Dutch immigrant says thank you to Canada

Having just watched the D-Day ceremonies a few short days ago and with Canada Day here, we thought this would be a very appropriate time for us to say THANK YOU CANADA.

Let me explain. Late May 1949 Jake and Bessie Westerhof with five boys arrived in Quebec City from the Netherlands and made their way by train to Belleville and from there to the Ken and Helen McMullen family in Holloway and so the adventure of adapting to our new adopted country started. What a welcome!

We could not have been received with more grace and love by the McMullen family or the community, Mom and Dad were over whelmed with how the community wanted to make us feel at home and help in any way they could.

There were many adventures, and good laughs with language missteps etc. The older boys were soon playing baseball and integrating into the Canadian way. The younger boys made friends with neighbour kids and enjoyed their first summer using the swimming hole in Holloway and roaming wherever life took them for the day.

Of course, Mom was homesick, but she soon found freedom in many ways and took like a duck to water in accepting her new life situation. These first years in Holloway set the stage for many years ahead.

Jake, Bessie and the boys were always welcomed and helped by their many neighbours and the community wherever they lived. I remember many Saturday evenings when our house would be full of strangers that Mom and Dad had invited to join us when they arrived in Belleville on the immigration train and didn’t know where to go. It was their way of paying forward. In 1955 they purchased a farm in Hillier and made that their permanent home and after all these years the house is now occupied by their grandson and his family.

For 70 years the family has prospered and it`s all because Canadians care and are willing to help. Jake and Bessie and people like Ken & Helen McMullen may be gone but their legacy lives on every time we welcome a new immigrant into Canada. Later this summer the Westerhof clan will be having a get together to celebrate the adventure started so many years ago, attending will be Jake and Bessie’s surviving children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren. They would be so proud to know how that decision 70 years ago such a blessing has been.

With all our heart we shout out “Thank You Canada and to God for leading us to this great country!”

Walter Westerhof

Barrie