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VERHOEFF, Wilhelmina Amelia (nee van der Bijl)

August 22, 1927 – Naroemonda, Indonesia
August 1, 2019 – Calgary, Alberta

With sadness and relief we laid to rest our dear mom, a sister, an oma, a friend and mentor on August 1, 2019.

Willemien was born Aug 22, 1927, in Naroemonda on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, while her father was the headmaster of a school there. Willemien had three brothers and three sisters. The family lived in Indonesia up to the start of WWII, and during the war in SE Asia her family (mother, sisters and brothers) were interned in a war camp. The time in the camp became a huge influence in her life as she suffered in later years with depression and PTSD. Her oldest brother and father were killed during the war and that left a hole in the family while getting back on their feet post war. Willemien returned to the Netherlands with her family and she was able to finish high school and teachers college. She taught for a few years but unfortunately did not enjoy teaching that much.

In her 20’s Wlllemien and Henk dated off and on for 4 years and eventually married May 5, 1954. Their life together was a well balanced romance. With the kids and family, Willemien raised us with a true sense of trust and guidance that only God could grant. They lived in Nigeria for two years, with Paul as a young boy and had Anya there during that time. Nigeria was not in the long term plans, however, and they returned to Holland and made plans to immigrate to Canada. In 1958 the family, Paul (3) and Anya (1) moved to Calgary and have lived there ever since. Stephen and Margaret followed soon after and in 1968 Willemien and Henk adopted David.

Willemien was actively involved in the church working alongside Henk in pastoring, mentoring and leading bible studies. She worked hard to set up the TeleCare Calgary office providing a telephone assistance line to people who felt alone or in need. Mom and Dad have always been a huge advocate of post-secondary studies encouraging the family to continue in that regard. Together they have granted annual scholarships to their grandchildren providing further encouragement. Willemien and Henk have been long time members of Emmanuel CRC, since immigrating, but with a few years spent as members of Covenant CRC establishing that church in the south of Calgary. Willemien has spent her life serving God and others. Soon after the war and returning to the Netherlands she became actively involved in the Navigators and the Billy Graham Crusade. Wanting to walk alongside people who are new to the faith or who were looking for guidance she was able to provide that with her patient quiet manner. She has mentored and counselled many different people to remain strong in their faith.

Willemien suffered from depression for most of her life. She struggled many years, but she never wanted to be defined by it. Her spirit, although often at times weak and fragile, was carried by God right up to her passing this past week. She oftened questioned why she struggled, but wondered what it was that she could do to answer God’s call while still on this earth. Her unassuming and confident way of loving everyone was both adored and respected by her community. Her desire to be part of a larger family was evident in the Calgary community particularly as she was not able to see or spend as much time with her own sisters. As a result, we grew up with other Tante’s (aunt’s) – Tante Ans, Tante Tjitske, Tanta Ria, etc…. and so many other families that contributed to Willemien’s sense of belonging.

Willemien adored the Rocky Mountains. She has written that her soul is refreshed and more at peace when she visits the mountains. Her and dad would often take day trips out to the mountains to view their beauty and grandeur stopping at the side of a river or lake to have a snack and glass of wine.

Willemien was diagnosed with dementia twelve years ago. Her peaceful spirit remained; her smile always greeted you when visiting. She could make a joke, ask how the family was, and ask how you were, all with the intent of wanting to know and with care.

Willemien leaves a hole in our lives, in our family, in our community. As Henk did, as Margaret did. But as she now sits with the heavenly host, she is reunited with her mom and dad, her siblings who left ahead of her, her daughter Margaret, and we can only rejoice in that homecoming for her. Willemien would have turned 92 – just 3 weeks from now. There was a birthday party held for her a week before her death, as the timing just seemed to work best for those around her. God gave mom the spirit of always wanting to ‘celebrate the celebrations’ and so she had one celebration left here on earth, before the grandest celebration of all. And so it is with Willemien’s life, so intentionally devoted to God, she is now with Him celebrating and dancing on both feet.

A family graveside service will be held at Eden Brook Memorial Gardens. Funeral Services will be held at Emmanuel Christian Reformed Church (3020 – 51st Street S.W., Calgary, AB) on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. Coffee will follow. Condolences may be forwarded through www.McInnisandHolloway.com.

In living memory of Wilhelmina Verhoeff, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Park Memorial, 5008 Elbow Drive SW, Calgary, AB, T2S 2L5, Telephone: 403-243-8200.

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Condolence Messages

  1. To Verhoeff family:
    Sincere condolences on the passing of your mother, mother-in-law and grandmother, Willemien. I have very fond memories of Willemien, together with Henk, welcoming me in to their home on Granada Drive in the 1970’s, on Sunday after church and also on other occasions. I would have loved to be able to join you for the funeral service at Emmanuel, but unfortunately, I am not in Calgary. My thoughts are and will be with you, though and I pray that the Lord will comfort you, now that Willemien has joined the cloud of witnesses that surround us.
    Hans Speelman

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