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Dutch Ambassador to the USA tours Pella and Iowa
Attracted by presidential debates
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
PELLA, Iowa - Among the many eyes that recently focused on Iowa and its start of the next U.S. presidential election cycle were those of Dutch Ambassador Renée Jones-Bos, who made it her point to visit the state and its oldest Dutch American settlement, Pella. Founded in 1847, Pella’s early Dutch settlers were adherents of the Secession of 1834 who called their abode on the Iowa plains after the place of refuge of Biblical times in the Decapolis, beyond the River Jordan.
Ambassador Jones-Bos, 44th in a long line of Dutch top-representatives posted to the U.S.A., is the fourth to visit Pella as long as retired Prof. Dr. Ken Weller has there. As President of the community’s Central College, he accompanied them all as well as Princess Margriet in 1997, in Pella’s 150th anniversary year.
Although Pella’s founders left the Netherlands in the face of intolerance and even state sanctioned persecution, the community has remarkably held on to its Dutch traditional ways a point immediately noted by Ambassador Jones-Bos. She professed not to have seen anything like this, calling Pella a wonderful community with even the weather reminding her of a Dutch summer day.
Her visit to Pella was part of a three-day visit to Iowa, which included attending the GOP presidential debate and the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll. In Pella, the Ambassador took time to visit with officials of Pella’s leading industries, giant door and window maker Pella Corporation, agricultural implements and construction equipment maker Vermeer Corporation, local horticulture leader DeJong Greenhouse, Pella’s 1840s founded learning institution Central College and Dutch newcomer and milking robot manufacturer Lely USA.
A community of about 10,400, Pella is very impressive, according to Jones-Bos, who was accompanied by her husband, Prof. Jones. She also found the story of Pella to be very interesting. The party that accompanied Rev. H.P. Scholte at first lived in dugouts in the ground and straw houses. In Dutch tradition, Pella has preserved historical buildings and their décor with impressive stores and shops around the downtown area, Jones-Bos noted. Pella, which encourage owners to develop Dutch storefronts, also has a real Dutch bakery. The housing around town with flower gardens reminds her of the Netherlands as well.
As a business centre, Pella also made an impression on the Ambassador. For a small town, Pella has a number of very large employers of which Pella Corporation has long outgrown its home base with branch plants in other locations. Vermeer Corporation supplies customers with an innovative line of machinery worldwide.
Ambassador Jones-Bos guide in Pella, Ken Weller has seen significant changes in Pella since he took up his position at Central College in 1969. Raised in a Dutch immigrant family in Holland, Michigan, Weller has maintained his Dutch roots in various ways, through his church affiliation, through Central’s ties to Leiden University and through his directorship of insurance giant Aegon USA. This involvement was recognized officially when he was inducted as a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2001.
Roots are very important to Weller’s family in more ways than one as they were in the nursery business in Holland, Michigan and before that already in Boskoop. His earliest family roots have been traced further back to Zwolle, a city he also visited during trips to Netherlands that included canal and bicycle tours.