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Dutch immigration history author VanderMey dies suddenly at age 65

Community loses its premier chronicler

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BRANTFORD, Ontario – The premier chronicler of the Dutch-Canadian experience whose cherished books grace shelves in tens of thousands of homes and libraries particularly in Canada, but also in the Netherlands and the USA, has died suddenly. Former daily newspaper editor and author Albert VanderMey had turned 65 two weeks before his death.

Oegstgeest-born VanderMey, whose first book ”Beatrix in Ballingschap” was published in the Netherlands in 1982, was promoting another manuscript when the publisher instead commissioned him to research and write the history of Dutch immigration to Canada. To the amazement of his colleagues at the Brantford Expositor, VanderMey completed the To All Our Children assignment in record time while holding down his fulltime job.

A master at researching and interviewing, VanderMey, who was in his early teens when he arrived in Canada with his family, had numerous immigrants tell their experiences on the pages of To All Our Children. The book literally covered all facets of the immigration process, the aftermath of WWII, the reasons for leaving, the dramas of the farewells, as well as the harrowing experiences during the trip on no-frills ships and in old railway cars, the hopes of new starts which so often were obscured by unimagined hurdles requiring even more ability to adapt in strange surroundings.

Perhaps not fully appreciated by professional historians, VanderMey wrote from a unique vantage point because the history of the Dutch-Canadian community was also his own. Many of the stories of that early 1950s pioneer generation were those of the VanderMey family as well. As an observant young teenager, he experienced the process of uprooting and resettling first-hand.

Since To All Our Children was released in 1983, several other VanderMey books were published which can be seen as follow-up, focusing more on the community coming of age and on the contributions made to the wider community. His books have been a significant factor in building a sense of Dutch Canadian roots and identity.

VanderMey’s endeavours at chronicling the Dutch Canadian story were possible because his family – his wife Marianne (DeWaard) and daughters Monica, Kim and Nicole - allowed him the freedom to pursue it. Albert VanderMey also is survived by eight grandchildren, his mother of 93, two brothers and two sisters. He was predeceased by his son Scottie and by his father Jaap.