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Ninety-fifth birthday capped with record of 18,000 toques for seamen

Widow knits one thousand pieces a year

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Thousands of seaman all over the world wear a beautiful hand-made, colourfull toque, knitted with devotion and love by an elderly, home-bound Dutch-Canadian widow. Hendrika Wijngaards Even, who just turned 95, has been making three toques a day since shortly after her husband died in 1986. The toques are made for the missions for Seafarers in Vancouver which hand them out on the ships.

Even who was born into the Barneveld Wijngaards family of nine, says it was instilled in her to strife for the best quality and beauty, especially if it is going to be a present. Her toques must be both. She still gives an additional reason for quality: hers must be warm and dry since they are worn at sea where the men constently are exposed to the elements.

Finding the wool for Evenís toques increasingly has become a problem. Her children scour thrift stores far and wide for affordable material which meets her standards.

Belgian refugees

Her passion for doing something worthwhile with her hands and her time also was instilled at an early age. Evenís mother, who saw numerous disposessed Belgian refugees trek by the family home, put her children to work knitting basic necessities for those who lived at nearby Camp Amersfoort. Life then also was a challenge for average Dutch citizens who faced shortages of all kinds when overseas trade was interrupted by the combattants on the NorthSea. Even though the Netherlands remained neutral in WWI, it suffered economically while harbouring up to one million, mostly Belgian refugees (the Dutch population then numbered about six million). The business of Evenís father, a wholesale butcher, also was badly affected by the world-scale conflict.

The interest in the plight of seafarers also has a personal side to it. Two of Evenís brothers were at sea when the Netherlands was engulfed in WWII. Their stories about life at sea, and about being isolated from family, left an impression with her which much later again would resonate with her when she heard about the needs of todayís seamen, often poorly paid and clothed Asians.

Even and her Almelo-born husband Henk owned a butcher shop in Lochem before immigrating to Canada with their family of five. After they sold their business - now known as Karl Ďs Meat - in the Fraser Valley town of Abbotsford they continued making sausages from their house for some years.