Resident Story: More Than The Eye Can See

The following was written about Sam and Willy V. by fellow Elim Independent Living Resident Mary S.

The meeting was about to begin as the last members found their place to sit. But one man took the opportunity to introduce himself personally to each member in the seating circle. Bowing slightly, like an Earl of Elim, he made eye contact, shook hands, and repeated the name before sitting down.

After explaining to all of us – beyond arm’s length – that we were a mere blur, Sam V. proceeded to deliver to Residents’ Council his report from the Garden Committee. Then to accommodate his deteriorating eyesight he pulled out a magnifying glass and began to read the hazy print on the financial report. It occurred to me then that this was the same unimposing figure I had seen bent over a flower bed, tending fledgling plants.

Born the seventh of seven, Sam (Sake) enjoyed the benefits of a stable, God-honouring home. His father, orphaned at age thirteen, understood misfortune and provided for his family the security of which he himself had been divested. Employment in a linoleum factory in industrial Krommanie adequately granted them the amenities of life.

Then the war intruded and a family of seven faced all the profiles of conscription specifications thrown at civilians: too old, too young, and just right to serve, necessitating family adjustments. Food was scarce; even the tiny garden plot was deprived of its services by want of seeds although boerekohl and sugar beets persevered. Rendered of their sugar, the residual fried beet pulp, dubbed ‘hunger killers’, filled empty bellies. “We did not starve,” says Sam, “but we knew hunger.”

Willy (Wilhelmina), the youngest of four, grew up in the small village of Wolfheze where in September of 1944 the foiled battle of Arnhem, Market Garden, was staged. The entire population was ordered to flee, and upon return the following morning, find the town decimated. Liberation would have to wait for the following year. Her father, vested with an employee permit for the local charitable psychiatric hospital, used the cover to operate as courier for underground activities while maintaining a semblance of serenity at home.

Postwar recovery was slow; in 1956 the Netherlands was still struggling from the chaos. Jobs were scarce, materials to rebuild the infrastructure stagnated in the aftermath, even basic necessities lagged. So Canada’s invitation for emigration appealed to many who wanted to get on with life; those included Sam’s family, settling in Burnaby in 1956. Two years later Willy’s family also emigrated. Sponsored by a relative of Sam, it was a date with destiny. On January 17, 1959 Sam and Willy married, and began their family.

After a short stint with Vancouver Barge Ltd, Sam’s accountant boss encouraged him to enrol in a CGA extension course. Between serving as elder at his church and raising a family of three boys and two girls, the weekly three-hour CGA course stretched out until 1967 when he received CGA certification. In 1970 Sam became treasurer of the Fraser Valley Christian High School, one of a number of parent-controlled Christian schools. His face lights up as he recalls the joy of that successful God-centred endeavour.

Sam’s tenure with Kirkland and Rose Ltd moved him from Credit Manager to Assistant Manager in 1980, then in the 1990’s to membership of the management team and ultimately retirement at Elim. But Sam and Willy are no new transplants; Elim has been their home for fifteen years. In January, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Here at Elim, Sam’s aesthetic acuity has blossomed; his advancing glaucoma has not impeded his sense of colour. “And,” he adds, “when I am on my knees I can see far enough.” From Market Garden, Sam has migrated to flower garden and you will surely find him hunched over some flowerbed on a wonderful day in your neighbourhood.

Thank you Sam, for the colour you display here at Elim. But even more, thank you for reminding me that when I am on my knees, I can see far enough!

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