My daddy left my life when I was 16 years old, and to this day I miss him greatly. Here is some of his life.
He started life in Hoensbroek, Netherlands with his parents and two brothers. They were a family of Coal Minersand he began working in the mine as a teenager. My dad being a small young man had the job of stringing the electrical wires through the unfinished shafts so the others could continue the job. On his hands and he knees he had to pull the heavy cable through the shafts using the strength of his arms. He came away from the mines with two things..the biggest biceps you ever saw which stayed with him all his life and Black Lung, a disease of the lungs from breathing in coal dust.
Then the war broke out. As with all Dutch people they became prisoners in the own country when Hitler invaded and being a mining family were forced to work the mines Germany's benifit. Daddy and his family were members of the Dutch Underground, and when the allies liberated Holland daddy became a soldier and fought until the end of the war then, with his older brother Emil went on to Indonesia. The eldest brother, Pete stayed home because of health problems and to help take care of the family. Daddy fought in World War II throughout Europe with the Dutch forces as part of the Dutch Underground (resistance) and helped liberate the POW's in Buchenwald prison camp as well as others, then he volunteered as part of the Stoottroepen and went to Indonesia, then called the Dutch East Indies, to clean up the territory from Indonesian Nationalists and in the First Police action aimed at removing the Indonesian Republic government. He was awarded a medal for his part in fighting Hitler during World War II.
After the war he immigrated here to Canada under the sponsorship of his maternal Uncle Emile Fontaine and after many different jobs - on his uncle's farm, delivering bread, building the 401 highway, he ended up working in Heinz where he met and married my mom, Marion Labord. After 10 years they finally had me...their only child. The war had taken it's toll here as well, Malaria had made it difficult for him to have kids. All through his life he suffered from recurring bouts of the disease, as well as various other health problems.
He was always willing to put others before himself -- he saved the life of one man by taking his job over for him on a manual fork lift when a makeshift bridge my dad was taking it across collapsed on one side and he ended up with the tine in his leg and the weight of the lift on his arms. It was that strength in them from the mines, the war and doing manual labour that enabled him to keep the weight of that forklife off of himself or he would have been crushed to death. The man who was suppose to do the job was small like my dad but didn't have his strength, he would have been killed. My daddy was part of the crew that laid the 401 Hwy. and lost his job by being a spokesman for the crew trying to get better working conditions because he wasn't part of the union. What he did helped the workers achieve what they wanted.
In 1965 his one dream came true and he was able to have the farm he always wanted. It wasn't big by our standards, only 11 acres house and yard included but to a man from a small country like Holland it was immense. He loved that farm, working it as well as holding down a full time job with H.J. Heinz Co. until his health forced him to retire from Heinz. Many of my most precious memories are of helping him on that farm.
Like all human beings he wasn't perfect, he had a dangerous temper when he was pushed beyond the limit of what he would take, and it took a lot. I was told that once at work one of the men made a very crude, sexual comment about me not knowing at the time who I was just having seen me walking down the road at home. While informing the man who the girl was my dad grabbed him by the neck and the pants and threw him off the loading dock and warned him to never speak about his daughter like that again. He was extremely protective of me, almost too much sometimes like asking a man he knew who drove the area charter bus that went by our house to keep an eye out for me and if he saw me doing something I shouldn't or being hassled to tell my dad or if necessary intervene. That man cared so much about my dad that one day I was walking and a man in a car pulled over and was bothering me, I was 13, he stopped that bus right on the road, opened the doors, glared at the man and asked me if everything was alright. The driver of the car got the hint and left. The bus driver could have lost his job for doing that.
All the neighbourhood kids respected and liked my dad as well. He never yelled or talked down to them which meant a lot. When we did do something he didn't like or it was time for me to go in and them to go home (we sat outside a lot) all he had to do was stand in the front door, arms crossed and it was okay, time's up and they'd leave. He would also come looking for me if he thought my friend and I had been gone long enough. My friend Deb and I would be walking and behind us we'd hear a horn honk, and of course we'd look hoping it was some young guy (you know what teenage girls are like) and there was the pickup truck (my dad loved pickups)with my dad at the wheel, he'd pull up beside us and up would come the arm with the finger pointing toward home. That was it, we'd turn around and home we went, he never had to say a word.
When he died some of my friends cut school to be at his funeral and one neighbourhood teenager, Jeff Parrish, dressed up in a suit (he never ever wore anything other than jeans) and came to the house early to accompany my mom and I to the funeral.
The two things that come into my mind the most when I think of my dad is his coming up to me everyday, sometimes three and four times and asking "Have I told you I loved you yet today?" of course I'd say no and he'd envelop me in his arms and say "I love you Princess" or he called me "Marichka" (little Maria as I was named after his mom, who he had adored) and his whistling. Oh how he could whistle, I loved to hear him whistle a song to me and sometimes sing as we went on our Sunday family drives to check out the crops.
I still miss my daddy very much, he was a very special man and very much loved. How I wish he could have given me away at my wedding and got to see his only grandchild, Josef who is named after him.
For those who still have their father with them...treasure them, talk to them and ask them questions about themselves, their lives as kids, anything you can think of because once they are taken from you all those questions get left unanswered. And someday you'll want to be able to tell your kids or grandkids all about this wonderful man, your daddy.
On Tuesday, March 19 2002 I received an email in response to one I had written that made me want to cry as I read it. I never knew very much about my dad's family - I never learned my grandfather's first name until after daddy passed away and I was going through his "box", which contained all he brought with him from home - so I had emailed to Ms. Samantha Wisniewski at Gemeentelijk Informatiecentrum asking if she could tell me anything about my family. She only had access to his birth certificate but gave me other email address to write to. It was the answer I received from one of them that brought on the tears. The email came from Marc Lemmens Stadsarchief Heerlen. Here is what he told me about my dad's side of the family.
"We have found that the family of your dad lived on different adresses in Hoensbroek. Their last adress was Slakkenstraat 59 and all the men worked as a coalminer. The houses are still there and their is a little book about the architect Jan Stuyt who designed the houses (De Eerste Stap). It is possible to receive pictures of those houses. The mine Emma was closed in 1974. We have of course pictures and video's about the mine Emma and Hoensbroek. Your grandfather and his wife did not came out of Hoensbroek. Before Hoensbroek they lived in Venlo and came to Hoensbroek on december the ninth 1916. Your grandfather and his wife were not born in Venlo but in St. Antonis (Oploo) and Vught. Antoon van Duinhoven was born 10 april 1888 St. Antonis and Maria leona Elisa Fontaine was born 9 march 1898 and died 21 august 1943. The marrried in Germany Gunnigfeld on may 23 1914. Your grandfather married for the second time on may 25 1944 with Maria Hubertina Hendriks. He died at november 15 1957. His parents were Peter van Duinhoven (born may 30 1841 Oploo) and Petronella van Lierop (born august 7 1849 Gemert). Places like Oploo, Gemert, and Vught are in de province of Brabant and in the north the province of Limburg."
Learning all this is very important to me and I will never be able to thank Mr. Lemmens enough for taking the time to find the information and sending it me. Another page has been added to my life. Thank you Mr. Lemmens."
The van Duinhoven family of Pete, Antoon, Maria, Emil and in back Josef. The pencil drawing is of Maria Leona Elisa van Duinhoven (nee Fontaine) March 9th, 1898 - August 21st, 1943 my grandmother who I am named after. She bled to death after falling down the basement stairs and cutting her jugular vein on a piece of broken bottle glass. My father came home from work in the coal mines and found her. It devastated him. Her death was what lead him to enlist as a volunteer,a Stoottroeper, and go to the Dutch East Indies that and a promise from his government that he wouldn't have to return to the mines, a promise never kept. My grandfather, Antoon was born on April 10, 1888 and passed away November 15, 1957.
Daddy was always very proud that he became a Canadian citizen. He loved his native land very, very much and that was always in his heart but when he moved to Canada and after a 5 year wait was sworn in and accepted as a Canadian citizen his pride was immense. He loved the country that took in a foreigner and made him one of their own. I have put this here in his memory.