hopewell Baptist Church for many years. He and his wife, Betty Jo, served throughout the church in various capacities. He loved his church family.

              Paul is survived by wife of 29 years Betty Jo “BJ” (White) Sanders Tjepkema of Gainesville; brother Rev. Mark J. Tjepkema of Las Vegas, NV; daughter Sonya (Tjepkema) Newlyn, son-in-law Jeffrey L. Stock, and grandson Sebastian Stock of Santa Cruz, CA; daughter Thea Tjepkema, son-in-law John M. Russell, and granddaughter Alma Russell of Cincinnati, OH; grandson John “Jack” Russell of Chicago, IL; son Travis Tjepkema, daughter-in-law Kimberly R. (Riddle) Tjepkema, grandson Nathanael “Nate,” granddaughters Raegan and Lyla, and grandson Taj Tjepkema; stepdaughter Gwen (Sanders) Edwards of Gainesville, GA; stepdaughter Deborah “Debbie” (Sanders) Mooney Fraser of Gainesville, GA; stepson Troy and step-daughter-in-law Susie (Heberlen) Sanders of Helen, GA; step-granddaughters Amy Edwards and Lindsey (Edwards) Smith of Gainesville, GA; step-grandson Kyle Mooney and step-granddaughter Katlyn Mooney of Gainesville, GA; step-grandsons, Harold Fraser and Michael Fraser of Flowery Branch; step-grandson Tyler Sanders of Gainesville, GA; and ten step-great-grandchildren. In addition to his first wife, the late Barbara (Parsons) Tjepkema, Paul is pre-deceased by step-son-in-law Johnny Edwards and step-son-in-law Keith Fraser, both of Gainesville.

            In Lieu of flowers donations can be made to Hopewell Baptist Church, 5086 Poplar Springs Rd, Gainesville, GA 30507- (770) 287-3311, In Memory of Paul A. Tjepkema.


Due to Covid-19, the family requests that everyone attending the visitation and service wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

 Memorial Park Funeral Home, 2030 Memorial Park Road, Gainesville, GA  30504 is in charge of arrangements.

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Condolences 16
Don Finfrock 2021-02-21 20:49:42
My sincere sympathy on the loss of Paul. The Lord takes us in his time and pray that Paul is at peace with Christ, If I can be of service to BJ and the family please do not hesitate in calling on me. My prayers are with you all .
Sonya Newlyn 2021-02-21 22:24:36
Dearest BJ, my heart goes out to you with so much love and gratitude to you for the love you gave Dad for over 30 years. Thank you for the tender and unflagging care you gave him throughout his decline.
SHERRILL H DAY 2021-02-21 23:43:53
B.J. and family, My heart hurts for you and your loss of Paul. You have been so devoted to him for the last couple of years while caring for his needs. The two of shared a wonderful life together and you have so many wonderful memories to cherish. May God give you peace and comfort and the courage to face the days ahead. Love to you and your family and may you forever hold your cherish memories in your heart. Please call me if you need to talk.
Annemarie and Rob Pulles 2021-02-22 02:04:38
Dear BJ, Sonya, Thea, Travis and families, So sorry to hear that Paul has passed away. I remember him as a loving hard working dad and husband. I met the family during my exchange year in the US in 1983. I became friends with Thea and Travis. I have many great memories spending lots of time with the family. We, my husband Rob and I wish you all much strength in these difficult times. Our thoughts are with you.
Hans van Uden and family 2021-02-22 04:16:49
I was saddened when I learned of your Paul’s death. I am thankful for his kindness and friendship when he welcomed me into his family in 1984. Our thoughts are with the entire Tjepkema family.
Robin Hale 2021-02-22 07:02:14
I am saddened to hear of Paul's death. My heartfelt condolences to all the family and thanks for his life.
Valerie Richardson 2021-02-23 22:05:24
B.J., I was saddened to hear of Paul’s passing. Many years all three of us worked Hall County Elections together. I’m blessed to have been able to get to know the two of you. May God grant you peace in knowing that your beloved Paul is walking with Jesus. Hugs and prayers to your family.
Donna Griffin 2021-02-24 10:15:49
B.J. , So sorry to hear your sad news about Paul. I'm wishing you and your family peace and comfort at this difficult time. Donna Griffin
Tanya Applebaum 2021-02-24 14:47:09
B.J., I was so sorry to hear of Paul's passing. I send my deepest sympathy to you and your family. May his memory be a blessing.
Gwen Gunnells 2021-02-24 18:28:19
B.J., how my heart hurts for you and all your family in the loss of Paul. I have so many fond memories of our times spent together and the love we all shared. I pray that God will give you the peace and comfort -- especially knowing that Paul is well and whole. I love you and send you hugs.
Kathleen (Kathy) Hudgins Manzel 2021-02-24 21:18:52
Dearest Sonya, I was saddened when I read of your father's passing. I have such fond memories of our childhood times together. When I returned to Gainesville in 2013, I asked about you as I will never forget our performing "Sentimental Journey" for the American Legion Conference. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Sincerely, Kathy
Brenda Hughey 2021-02-25 13:54:01
BJ, Thinking of you during this difficult time. Sorry for your loss.
Stacie Mavis 2021-02-25 18:19:21
BJ, we were saddened to hear of Paul's passing. We are so sorry for your loss. Please know you are surrounded by many who will lift up you and your family in prayer now, and in the coming days. If you need anything, please let us know. We are happy to do whatever we can to help.
Elver Davis 2021-02-25 21:27:09
B.J- my thoughts and prayers go out to you in your loss of Paul. May God give you strength and courage to get through your loss of your loved one.
Lynda and Gene Hawkins 2021-02-27 15:31:45
B.J., So sorry to hear of Paul's passing. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Kuniko Decker 2021-02-28 07:50:39
Found out about your dad after enjoying a morning children’s concert by Cincinnati Pop and remembering you all. Our deepest sympathy to the family.
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