On July 17, and two months short of 89, our precious Papa passed away in his hometown of Velp, in the Netherlands. The loss is immense, and we are deeply saddened that he is no longer with us. Our hearts are heavy, but my brother Hugo and I are thankful that we flew out to be with my Dad earlier this week. Papa was a devoted husband, a wonderful father, a fabulous Opa to grandson Sebs, and a role model to many.
Papa had an extremely tough time growing up in the Netherlands during World War 2. His family didn’t have much during and after the war, and the hardships they endured were rough. This tough start to life is part of what made my Dad the strong, hardy, hard-working, tenacious, and independent person that he was. It also made him thankful and grateful for the smallest things, awfully humble, frugal at heart, and very patient.
My Dad’s life greatly improved when he accepted a job offer in British Hong Kong in the late 1950s. This was a brave and adventurous thing to do back then, but quite typical of my Dad. He had a fearless and adventurous streak, despite his very sensible, and introverted demeanour. He was ready to tear into what life had to offer. Intelligent and academic, he became a Chartered Accountant and had a successful career in the shipping industry, ultimately becoming financial director at a large shipping company.
He met our Mama on Repulse Bay beach in Hong Kong and that was that. They were married shortly afterwards, had two children, and happily lived abroad in Asia and Africa for decades.
When Mama died of cancer twenty-one years ago, Papa moved back to his home town in the Netherlands. He was heartbroken, but tried his best to be happy by spending a lot of time with his children, their spouses, their families, and his grandson. Until the age of 83, my Dad travelled around the world like a spring chicken and did everything himself. He slowed down at age 84 but was still fiercely independent. He walked everywhere, and lived on his own until a year ago. Papa was AMAZING.
I love how gentle, sweet, strong, smiley, resourceful, polite, and passionate our Dad was. He was kind, generous, warm, and loved his books. Papa had the BEST bellowing laugh, and a fun mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Papa was popular because in his quiet and modest way, he was extremely charming — a real gentleman. He was respected, and a good person. He was the king of understatement and never exaggerated. If you said it was 3 pm, but it was only three minutes to three – he would correct you because Papa was very exact about things. He was disinterested in fashion and style, but looked dapper in his checked shirts, bright pullovers, statement specs, and a hat. You might remember a fun interview with my Dad about fashion and style I posted ten years ago.
Papa enriched our lives and made me a better person. He was greatly loved, and will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, sweet Papa. I love you.