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Mayor proclaimed birthday ”Jacob Visser Day in Holland”

Retired baker celebrates 100 years

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND, Michigan – Many people who turn 100 may receive a card from the Queen or if living in the U.S., best wishes from the Governor of their state. Holland Mayor Al McGeehan had something different for Dutch-born resident Jacob Visser who reached 100 recently. He proclaimed it ’Jacob Visser Day’ in Holland while he attended the birthday festivities along with family and friends at the retirement home.

A former baker, Visser came to the U.S. in 1923 to check out the country for his parental family who arrived six years later, just in time before the government made it nigh impossible to enter the U.S. on account of the Depression. Visser first worked at the celery farm of an uncle but soon returned to baking when Kerkstra's Wholesale Bakery in Holland needed help. Visser later took a job with another bakery where he worked till age 70.

Born in Wons, Friesland, Visser was the oldest of 12 children. The family owned a small bakery in the village, serving customers from their living room. As a boy, Visser scouted for duck eggs used as ingredients by his father Henry in the bakery. He finished school at age 11, when a full-time job awaited him making and delivering baked goods. Eventually, Visser left home to work at a bakery on the opposite side of the country.

One day, he received a message from his mother Angeline to scout out America with the idea that the rest of the family would follow. When you're 18 years old, you are not afraid of anything, said Visser of his voyage.

He first lived in nearby Beaverdam where he married Johanna Zoet in 1925. His extended family knows their father and grandfather as a hard-working man. We did not get to see him a lot, reports Birdie Veenhoven, 75, Visser's fifth of nine children, but when they saw him, it meant a great time. Granddaughter Sue Shoemaker, 55, particularly remembers the Dutch treats her grandfather made for the children.

After retirement, Visser worked for the city during the summer doing lawn care for local cemeteries. In the winter, he traveled to Florida with Johanna. She died in 1984. His second wife, Norma Kruithof, passed away in 1995. Since then, Visser has lived in a retirement home.

Visser has nine children, seven who survived to adulthood, 23 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren and 20 great-great-grandchildren.