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Golden anniversary for Canada’s largest multiple wedding

Blenheim home to Dorssers clan

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BLENHEIM, Ontario – The Dorssers family firmly put their new hometown on the North American map, fifty years ago this April 28. Then, under the watchful eyes of a battalion of frenzied photographers, cameramen and journalists, and by extension, the continent, six of the 15 Dorssers’ children tied the wedding knot at the local St. Mary parish church. The North American wedding of the year was preceded by an all-expenses-paid appearance of the couples on Garry Moore’s New York-based game show, “I’ve got a Secret.’ The wedding also was widely shown at movie theatres and was included in Polygoon theatrical news in the Netherlands as well.

The family decision to hold one large wedding for the six siblings had its advantages: it saved the Dorssers some money and plenty of time. However, the logistics of the joint wedding proved to be a challenge. On the wedding day the brides had to improvise with getting dressed as space was at a premium and the attention of the media and the public overwhelming.

Over the years, the couples increasingly grew weary of all the attention of the media and its probing questions. In addition, the sheer size of the family now makes it very impractical to do anything together or keep it restricted to the nearest of kin. The 50th anniversary will be celebrated separately by five of the six couples and varies subject to the health of the individual couple. Sister Grada was widowed three years ago. The six all found their marriage partners among other Dutch immigrant families. Eight couples settled in Blenheim, the others mostly stayed within about a ninety minutes drive.

The family reunion of 1993, when the two remaining siblings from the Netherlands also attended, became a well-covered news event with 148 of the 214 family members in attendance. The mathematicians in the family had calculated that the15 Dorssers then jointly had lived 1,000 years, making people read the fine print below eye-catching headlines. Meanwhile, the joint age of the 15, the oldest is 88 and the youngest 69, now is nearing 1,200.

All the Dorssers children were born in Helden-Panningen in Northern Limburg. Oldest sister Nell Timmermans and her family were first to pull up stakes for Canada in 1952. The following year, four more brothers and sisters crossed the Atlantic. Excluding three daughters, the rest of the family followed with the parents Leo and Mina Dorssers-Van de Kerkhof in 1954. Daughter Anna and her family arrived in Canada in 1957. Daughters Nes and Jet and their families stayed in the Netherlands.

Two of the Dorssers’ brothers – Tony & Bill - put Blenheim, which is home to a significant concentration of Southern Dutch immigrants, also on the map as the headquarters of Dorssers Inc., a significant manufacturer of “pellet mill dies, rolls and rolls parts for the feed, waste and pulp industries.” The industrial company operates the largest gun drilling facility in North America and has other plants in Joplin, Missouri and Nashville, Tennessee.