Friday, May 29, 2015

My Mother

Mijn moeder, Helena
Mom was the first of three children,
born in Holland 100 years ago.
She grew up with two younger brothers. 
Her father was a doctor in the Dutch Army. Sadly, he was killed in a train accident when Mom was a young girl. Her mother began a summer boarding school for children along the coast of Holland and then later remarried. Mom's fondest childhood memories were growing up along the sea in Noordwijk in the 1920s.
The two smallest children are Mom's brothers, Jaap and Paul
Helena, my Mom is sitting on the sand
in front of her mother, Nel my Oma.

WWII and the German occupation of Holland, her worst memories. Mom's youngest brother Jaap was arrested by the Nazis in 1941 and later died in a German work camp. Mom's mother died during this time as well. Mom didn't talk much about the war, the few things she told me about were the shortages during those years. She couldn't get new embroidery floss or yarns for needlework. Fabric was also impossible to come by. Even items like toothpaste.  Many parts of Holland were bombed including Rotterdam where Mom lived.

This is a picture of my Mom and Dad in 1946 shortly following the war. On the back of the photo Mom has written... "My stepsister's wedding. Dad and I are not married yet! Because of shortage (after W.W.II) nobody could buy material for new cloths. I wore one of my mother's dresses tucked in!! Dad's stuff is rented."
 Mom at a sewing machine, a hand crank I believe, 
Altho there are wires behind her I don't see a belt on the wheel.
And at her loom which she later brought to America. 
I still have parts of that loom but that's another story.
Many Dutch couples were married following the war, including Mom and Dad. 

Mom on her wedding day...
Mom in Holland shortly before coming to America

After they married in 1946 they applied for passage to America. It took two years and with sponsorship from a family member in America, they came by way of a Dutch cargo ship leaving Holland December of 1948. Once across the Atlantic the ship stopped in Havana, Cuba, the port of Vera Cruz and then docked in Houston, TX in January 1949. From there they took a Greyhound bus, which broke down on it's way to California and started a family. Can you imagine what that must have been like for a young woman! 
These are pics my father took along the way of the cargo ship
and the Greyhound Bus (broke down) that took them from Holland to California

Mom and Dad made many visits back to Holland to visit family over the years. 
The best was her first trip because she took me!

Mom lived an interesting but troubled life. She was loved and loved us.
They had three children, I was born first just like Mom and then two boys, Paul and Kenneth. One living grandson, my son Chris. 
Many nieces and nephews in Holland, South Africa and the United States

Mom's brother Paul stayed in Holland and became a surgeon. He married Kuuk, a close friend of my Mom, and they had five children ~ Jaap, Miems, Paul, Peter Bob and Jeroen. Kuuk died early, I was in high school and Paul died 3 years ago. Uncle Paul married again to Truus. Dad's brother Peter and wife Joyce immigrated from Holland to South Africa. They had three children ~ Anton, Peter and Helena all in South Africa. Dad's sister Ina and husband Hans immigrated to Canada and then to the United States. They had one daughter, Iteke who now lives in upstate New York. Iteke has a big family of her own with lots of grand babies :0)
Ultimately dementia took Mom away from us a little bit at a time over many years.
My father looked after her until his death 8 years ago. Mom has been in my care since.

Mom died over Memorial Day weekend. A fitting time really. 
She wasn't a veteran but her life was certainly affected and damaged by a war. 
Rest in Peace Mom, you are safe now
I love you


  1. We had Dutch neighbors growing up, who shared a similar story of hardship during the war. Your story made me reflect on what it must have been like for them, and so many others.

    What a beautiful tribute, Jo. I'm so sorry for your loss.


  2. What a beautiful tribute, and what lovely memories you have. Thanks for sharing them with all of us. My mom has been gone 10 years now, and every once in a while, a thought will come to mind that I'd like to share with her. So, memories make parting so much easier.

  3. What a life! You are lucky to have as much of it documented with photographs.
    Even though she is released from this life and dementia, I know there will be a bit of a hole in your life. XoXO

  4. What a nice tribute. It's so sad to lose a person gradually to dementia, so it's good to recall her as she really was.

  5. Thank you for sharing the story of your Mom's life with us - I am sorry to read of her death and that she had dementia for a number of years - I know from experience how difficult that is to deal with.

  6. What an amazing life story! She lived through a lot. My sympathy to you and your family.

  7. I'm so sorry, Jo. Your mother was a remarkable woman of the greatest generation. You remain in my prayers.

  8. What a lovely tribute to your dear Mother - sounds like she lived a very full life. My sympathies to you for your loss.

    Take care,
    Gail L. (Toronto, Canada)

  9. Beautiful tribute to your Mom. What a strong lady she must have been. You have put together a small timeline of a great legacy she leaves behind.
    May your blessings always be pressed down, shaken together & over flowing! Luke 6:38

  10. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. As I read it, I learned things about your history. She may be gone from this earthly world, but you have some treasures and such beautiful memories.


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