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The Anne (Andrew) Hoekstra Family

 

by Robert P. Swierenga     revised 2/2013

 

The Hoekstra family was of Frisian stock, but an early generation on the mother's side was of mixed Groninger-Frisian stock. The Hoekstras for generations made their living as farmers and farm laborers in the lower rungs of society, living in the Grietenij of Oostdongeradeel, in the vicinity of Dokkum.

The earliest progenitors so far identified are on the father's side:

 

(1) Douwe Sjoerds (born ca. 1620) of Aldsjerk, who married Hiltie Clases in 1640 and fathered a son Klaas Douwes (ca. 1655). Several parcels of farmland just outside Aldsjerk (Oenkerk), a village northeast of Leeuwarden, were owned at this time. A short road, named "Klaas Douwesweg," runs to the east.

 

(2) Klaas Douwes was baptized in 1678 in Gytsjerk and married Tryntje Elings at Aldsjerk (Oenkerk). He fathered a son, Douwe Klases (1696-97). 

 

(3) Douwe Klases married Gelske Heerkes in Oenkerk in 1717 and is listed as a dagloner (laborer). He was baptized in 1740 after confession at Gytsjerk and lived at "specie number" 3 in Oentsjerk (Oenkerk), when home registry began in 1748. He fathered Heerke Douwes in 1726 in Oenkerk. He died sometime after 1776.

 

(4) Heerke Douwes was born in Oct. 1726, baptized in Oenkerk Feb. 28, 1727. He married Dirkje Lolles in Hantum on July 12, 1749. They arrived in Roodkerk from Ternaard in 1752 and lived at "specie numbers" 12, 5, and 55. Heerke lived in a room for the poor from 1765-67. In 1756 his son Lolle Heerkes was born and baptized in Oenkerk.

 

(5) Lolle Heerkes married Dieuke Theunis on May 17, 1778 in Brantgum. He was a dagloner and later lived at Waaxens. His son Theunis Lolles was born in Wierum in 1785. While living in Damwoude, Lolle and family registered the surname Hoekstra, meaning "corner stand," in 1811, on orders of Louis Napoleon, who had been put on the Dutch throne by his older brother, King Napoleon Bonaparte of France. Lolle Heerkes died at Damwoude in 1840.

 

(6) Theunis Lolles Hoekstra, born in 1785 in Wierum, married Antje Syes Wiersma at Metslawier on June 11, 1814. Theunis Lolles died at Ee on Sept. 2, 1855. A son Lolle Theunis was born in Oostrum on December 29, 1814.

 

(7) Lolle Theunis Hoekstra, born Dec. 29, 1814 at Oostrum, a mile west of Ee. Lolle, a gardener, married Rietje Takes Hofman in Oostdongeradeel on Mar. 31, 1838. In 1890, Lolle lived at 25 Schiepenreep, just outside of the village of Ee, in the home of Roelof and Rintje Dykstra. Lolle and Rietje are the parents of Anne Lolles Hoekstra.

 

(8) Anne Lolles Hoekstra, born in 1843. These families lived in Oostrum. Theunis had seven sons and these established the great branches of the Hoekstra family tree: Theunis Lolles, Taeke, Anne Lolles, Jabbok, Sije, Derk, and Ynse. The families of Theunis, Anne, Jabbok, Derk, and Ynse emigrated, as did the children of Sije. Only Taeke's family had none who emigrated. All the Hoekstra families emigrated to Roseland except Theunis Lolles, who went to Grand Rapids. The Hoekstra brothers lived to ripe old ages.

 

(9) Pieter Anne Hoekstra (Peter Andrew) was born on March 4, 1886, the seventh child of Anne Lolles Hoekstra (1843-1920) and Willemke Aagje Kloostra (1847-1921), a farm family in the very small village of Ee east of Dokkum, Friesland. Ee had only one church, a Nederlands Hervormde Kerk, where Pieter was baptized. All the streets in the village radiated like spokes in a wheel with the church as the hub. The pastor was too liberal in his theology to suit the Hoekstra family, so they walked nearly ten miles to hear an orthodox preacher, Rev. J.J.A. Ploos van Amstel (1835-95), of the Nederlands Hervormde Kerk at Reitsum ten miles to the west. This renowned cleric was the leader in Friesland of the neo-Calvinist revival under Abraham Kuyper, known as the Doleantie.

Peter's parents had been married on May 15, 1869, at the courthouse in Metslawier, the Oostdongeradeel municipal center. They had eight children: Pietje or Nellie (1870-1949); Rigtje or Rose (1871-1945); Lolle or Louis (1876-1960), Willem or William (1878-1957), Geeske or Gertie (1881-1964), Taeke or Richard (1883-1946), Pieter or Peter (1886-1965), and Theunis or Thomas (1891-1960).

Since Peter's father, Anne Lolles, was one of eight brothers (a sister had died when young), his father's farm could not be sub-divided to support eight families. Willemke also bore the stigma of being illegitimate. But economic pressure rather than social stigma pushed the family out.

 

Schonenburg family

On the mother's side we know of:

(1) Johannes Schonenburg (born ca. 1660-d. before 1749) of Dantumadeel (Rinsumageest), Fr., who married Ymkje Sybrens (born ca. 1660) about 1681. The couple had eight children between 1682 and 1694, of which the youngest was Johannes Schonenburg.

 

(2) Johannes Schonenburg (baptized Sept. 2, 1694-d. before 1749), who married Dieuke Tonnis (b. ca. 1694-), on Mar. 19, 1719 in Grootegast, Groningen. Dieuke's ancestors had lived in Doezum (Gr.) for several generations, since at least the early 1600s, but she moved to her husband's village of Dantumadeel, Fr. The couple had four children there between 1720 and 1728, of which the youngest was (3) Teunis Johannes Schonenburg (baptized 14 Mar. 1728 at Runsumageest). A gardener, he married Antje Rutgers (b. ca. 1730-d. before 1813) on 12 May, 1754 in Dantumadeel (Dantumawoude) and died on July 12, 1813.

 

(3) Teunis Johannes Schonenburg and Antje Rutgers had three daughters and a son: Sjoukje Teunis (1755-), Sjouke Teunis (born Mar. 7, 1757-baptized Apr. 1, 1759, d.?), Johannes Teunis (b. Oct. 22, 1762 in Murmerwoude, bapt. Nov. 28, 1762, m. Trijntje Sjoukes, d. Feb. 15, 1824 in Dantumadeel), and Dieuke Teunis (b. Feb. 24, 1755, baptized May 15, 1757 at Murmerwoude). Dieuke Theunis married Lolle Heerkes Hoekstra on May 17, 1778 in Brantgum.

 

 

Immigration to Chicago

When Peter was two years old, in 1888, his parents decided to emigrate to Roseland, Illinois, where his father's younger brother, Jabbok Lolles, and wife and six children had emigrated shortly before, along with many fellow Frisians. Interestingly, in 1882 the oldest brother, Theunis Lolles, had emigrated with his wife and nine children to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he truck farmed. The next year, in April 1889, Dirk Hoekstra, son of Lolle Theunis, emigrated from Rotterdam to New York on the Holland-America Line steamship P. Caland, and joined the Hoekstras in Roseland.

The Anne Lolles family emigrated in two stages. Anne went ahead alone, sailing from Rotterdam to New York on the Holland-America Line steamship P. Caland, arriving June 12, 1888 at the Castle Garden immigrant reception center. After the train trip to Chicago, he boarded in Roseland and found work as a wood machine laborer at the nearby Pullman Car Works at 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The Pullman Company made the famous railroad palace sleeping cars. Within four months, Anne bought prepaid tickets in steerage class for his wife and seven children to join him. (Thomas, the youngest, was born in Roseland). Perhaps his brother Jacob (Jabbok's Anglicized name) had loaned the monies, because it is doubtful Anne could have earned enough in such a short time, no matter how frugally he lived.

Willemke and children departed from Amsterdam on the steamship Edam, arriving at Castle Garden on October 8, 1888; they immediately boarded the train for Chicago. Since Pullman required families of new hires to live in company housing in the company town of Pullman, the Hoekstras resided at 558 (new numbering 10706) South Fulton Avenue in a brick, two-story row house in the Allen Block.

 

Working at the Pullman Palace Car Works

As soon as possible in the early 1890s, Anne Lolles, who Anglicized his name to Andrew Louis, moved the family to Roseland, where Pieter (Anglicized to Peter) began public schooling in 1892. Two events in 1893 stand out, one enjoyable and one devastating. Andrew found extra monies to take the family to the Chicago World's Fair (the Columbian Exhibition) to see the wonders of the Midway and especially to experience the thrill of the ferris wheel. Soon the great financial panic of 1893 and violent labor strife at Pullman in 1894 made the pleasures of the Fair a dim memory.

When the Company cut wages but not rents and prices at the company store, the 5,000+ Pullman workers went on strike, which quickly spread into a nationwide rail stoppage. This brought federal intervention with 14,000 troops, state militia, and local police to open the plants and crush the union. Andrew and his sons, as Christians and Republican in politics, did not condone the strike, but were powerless to stop it. They were out of work for over a year and took up market gardening to get by. The family was cast on the city relief rolls and fish from the relief store was the only meat.

After peace was restored and the plant reopened, the destitute Hoekstra family moved back to Pullman, residing several doors from their previous home at 544 (new numbering 10722) South Fulton Avenue. The oldest sons Louis and William also were hired, as were Richard and Thomas later. Peter attended school but the neighborhood was rife with youth gangs and he had to join the Allen Block gang to protect himself; they fought the Foundry gang with fists and pitchforks.

 

Peter Hoekstra in Roseland

In 1896 or 1897, Andrew and Willemke moved back to the safety of Roseland, living briefly in Gano near 117th and La Salle streets and then at 10707 S. Wabash Avenue behind the First Reformed Church on Michigan Avenue, where they worshiped under Reverend Balster Van Es. By 1898 they settled permanently at 10503 S. Curtis (new name Edbrooke, 134 East) Ave., which home they owned under mortgage. In the 1900 census, Andrew was working as a farm laborer, and son William, age 21, as a carpenter. Andrew was a naturalized citizen by then.

In 1896 and 1900 the Hoekstra boys relished marching in a makeshift drum and bugle corps in the Republican Party parades in Roseland, risking attacks by Democrat thugs, but the Dekker boys protected them with huge bale hooks.

Peter completed his education at Van Vlissingen Public School (108th Pl. and Wentworth Avenue), skipping a grade and graduating at age 13. He then attended Auburn Park High School. He had a good mind and, as the next to youngest child with older brothers working, the family could afford to keep him in school. He graduated with honors in 1903 as salutatorian of his high school class, received a full scholarship to the University of Chicago, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1907.

The summer of 1902 the seventeen year old worked two months at the Pullman shops with his father, brothers, and uncles; he helped install inlaid wood (a task known as marquetry) in the palace sleeping cars. Earlier after his sophomore year in high school Peter spent a summer on a vegetable farm earning $3 a week weeding and picking, but his agricultural career was cut short by the fact that he was colorblind and could not distinguish green from ripe red tomatoes.

In 1900, when Dominie Van Es left First Reformed, the Hoekstra family affiliated with the Second Christian Reformed Church of Roseland. The family was deeply pious. Willemke in simple faith regularly sang children's hymns to her toddlers. Peter remembered "Scheepje onder Jezus hoede" (Sheep under Jesus Care). He attended Sunday school, catechism, young men's society, and being musically inclined and self-taught, played the organ in church and gave piano lessons. Peter made public profession of faith at age 16 and decided to study for the Christian ministry, under the influence of Simon Blocker, a pre-seminary student at Rutgers University who he probably met while attending the University of Chicago.[1]

Peter's pastor, the Rev. Klaas Kuiper, who had served two churches in the Netherlands before emigrating in 1891, also inspired him with high ideals and introduced him to Dutch Reformed ecclesiastical and theological writings. Peter found further stimulation from the pastor's son, R.B., who was his age and likewise aimed for the ministry. They forged a lifelong friendship. R.B. became president of Calvin Theological Seminary. To hone his public speaking skills, Peter taught Sunday school and participated in debates and discussions staged by the young men's society.

Later in life Peter's mother Willemke became extremely overweight and sedentary. She complained of headaches, cold stiff hands, and had little interest in life. She spent her days sitting in a wicker chair by the dining room window looking out on 107th Street or dozing off, and Andrew had to care for her and do the housework, along with the help of her children Rose, Nellie, and William, who was an unmarried bachelor living at home. He married only after his parents died. In 1919 (May 15th) Andrew and Willemke celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a reception at their home at 16 West 107th Street. Andrew died of pneumonia in 1920 and Willemke followed ten months later of heart failure. Both are buried side by side in Mt. Greenwood Cemetery in the old section 31.

The Jacobus Clausing Family

In his third year at the University in 1905-06, Peter Hoekstra met Alice J. Clausing, a member of the First Christian Reformed Church of Roseland and daughter of Jacobus Clausing (1844-1885) and Anna Maria Kiel (1845-1930). Anna Marie's grandfather, Jan David Kiel, a shoemaker, migrated from Rastenburg, East Prussia (now Poland) to Amsterdam, where Anna's father, Pieter Cornelis Kiel (1812-22 Sept. 1866, M.D., practiced general medicine and pharmacology. Family tradition is that King Louis Napoleon III, Emperor of France (1848-1870) and a grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte, ordered one of Dr. Kiel's famed secret-formula medicine to treat epilepsy. Family tradition alleges that his old uncle stole the page from Kiel's medical book containing the formula and sold it, using the proceeds to travel extensively in Africa. Kiel's wife, Johanna Muller, a butcher's daughter, was of French Huguenot extraction.

The Clausings were originally cattle buyers from western Germany in the Twente area. They lived in nearby Alkmaar where Jacobus and his younger brother Cornelis Laurens grew up in a Lutheran orphanage after their mother died in 1854. Orphaned at ages 10 and 7, Jacobus was apprenticed to a tailor and Cornelis to a painter. Jacobus earned 35 cents a week in 1859. Jacobus and Cornelis both married Kiel daughters; Jacobus wed Anna Maria on May 7, 1870, a year after Cornelis had wed Johanna Antoinette on Jan. 31, 1869.

These were not socially acceptable matches, because a doctor's daughter should marry one of her "state" and not a day laborer and orphan at that! Anna's parents had selected a schoolteacher, but he had a long nose and she did not like him. She had dark brown eyes.

Three years later, in 1873, when Jacobus and Anna's child Peter was only 18 months, they emigrated from Warmenhuizen, Province of Noord Holland, with Cornelius and his family of four to Roseland, Illinois, which was a center for Noord Hollanders. Both families had caught the "America fever" and wished to get away from poverty and the Dutch social conventions. They took passage in steerage on the Dutch steamship Castor, 942 tons, from Rotterdam to New York, entering via the Castle Garden reception center on May 9, 1873, after three weeks at sea. Anna became so sea sick they despaired of her life.

Since Roseland had no tailoring shops, Jacobus found work at the Pullman shops as a laborer in the lumberyard, earning 13 cents an hour for ten-hour days. The couple eventually had eight children and remained very poor, living in a string of rented houses until settling in a little red brick house at 46 (new numbering 144) West 111th Street across from the Roseland Community Hospital. Here Jacoba Alida was born on December 2, 1885. She never knew her father, who died before her birth.

The Clausing family, unlike the Hoekstras, was initially unchurched. This was a legacy of Jacobus growing up in an orphanage. They did not attend church or keep family devotions, and thought nothing of working on Sunday. But in Roseland they were so starved for fellowship and entertainment that they began attending the only Dutch-language church in town, First Reformed. The congregation had installed an organ in 1875 to lead in singing the good old Dutch Psalms. Wondrously, the Clausings were converted under the preaching and teaching of the pastor, the Rev. H.R. Koopman, and Jacobus and Anna made profession of faith and joined the congregation, probably in 1876 or 1877.

In late 1877 Rev. Koopman suddenly left for Iowa, as the Roseland congregation became embroiled in the debate over freemasonry and other doctrinal issues that had been rocking the Reformed denomination for decades. The upshot was that sixty-one members, including Jacobus and Anna, seceded to form the "True Holland Reformed Church" of Roseland (later changed to First Christian Reformed Church). The new congregation erected a building at the corner of 111th and State streets, within a block of the Clausing home.[2] Here in June 1885 was the burial service for Jacobus, who died at age 41 of heart trouble, leaving his large family to struggle and live in great poverty. Six months later the widow Anna presented Jacoba Alida for the sacrament of baptism by the Rev. Pieter Kosten. Some urged Anna to put baby Jacoba Alida up for adoption, but son Peter said "No, if seven can eat, then eight can eat of it too."

Jacoba Alida went to the Dutch Christian school for the first three years and then transferred to the same Van Vlissingen public school that Peter Hoekstra attended. Her first grade teacher did not like her name and changed it to Alice, which she used for the rest of her long life. At first her classmates also shunned her because she had no father. Once she went home at recess and asked if the coffee was ready, but mother sent her right back to school.

Anna worked as a birthing nurse, took in washing, and sent the oldest son Peter out to work. Her vegetable garden kept the family relatively healthy; Alice ate as many carrots as she could. But the family rarely ate fruit and only received an orange and box of candy at Christmas. Apples were cut into eight slices. The milk and homemade butter from their cow had to be sold for food. As a result, Alice did not drink milk and was very thin. One summer she was sent to relatives on a farm in Wichert and gained weight. For birthdays she received a penny, which would be spent at the store for popcorn or candy. Her only doll, made of plaster, was crushed when an old lady stepped on it.

 

Peter A. Hoekstra--Seminarian

Peter and Alice's courting was curtailed when Peter went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1907 to enroll in the Calvin Theological Seminary as the first student with a four-year college degree, and that from the prestigious University of Chicago. When he returned home in late December for the Christmas holiday, the Roseland correspondent for De Grondwet (of Holland, Michigan) reported: "P. Hoekstra, student aan de Theol. school te Grand Rapids, brengt zijn vacantie bij zijn ouders alhier door" [P. Hoekstra, student at the Theological School at Grand Rapids, begins his vacation with his parents near here](Dec. 31, 1907).

Peter thrived at Calvin. The Board of Trustees licensed him to preach after completing the first year, as was the norm, and he was sent for the summer assignment of 1908 to small churches in the frontier west, in Minnesota, Montana, and Alberta, Canada. At Farmington, Minnesota, he led worship services in a schoolhouse with a soapbox on the desk as a pulpit and an oil lamp for lighting. He walked many miles and once rode a western pony across prairies and streams to visit parishioners living in dugouts and sod huts. There were no paved roads. In Lethbridge, Alberta, he hitched a ride on a loaded coal wagon without springs, with his suitcase slung atop the coal. As adventurous as was this first assignment in the west, Peter's second summer was in the urban east, in Paterson, New Jersey, which set his future course. Peter took the opportunity to go to New York to visit his friend Simon Blocker, who pastored a Reformed church there.

During his years in the seminary and on the far-flung summer assignments, Peter faithfully wrote his beloved Alice letters and postal cards. Occasionally he wrote in poetry, using her baptized name Alida, which he liked. One birthday poem that Alice saved is entitled "Ad Alidam" (Latin, To Alida):

Hail, Thou Alida, maiden calm and fair!

May angels, ministering to thy care

Thee blessings bring this day.

Hail thou, my princess, dearest to my soul!

May th'heavenly servants to the destined goal

This happy wish convey.

 

Blessed be this day, that in the year's sweet round

Thou do'st hear voices round about thee sound

Of greetings to thee brought.

Blessed be this day, that richly doth abound

In multitud'nous welcomes, and is crowned

With this verse I have wrought.

 

Count thyself blessed that the Lord did spare

Thy mortal frame which th'Evil One would tear

Asunder if he might.

Ascribe all thanks and honor to the Lord

That he so graciously thy conduct did reward

Unworthy in his sight.

 

Remember all Jehovah's tendrous love

And loving care shed on thee from above

And kneel before His throne.

But sweet'st of all sweet things it is, below

To be convinced that God's love fire doth glow

In us who are his own.

 

May many a birthday thee, Alida, greet

May'st thy lips many a day be spared to meet

The lips of him who loves thee.

Above all, may thy life be consecrate

To God's high cause, and may He thee await

In mansions far above thee.

 

Lovingly Yours, Peter Hoekstra

 

To stymie the inquisitive eyes of the mailman and family members, in his postcards he used a Greek script, though in the English language, that only he and Alice could decipher.

 

Peter and Alice Clausing Hoekstra Wed in 1910

Peter and Alice exchanged letters regularly for three years until Peter graduated in June 1910 and returned to Roseland for the wedding set for August 2nd in the First CRC at 111th Street just east of State Street. The Rev. John Walkotten married them and a reception followed at Alice's home nearby at 45 East 111th Street. The newlyweds honeymooned for several weeks in Minneapolis and at the home of a cousin in Maple Lake, Minnesota, and then moved to Moline, Michigan, because Peter had accepted a call as the first pastor of the newly organized Moline Christian Reformed Church.

 

The First "Charge" at Moline, Michigan

Organized in 1908 with 15 families and 4 single adults, the congregation grew rapidly. It was time to call the first pastor. After considering eight young pastors and senior seminarians, the congregation at a meeting in March 1909 voted to extend a call seminarian Hoekstra. Classis provided $200 to help pay for the salary. Hoekstra accepted even though he was still a year away from completing his studies. Hoekstra preached at Moline as often as he had time during his senior year, and after he graduated and passed the synodical examination in June 1910, he was ordained and installed on September 11, 1910, following an all-day examination on the key doctrines of the faith (called in Latin, "loci") by the Classis of Grand Rapids. Peter had attained his high calling, to be a Minister of the Gospel, which title he held in awe and humility.

The Moline Church, which worshiped exclusively in the Dutch language, had by then grown to 52 families and 286 souls. In anticipation of their pastor's arrival, they upgraded the church by installing a furnace and electric lighting, and they exchanged the original parsonage, which was "insufficiently functional," for a more adequate one. In the pulpit, Hoekstra wore the trademark garb of a Prince Albert coat with tails and a very stiff white collar. He used Chinese laundries, when available in the area, to starch the collars every Monday.

The move to this rural village required a big adjustment for the Chicagoans. The parsonage had no indoor plumbing or electricity, but rather an outhouse, oil lamps, and a pump in the kitchen. The Juffrouw (Dutch for "lady," a title of respect) had to wash clothes by turning a wheel on the side of the washing machine and bake bread on a kerosene stove. The church furnished a buggy, harness, and sleigh, but it took most of their first year's salary of $700 to buy a horse and neither knew horses. "Both of us were afraid of the horse. When he heard a [rifle] shot, he would become unmanageable," said Alice, and "once we were both thrown into the snow." As Alice recalled in a letter to the congregation in 1983 on its 75th anniversary (when she was 97 years old!): "I had never been so close to a horse before this and I was somewhat afraid, as I had to go into the stall to feed him during times when my husband had a classical supply," i.e., when Peter had to leave on Saturday to preach in vacant churches many miles away. "Having been used to streetcars in Chicago, my husband had difficulty adjusting to the horse and buggy mode of travel. He often walked miles to make a visit."

Coincidentally, Alice in her early nineties returned to the Moline church from California in 1978 and again in 1979 for the marriage ceremonies of two of her grandsons with sisters of the congregation (Dennis Dykstra with Elaine Rottman, and Andrew HetJonk with sister Jane). Alice went by airplane and noted that 1978 was the 75th anniversary of the Wright Brothers maiden flight. "I was 18 years old & remember it, as though it happened yesterday. No radio or TV, only the Chicago Daily News. I remember no one believed it could be done." No one believed her longevity either; Alice passed away in 1993 at 107 years of age!

The highlight of the Moline pastorate was the birth in the parsonage on July 4, 1911, of the Hoekstras' first child, a daughter, named Marie Anna after her maternal grandmother. The Hoekstra children had a distinctive lineage; their paternal bloodline was pure Frisian but the maternal side had no Dutch blood at all; it was Prussian, German, and French Huguenot. This was unusual among the Dutch Reformed in America.

At the Moline Church under Rev. Hoekstra, "love and unity reigned," declared an historical account.

The pastor's work was blessed. Catechism training and young people's clubs flourished. About 10 youths made public profession of their faith. Suddenly though, dark clouds developed over Moline, clouds carried by the wind from 14th Street in Holland, where they desired to call Moline;s pastor after only 13 months. He felt it necessary to leave, and Moline was saddened to see the departure of its beloved 1st pastor, a pastor who we had wanted so deeply."[3]

 

Life in the Parsonages--Holland, Paterson, Grand Rapids, Cicero, and Hanford

In mid-November 1911, after only fourteen months in the country church, Rev. Hoekstra accepted a call from the Fourteenth Street CRC of Holland, Michigan, the first all-English Christian Reformed Church in town. To leave the Moline congregation so soon was bad form and required the approval of the Church Classis, but the shortage of pastors able to preach in English in urban churches was acute and Classis gave its permission, especially since four ministers had declined the church's letters of call. The Fourteenth Street Church, then only nine years old and numbering nearly one thousand souls, stood in the center of the mother Dutch colony and near the intellectual life of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. The annual salary was $1,000 plus "free parsonage, free telephone, and free transportation," according to the Letter of Call.

Rev. Hoekstra was installed on November 20, 1911 and preached his inaugural sermon the next Sunday. According to a report by the church clerk in the Banner (July 25, 1912), Hoekstra gave the congregation a "forward look, and colored the future with bright hopes, if we maintain our Reformed principles." Within six months the congregation scheduled a church social for the purpose of burning the mortgage. Under Hoekstra's congenial leadership, the congregation grew by leaps and bounds until the sanctuary was so full that chairs were set in the aisles, but the fire chief put an end to this on grounds of safety. This prompted the congregation in 1913 to relieve the crowding by mothering a new congregation for members on the west side, the Maple Avenue Church. Fourteenth Street still counted 150 families after the birthing.

The heavy workload nearly killed the young minister, according to his successor, the Rev. Herman Hoeksema. Moreover, the reputed spirit of love and unity in the congregation was a mere facade to cover fundamental differences of doctrine and life. Hoeksema reported that under his predecessor some 90 percent of the families in the congregation opposed Christian education and were very lukewarm in support of Holland Christian School.

Moreover, a vocal minority opposed strong doctrinal preaching of such cardinal truths as predestination. The irenic Hoekstra had held the divided flock together, but when he left, its reputation was so bad that three ministers in a row declined calls. The fourth call was to the militant Hoeksema, who brought the disagreements to a head by pushing Christian education and doctrinal orthodoxy until a number of families transferred to local Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

In the spacious frame parsonage at 19 East Fourteenth Street, with a side driveway for the horse and buggy, were born daughters Winifred Ruth and Josephine May. The family also got their first telephone and the number was Citizen 1713. In May 1914 Hoekstra took his family to Roseland, Illinois to celebrate his parent's 45th wedding anniversary. Besides the family reunion, Hoekstra attended the national meeting of the National Christian Association, an ardent anti-masonic group headquartered in Chicago.[4]

In February 1915, after little more than three years in Holland, Rev. Hoekstra moved his family to the East Coast. He had accepted the call of the First Paterson CRC at a salary (called in Dutch a tractament) of only $1,400 per year, plus free housing, fuel, and three Sundays vacation. He had turned down a call from the First Zeeland church offering $1,200 per year. The Paterson church was a large, historic congregation in the heart of a dense Dutch settlement. The church stood on North Straight Street in a rundown neighborhood traversed by the Passaic River and surrounded by silk mills and saloons. The parsonage was next door at 13 North Straight Street.

Hoekstra was "in the prime of life and at the height of his ambition," noted the congregation's 75th anniversary booklet, and he needed this stamina to deal with the "many trying duties of his work." These were the years of the First World War. The national flue epidemic that struck in the early part of the War brought much sickness in the congregation, and the pastor had to conduct many funerals, including those for neighboring churches because he remained healthy.

The War itself caused dislocations in the families of soldiers and general economic difficulties. Culturally, the hyper-Americanism of the war years pushed the Dutch to assimilate far faster than they would like. The consistory at First Paterson had long suppressed calls for English-language services and now the War forced their hand. Rev. Hoekstra was the first to conduct a service in English, an evening service.

On the positive side, the Dutch in Paterson did not suffer from anti-German nativism, as did their brethren in the rural midwest, where schools, churches, and barns were torched by super patriots. The Hoekstras prospered and bought their first car, a Saxon, with which they toured all the scenic spots in the Hudson River Valley, the Catskill Mountains, and Long Island. While exploring New York City, Alice climbed up the stairs to the top of the hand of the Statue of Liberty. In each place they lived, the Hoekstras made a point to visit the highlights--the historic sites, parks, universities, etc. Summer holidays and Saturday afternoons featured picnics at nearby forest preserves and lakes. Peter and Alice went horseback riding on occasion and Peter even played golf, which at that time had not yet caught on with his colleagues.

Tragedy struck close to home when Alice had a miscarriage in the Paterson parsonage. Peter buried the baby boy near the church. Her widowed mother Anna (Grandma Clausing) also joined the family at this time and remained with them until her death after a brief illness in Cicero on September 22, 1930, at the ripe age of 85 years. Since she was a charter member of the First Roseland CRC, two funerals were held, one in Cicero and one in Roseland. She was buried at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery among the Clausings.

In 1919, Rev. Hoekstra accepted a call from the Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. He had turned down six calls, one from First Englewood in Chicago and five from Michigan -- Third Zeeland, Moline (the church he had jilted), and in Grand Rapids Grandville Avenue, Twelfth Street, and Seventeenth Street. Alpine Avenue was a good fit because the congregation served predominantly Frisian immigrants, the same as Hoekstra, although worship services were in the Dutch language. The salary was $1,800 a year. The Hoekstra family returned to West Michigan and settled into the spacious parsonage at 961 Alpine Avenue, N.W., with its large garden and even a chicken coop out back with chickens for the pot. Win recalls:

There were many trees in our yard--evergreens, chestnut, plum, cherry & others. Large bushes of white and purple lilacs were fragrant in the spring. a white fence surrounded the yard and there was a large old barn in one corner which housed a chicken coop. . . . One room in the basement was the fruit cellar--where jars of homemade vegetables and jelly and jam were kept. There was a large pile of sand in one corner where carrots were buried to be used in the winter.

The library downstairs contained a roll top desk, bookcase with glass doors, table, and leather couch with a raised round head at one end. There was a beautiful art glass lampshade on the ceiling light. We children entertained the children of visiting church members here while their elders visited in the parlor. Many times couples would get married in the parlor.

Rev. Hoekstra led the rising, second-generation immigrant congregation on Alpine Avenue through the trauma and controversy of the language transition from Dutch to English in the post-war era. The old timers stubbornly held on to the "language of heaven," but their minister was concerned for the souls of the children who could hardly understand the sermons in the native tongue. Despite the struggles, Peter enjoyed his labors there very much and the congregation reciprocated the feelings.

This is confirmed in Alpine Avenue's 50th anniversary history published in the Banner (June 5, 1931): Our brother's work was much appreciated and richly blessed. He was always punctual and exact in his work. His sermons were original and inspiring and his pastoral labors were faithfully carried out. During his time we wrestled with the language problem. Rev. Hoekstra was the providential man to carry us through without serious trouble. The church flourished while he was with us and we were all blessed.

The 75th anniversary booklet added the following:

The even tenor of his character was reflected in the life of the church. The congregation grew and was strengthened through his logical and studious mind. Missionary enthusiasm was increased and our first missionary, the Rev. H.A. Dykstra was sent to China. It was with regret that our people saw him leave.

In 1981 when the congregation celebrated its centennial, Hoekstra's widow Alice told them: "My husband often said that this was his busiest and his most beloved church." Here, too, three more children were born: Andrew Louis, Evelyn Dorothy, and James Peter.

In 1927, after eight years in the denominational center and home of its college and seminary, the Hoekstras moved to a very different setting, the Groninger congregation of Second Cicero CRC, a Chicago suburb. The congregation had to call him twice to get a positive answer. Hoekstra declined the first call of September 23, 1926, from the Douglas Park church (months before it relocated to Cicero) with a pay offer of $2,600. The second call of April 6, 1927, offered $2,800. Interestingly, both call letters contained the signature of elder Robert Swierenga, the future father-in-law of Hoekstra's oldest daughter Marie. Rev. Hoekstra had declined two calls -- from Prospect Park in Holland, Michigan (offering $2,000) and Summer Stree in Passaic, New Jersey (offering $2,600). (The salary amounts are noted for information only; money for Hoekstra was never a factor in considering calls. If it were, he would have stayed at Fourteenth Street Holland for many years).

Cicero II became Rev. Hoekstra's longest pastorate, thirteen years, and he again had to deal with heated disputes over the language transition. He also managed to implement a budget envelope system for weekly contributions to the ministry of the congregation and denominational causes.

Another challenge for the pastor of the Second Cicero church was to maintain order among the young people seated in the balcony during the evening English-language service. It was a right of passage for teens to sit alone in the balcony, while their parents and younger siblings occupied pews on the main floor below. The teens occasionally fell asleep or worse, they talked and laughed and created a disturbance during the sermon. The consistory had to assign men as "observers" to sit in the balcony and maintain decorum. If the situation got out of hand, the pastor might fire a warning shot across the bow with an embarrassing pause in his sermon. If that failed he would ask for silence or even name specific offenders. To arouse sleeping souls, Rev. Hoekstra used the clever ploy of singling out by name a young man who was being attentive and asking him to please awaken his friends, naming them one by one. Needless to say, this brought down parental wrath on the miscreants following the service and led to the suspension of balcony privileges for a time.

Throughout his career, Peter was expected to preach three new sermons every Sunday, teach two or three weekly catechism classes and lead the Bible lesson in the men's and women's societies. With an elder he also made the yearly rounds to the homes of every church family, in the customary practice of huisbezoek ("family visitation") required by the denomination. Besides these regularly scheduled meetings, he and Alice together called on the sick and shut-ins. Alice, as the pastor's wife, was expected to lead the ladies' Christian school and missionary societies. In Cicero, she launched the Eunice Circle and the Golden Hour Society.

This intense pace of work would take its toll on any pastor and his family, even without the inevitable disagreements and family crises. In 1930 two children, Evelyn and Josephine contracted the highly contagious disease of scarlet fever, which necessitated that they be quarantined from the rest of the family. "P.A." remained on duty nonetheless the (Banner, 21 Feb. 1930, 190). Besides the congregational responsibilities, Hoekstra was president of the board of Nathanael Institute during the 1930s, he lectured often for church groups, and was active in the regional classical assembly.

In Cicero, the Hoekstra family spent many summer holidays at Billy Sunday's Winona Lake Bible Conference grounds in nearby Indiana, where he enjoyed the musical talents of Sunday's sidekick, Homer Rodeheaver, and the Sunday preaching of Billy himself in the Tabernacle, replete with his baseball bat and colorful pulpit antics. Watching "Rodey" tool around the Lake in his classy Chris-Craft speed boat was also memorable. The trip to Winona Lake was an event in itself. The 1931 Buick had no trunk, so Alice, Grandma Clausing, and the six children had to sit atop their clothing, bedding, and blankets. Grandma enjoyed the hot chicken soup that a vendor sold from a huge pot set in the rumble seat of his Model T car. Such "take-out" food was a novelty but wholly appropriate for a leisurely vacation when mother deserved time off from cooking.

In 1935 Peter and Alice Hoekstra celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on August 2, and on September 11, Peter commemorated his 25th anniversary of ordination as a minister of the gospel. His children planned a celebration in the parsonage at 1406 South 58th Court, and the consistory organized a program at church. As a remembrance the men presented Peter with a wooden plaque shaped like a shield that noted the relevant facts and a big "25" in the center. All fourteen elders and deacons in the church council signed a card affixed to the back. Earlier that summer, the Chicago Messenger reported in its "News Bits" column that Rev. Hoekstra and family had taken an extended "Eastern tour" to Paterson, N.J., Washington, D.C., and New York. All of the Hoekstra children except James completed secondary education at the Chicago Christian High School in Englewood. Marie and Andrew also married in Chicago.

The stress of serving the large Second Cicero congregation, especially the fallout over the language controversy, took an emotional toll on Hoekstra. In October 1938 he and his wife left for southern California to recover his strength the (Banner, 20 Oct. 1938, 973). Regular reports hereafter appeared in the denominational periodical from the pen of his colleague, Rev. Benjamin Essenburg of the First Chicago Church, which kept the church at large abreast of his progress. The six children stayed in Cicero. Marie was already married with three children and lived nearby, Winifred was working as a nurse, Andrew was attending the University of Chicago, and Jo was working. The youngest two, Evelyn and James, were still in high school and had to fend for themselves in the parsonage.

After nearly five months, Hoekstra reported by letter: "I am improving, but not without set-backs. The consistory and church, Second Cicero, has been very kind to me and my family and I hope before long to resume my labors in their midst" (ibid., 23 Feb. 1939), 181). The Hoekstras returned to Cicero and to their family in late April of 1939, seven months after leaving. Essenburg reported: "Needless to say they are happy to be with their children again. The pastor's complexion clearly shows the effects of the California sun. May the Lord soon restore his servant completely" (27 April 1939, 397). In late May Hoekstra preached for the first time in eight months, but not in Second Cicero; it was a low stress, evening service at the Archer Avenue Church in Summit. "This means that brother Hoekstra is very much improved," declared Essenburg. "May the Lord soon restore him to health so that he may again resume his labors in Second Cicero, according to the desire of his heart" (15 June 1939, 569). In June, he attended the regular meeting of Classis Chicago, his first wider church function (1 June 1939, 526).

It was August, ten months after taking medical leave, when Hoekstra was able again to preach regularly in his own congregation. But he could not resume the full duties of leading the congregation, teaching catechism, men's societies, family visiting, and the other normal tasks. Said Essenburg: "Rev. Hoekstra is able to preach with ease and joy and hopes to be able to carry the full load of work by next [this] fall" (24 Aug. 1939, 789). Six months later, in April 1940, Hoekstra decided to return to California; he accepted a call to the Hanford church located in the rich San Joaquin Valley.

Peter Hoekstra served the Hanford Church, then located on Elm Street, for ten years (1940-1949), and the San Diego Church for five more (1949-1954), until he retired. In both charges, he carried a full load with ease and had an effective ministry. In "retirement" Peter and Alice went from their homes on Lakewood in Long Beach and then in Bellflower (10322 Park Avenue) to minister on short term assignments in "vacant" churches (those without a regular pastor) throughout the Western U.S. and Canada. Several were new congregations of fresh immigrants from the war-torn Netherlands; Hoekstra was in demand because he could preach in the Dutch language. In 1958, after four years of being on the move, he and Alice returned to Hanford to enjoy a well-deserved rest near three of their married children and grandchildren.

His pastoral ministry had spanned nearly 55 years, and for 25 of those years he preached three sermons every Sunday. He also wrote more than one hundred articles for the church periodical, The Banner, sometimes every week for six months or more, and he was editor of a column called "Our Doctrine." He also wrote many meditations for the Daily Manna, the church daily devotional. In 1953 he co-authored with Richard Postma the study booklet, This We Believe: Notes and Questions on the Belgic Confession, published by the Young Calvinist Federation of the denomination. The book was widely used as a doctrinal teaching tool. Peter Hoekstra also wrote a booklet. "Why I am a Member of the CRC." He was a member of the Board of Trustees of Calvin College and Seminary and seven times was delegated to the denomination's national synod. In denominational life, Hoekstra was always known by colleagues as P.A. or "Pa," an acronym Alice disliked.

Peter's failing health and confusion of mind required placing him in The Home for the Aged in Artesia, a Christian nursing facility, where after more than five years he died on August 15, 1965 at the age of 79. Appropriately, it was a Sunday evening, the time of each week when his laborers were over. Alice and some of the children were at his bedside when he exchanged this earthy life, which had become a total blank, for the heavenly life with all its bliss. For the first years, Alice lived at 11614 East 183rd Street in Artesia to be near her husband and visit him daily, until returning to their lovely two-bedroom home in Hanford at 2160 Pine Street. Thereafter, her children in Hanford took her to Artesia weekly for brief visits.

Peter Hoekstra's funeral was in the First CRC of Hanford, which church he had served so faithfully in the 1940s. His friend Rev. Frank De Jong spoke at the service and recalled that Peter's favorite Bible text was Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live." Peter always listed his occupation, even on legal documents, as "Minister of the Gospel." This high calling was very meaningful and important to him. Alice lived in her Hanford home until age 100! and then Jo and John VandeBeek took her into their home and cared for her, with Evelyn's help, until her death at age 107 on Feb. 26, 1993.

 

Marie A. Hoekstra Swierenga

Marie Anna was born in the parsonage at Moline, Michigan on Independence Day, 1911. As the first-born daughter, Marie was named after her maternal grandmother, according to the Dutch custom. Known as a "firecracker baby," Marie always enjoyed celebrating her day on the nation's birthday. She had other distinctions. Alice told the congregation in 1983: "We went to Wayland for a baby bed for our first child, the first to be born in your first parsonage."

At five months old, Marie's parents moved to Holland, Michigan, where she spent her pre-school years in a spacious frame parsonage. In mid-1915, when four years old, the family moved again, to the New York City area and the old industrial city of Paterson, New Jersey. The church, located in the midst of a dense Dutch settlement, stood in a rundown neighborhood traversed by the Passaic River and surrounded by silk mills and saloons. Marie recalls as a youngster being afraid of drunkards walking past the parsonage from a nearby saloon.

Marie Hoekstra entered first grade in the Christian school in Paterson in 1917, but after completing the second grade her father in 1919 accepted the call from the Alpine Avenue CRC of Grand Rapids, MI, located among the west side Dutch community. Marie graduated from the West Side Christian School in 1925 and continued her studies at the Grand Rapids Christian High School located on the east side near Calvin College and Seminary. In 1927, the Hoekstras moved to Cicero, where Marie completed secondary education at the Chicago Christian High School in Englewood. Marie and Andrew also married in Chicago.

Marie met John R. Swierenga after her father became his pastor at the Second Cicero CRC in 1927. "When she saw me and I saw her, we saw something in each other," John admitted coyly years later. They began dating casually by taking walks on Sunday evening after the church service, as was the custom among Dutch-Americans. After agreeing to "go steady," they sat in church together during the evening worship. This signified to the congregation that the relationship was serious.

Marie graduated from Chicago Christian in 1929 and went to work as an order clerk in the office of the Hurley Machine Company on 54th Street in Cicero, which manufactured Thor washing machines. She continued to date John and remained active, along with her sisters Win and Jo, in the church young women's society until marriage.

Following a courtship of about five years, John and Marie were engaged on Christmas day 1933 and married in the church on August 8, 1934. Both were 23 years of age and the first in either family to marry. The Great Depression was at its worst in these years and it required much faith to marry and raise a family. John even quit his insurance clerkship after six years to go into business for himself in order to support a family.

 

John and Marie's Wedding

The wedding, at which Dad Hoekstra officiated, fell on one of the hot (100+ degrees), humid "dog days" of August. During the traditional congregational singing and wedding sermon, the wedding party sat down on a bench in front of a church full of family and friends. The bridal party included Marie's sister Winifred (bridesmaid), John's sister Henrietta (maid of honor), and John's friends Edward Wezeman (best man) and Abe Van Kampen. The reception and program, which followed the wedding and receiving line at church, was held in the decorated basement of the Swierenga home, with Uncle Nick Jongsma as toastmaster. The newlyweds honeymooned for several days at the Wisconsin Dells and then John returned to the vegetable route.

 

John and Marie's First Years Together

The newlyweds made their home from 1934 to 1939 in a brick two-flat at 1625 South Austin Boulevard, where they rented the first floor. The two-bedroom home was conveniently located only one half block south of Dad and Mother Swierenga. Robert Peter (Bobby) arrived on June 10, 1935 and a year later Raymond Calvin on July 16, 1936. Both were born at Presbyterian-St Luke's Hospital. Robert was named after both of his grandfathers; but "we just liked the name" Raymond, John explained. Bobby sported a full head of blonde curls while Ray's hair was straight and a little darker. Marie took the boys for almost daily walks to her parents or to John's folks.

The aunts, Etta (Henrietta) Swierenga and Evelyn Hoekstra, helped as baby sitters and housekeepers. Evelyn, then in high school, came every Saturday to clean the house, wash clothes, and play with her first nephews. In the summer she did the same on Wednesday as well. Marie at first raised the boys according to Dr. Benjamin Spock, following a rigid four hour feeding regimen. But this left Bobby and Ray hungry and fussy, until one day Etta put them on a three hour schedule and to Marie's amazement they were content and slept. Evelyn recalls taking Bobby and Ray to an ice cream parlor on Roosevelt Road and introducing them to the tasty treat for the first time, when she was baby sitting them during the Saturday afternoon wedding of Paul and Etta Tuitman in 1939.

In 1936, shortly after Raymond's birth, the family faced a severe crisis when Bobby, then 18 months, took sick with the dread scarlet fever. Since the disease was highly contagious, the Cicero health department by law quarantined the home. For John to be able to work and Marie to care for the baby, Grandma Hoekstra agreed to be quarantined with Bobby for six weeks while the others moved in with the Swierengas. Again in 1941 scarlet fever struck the third child, Alyce, a toddler of two years, but this time only she was confined to her bedroom. By then sulfa drugs had lessened the scourge.

 

The Move to 1230 South 59th Avenue

The birth of Alyce Joanne (named by custom after the maternal mother, Alice Hoekstra) on April 20, 1938, at Presbyterian-St Lukes Hospital, pushed the family out of the small flat and into their own home at 1230 South 59th Avenue, just four blocks to the north. In March 1939, the Swierengas paid $4,500 for a two-bedroom, one story bungalow with a narrow side driveway, featuring two concrete strips for car tires, leading to the garage at the rear. They borrowed the $1,500 down payment from both parents but primarily from Dad Hoekstra. It was the only flat-roofed building on the block and faced McKinley Public School.

This home served the family for eight years, while three more children were born: Donald John on May 28, 1941 at Presbyterian-St Luke Hospital, Grace Marlene (named by custom after Grandma Swierenga) on Feb. 24, 1944, and John Robert Jr. on June 11, 1945, both at Loretto Hospital. John weighed only 4 pounds 12 ounces and spent his first ten days in the "premie" ward. The hospital charge was $3 per day! A seventh child, James Lee, was stillborn on July 5, 1949 at West Suburban Hospital. He was a perfectly formed boy of 6 lbs. 7 oz. but the umbilical cord became detached a few moments before birth. "It can't be explained," Marie wrote her family in California. "It was just God's will that it happened." Doctor Henry Wm. Rottschafer had never experienced such a complication, she noted. The undertaker George Mulder, pastor Enno Haan, and John buried the baby at Chapel Hill Gardens in Villa Park. Two years later John purchased six graves at the Forest Home Cemetery, adjacent to those of his parents, and the baby was reburied there. In April, 1957 son Robert's first child, John Robert III, died three days after a premature birth of six weeks and was buried at the foot of the same grave.

During the year 1942 Evelyn came from California to provide live-in help for Marie and the four children under age seven. Marie's numerous pregnancies had caused kidney problems and she was frequently bedridden with infections. Thus, Evelyn briefly relieved John's sister Etta, who lived nearby and bore the brunt of helping Marie.

 

Life at 1418 South 58th Court

By 1946 the 59th Avenue house was too small. It was sold for $9,500 and replaced by a much larger red brick bungalow with full attic and basement, plus a two-car frame garage off the alley, at 1418 South 58th Court, less than two blocks away. The house, which they purchased in March for $14,500, was one of three adjacent dwellings of the De Boer brothers, Henry, George, and Clarence. Henry sold his home to the Swierengas. The building stood just six houses south of the Second Cicero church and the parsonage where Marie had lived for eight years before her marriage. This spacious home served the active family for twenty-three years, until all the children were married, and it housed boarders and visitors as well. A wide circle of family and friends enjoyed "coffee and" in the parlor on Sunday evening visits, including Christian school teachers and pastors. Overnight visits by relatives and friends were also a regular occurrence.

Marie had her hands full running the household and keeping up the weekly correspondence with the far-flung family, especially the folks in Hanford and later the children in college or married. She was the information gatekeeper of the family and a faithful letter writer. She used carbon paper liberally to multiply her letters and enclosed letters from siblings. In 1947 Marie got an Easy washing machine with the spin dry feature, followed the next year by a Thor "Gladiron," the latest invention in ironing. Hanging out clothes became less of a chore in 1951 when they bought a Sears gas dryer, along with a matching washer. John first indulged himself with a window air conditioner in 1955.

Until the opening of the A & P and Jewel supermarkets on Roosevelt Rd., Marie ordered groceries by phone from Vander Ploeg's Market on 57th Court in Cicero, which the owner's son delivered in a special bicycle with a huge basket over a very small front wheel. Groceries were bought from the Italian peddler, Joe Battaglia, who came down the alley in a truck twice weekly. In 1946 John ordered the home delivery of milk, which was brought for the next fifteen years by John Visser, Clarence T. Boerema, and then Peter Buikema. The thirsty family drank over 150 quarts a month by 1951, until the older children went off to college and the milk order declined.

In the home Marie stressed the importance of good reading material. She subscribed to Christian periodicals and books and a smattering of secular ones like Reader's Digest (first ordered in 1942) and the National Geographic. The books were a staple around the Christmas tree, ordered by mail from Baker Book House, Eerdmans, and Zondervan in Grand Rapids. Besides the denominational weekly, the Banner, and Zondervan's Daily Manna, the Swierengas received The Christian Indian featuring the Navaho and Zuni tribes where sister Winifred nursed at Rehobeth Hospital, the children's monthly My Chum, The Chicago Calvinist, a magazine for teens, and in the 1950s U.S. News and World Report, Christianity Today, Torch and Trumpet, and the Chicago-area Reformed monthly, The Illinois Observer, edited by the Reverend Arthur De Kruyter.

For school reports the children relied on the multi-volume encyclopedia, Crolier's Book of Knowledge and its annual supplements, which was purchased in 1948. The newspaper of choice for decades until it went defunct was the Chicago Daily News, delivered through the C. B. Agency on 16th Street and 59th Avenue. All the children worked in their turn delivering newspapers for C. B. owner "Jack the Jew," beginning with Bob and Ray in 1945. Even Alyce and Grace delivered papers, including the Cicero Life, which route Bob and Ray had first.

Physicians who kept the family healthy and treated the colds, bruises, and myopia of the eyes were Drs. William John Yonker, Henry Wm. Rottschafer, and Everett Van Reken (beginning in 1952 after Yonker's retirement). Dentists were John Balk, and after his retirement Leonard Boke, Peter A. Boelens, and William Vennema, Jr. The greatest fear was contracting polio, the scourge of the era. The city swimming pools were often closed during the summer after a severe outbreak. In 1946 John bought the first polio insurance policy covering the family from Continental Casualty Company, and he renewed it until 1956, when polio vaccines became available. Dr. Van Reken gave Don, Grace, and John their first polio vaccination in 1956. Optometrist Peter Bardolph, operating out of the basement of his home on 59th Court, prescribed glasses after 1955, which Yonker had done previously. Rottschafer gave obstetrical care to Marie, except for a female doctor, M. D. Ward, who delivered Grace and John. After 1957 Marie's gynecologist was Frank M. Fara of Berwyn. Ever since the 1970s, West Suburban Hospital physician Marvin Tiesenga, John's former Sunday school pupil at Warren Park CRC, was the family surgeon and internist, and Everett Van Reken's son Philip continued in his father's steps.

The family was remarkably healthy. None of the children had any chronic problems, although John Jr. as a little boy suffered from severe croup until he outgrew it. Bob and Don were both struck by cars while delivering newspapers. Bob suffered only cuts and bruises while Don had a concussion and broken collarbone. He came to rest on 15" from the "third rail" of the Douglas Park "El," which would have electrocuted him. Marie suffered periodic kidney infections as an aftermath of her seven pregnancies and was also prone to colds and bronchitis. In March 1956 she was hospitalized for three days at MacNeal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn for a D & C, and on New Year's eve of the same year she was admitted again for three days after she fell on ice on the front steps of the house and broke her arm. In March that year John had suffered a mild heart attack due to stress from his business, and was hospitalized four days at West Suburban. He had long since given up smoking cigarettes, a teenage addiction, and substituted a pipe. This too he now quit. John in March 1967 also fell on the ice and badly bruised his right arm and shoulder, requiring many x-rays and three months of doctoring. In 1969 he suffered a second heart attack and was again admitted to West Suburban Hospital for a week.

 

Christian Education

John and Marie believed in Christian education just as strongly as their parents did, and they willingly sacrificed to pay for it. They also stressed entering one of the helping professions. John did not push any of his four sons into his trucking business, even though all worked for him during college summer vacations. All six children attended Reformed Christian schools from first grade through high school and college. They began at Timothy Christian School in Cicero on 14th Street at 59th Court (the school had relocated from the Lawndale district to Cicero in 1927), and then went to Chicago Christian High in Englewood (Bob and Ray only) and Timothy Christian High, located in the 1200 block of 61st Court. All attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. Robert, Alyce, and John Jr. earned education degrees and Raymond and Donald had pre-seminary degrees. Grace finished two years and then completed the RN degree program at Mt. Sinai Nursing School in Chicago.

 

John's Trucking Business--Excel Motor Service

While Marie had full responsibilities in the household, John concentrated on making a success in the trucking business. In 1934 he earned his last paycheck when he resigned from the insurance company. His father recommended a retail fruit and vegetable route in the western suburbs and provided $1,200 for the down payment on a new Ford truck. John bought produce from his father's firm, Swierenga Bros, and other Randolph Street commission houses, and peddled door to door in Cicero and Berwyn. He acquired steady customers, sometimes up to ten on a block.

In 1935 John left peddling after signing a contract with the Adams Union Company (located at Taylor and Western Avenue) to haul general freight within the Chicago area for $50 per week. He did this for two years and even though he got an increase to $75 per week, he decided that the amount was too low, considering that he had to pay all the truck maintenance expenses. So for $600 he bought his own trucking business in February 1938 from Clarence Klassens, a fellow church member, which consisted of fifteen accounts, two decrepit trucks, and a driver with a drinking problem.

John built up the business, which he named Excel Motor Service, and ran it successfully for nearly thirty-three years until 1970. Trucking changed in the 1960s. Increasing government regulations and restrictive union work rules and rising wage scales forced small firms to expand or stagnate. This meant finding dependable drivers, buying or leasing more trucks, and securing bigger dock and garage facilities. Also the operating range began to increase dramatically with the relocation of manufacturing plants and offices from the city center to the suburbs. The aggravation of the business produced ulcers, hemorrhoids, and heart attacks. Dr. Everett Van Reken advised him to sell the business in order to reduce stress, but John put off the decision. After the second heart attack in 1969, Van Reken again urged selling and this time John listened.

When Bernard Mulder, one of brother Ralph's drivers and a fellow church member, expressed an interest in buying Excel Motor, John agreed and the two, with their accountants and advisors, fixed a price of $50,000. This included all accounts, nine trucks and equipment, the operating authority, and the nebulous but essential "good will." The sale on May 17, 1970 was traumatic for John. "I felt that the world was caving in, that my life was over," John recalled later. But he never looked back and indeed filled his days for another twenty years with fulfilling Christian volunteer work, vacationing with Marie, and visiting the children and grandchildren.

 

Swierenga Car Trips

All leisure life revolved around church activities and visiting with the extended family. John and Marie in 1935 bought their first car, a 1930 Nash, paying $30 to one of John's elderly customers on the fruit and vegetable route. The Nash was an efficient four-door sedan, but Dad Swierenga did not trust it for out-of-town trips and insisted that John borrow his Buick. In 1940 John replaced the Nash with a 1937 Studebacker, another four door sedan like all Swierenga cars. In 1942, in the face of the rising demand for automobiles during the War, John found a pristine 1940 Buick, two-tone green in color with only 26,000 miles, that Stanley Totura, one of his father's customers, was selling for $600. The Swierengas took this substantial car on several long-distance trips to New York City and to Minnesota to visit relatives. This was preparation for the ultimate trip, to California.

In the days before interstate highways, California was a challenging six or seven day venture by car from Chicago. After Pa and Ma Hoekstra moved to Hanford in 1940, regular visits were mandatory. During the war years and gasoline rationing, the train was the only way. In 1941 John and Marie and their three children took the Burlington Zephyr. John and Bobby returned after a week because John could not be away from his business any longer. Marie, Ray, and Alyce stayed another few weeks. En route home John and Bobby spent a Sunday in Denver with Rev. Renze Hooker, a CRC pastor and friend, and they caught the famed Denver Zephyr to Chicago, which was the fastest passenger train in the nation, often running over 100 mph. In 1943 John and Marie returned with Alyce and baby Donald, but left Bob and Ray with the folks. This was in the slow winter season in February or March, when John could get away, and the boys were in school. In 1946 the family went again with the four youngest children, and Paul and Etta took care of Bob and Ray.

The first auto trip to Hanford was in the summer of 1950, following the purchase of a new 1950 Buick sedan with a "straight 8" engine and Dynaflow automatic transmission. The dark green car, which cost $2,600 from Robertson Buick Co., came equipped with a metal sun visor but it steered like a tank because it had no power steering. Bob, aged 15 and boasting a just-issued driver's permit, "helped" with the driving. John first gave him the wheel and the responsibility for the safety of the family of eight in Iowa on the two-lane hilly state route 92. Of course, Dad sat in the passenger seat on the proverbial "pins and needles." Bob's challenge was to hold steady at 50 mph and keep control of the car. He succeeded and gained Dad's trust, but if the speedometer ever crept past 55 mph, Dad simply said "That's fast enough." Bob often wondered how Dad could read the speedometer even when dozing off. Ray, meanwhile, challenged his brother on the "q t" to "let her roll." Each morning Marie made fried egg sandwiches for the picnic lunch, which also included a liberal supply of plums. Several children cannot look a cold fried egg in the face to this day.

Highlights of the California trips were the national parks and other famous sights along the way, all captured on 8mm colored film with a Kodak movie camera purchased in 1950. The trips also included a stay of several days at the Rehobeth Christian Hospital compound, where Marie's sister Winifred worked as a nurse in the 1940s and 1950s. If no relatives or friends were on the route, the family stayed in tourist cabins; they never camped. John routinely inspected each cabin for cleanliness, especially the bathroom for roaches, and the condition of the beds. It happened quite often that they failed the test and we drove on to try again.

In December 1953 John bought another new car, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster sedan, two-toned green in color. Beside an improved Dynaflow transmission, it featured power steering and air conditioning. This was the largest car made by Buick and commemorated the company's 50th year. The list price at Palmer Buick Co. was $3,700, but the 1950 Buick brought $1,700 in trade. Within four days, however, John returned to the dealer and repurchased the '50 Buick for $1,020 for the use of Bob and Ray, after Grandma Swierenga interceded. They used the car to go back and forth to Calvin College and in 1956 Bob was given the car as part of his wedding present. The comfortable Roadmaster made two trips to California in the 1950s, usually by way of Minnesota, South Dakota, and New Mexico. In alternating years John and Marie took the train, preferably the Santa Fe. In 1957 they flew for the first time, on United Airlines.

In 1959 John made the "ultimate decision." He bought a Salmon colored 1958 Cadillac Sedan with only 6,597 miles for $4,125. This prestige auto was such a status symbol that John suffered a number of restless nights of sleep after the purchase before he felt comfortable with his decision. The Cadillac provided a smooth ride to California in 1959, but they took the Santa Fe four times in the 1960s. In 1965 John traded the Cadillac at VerHage Motors of Holland, Michigan for a pre-owned 1964 Chrysler Imperial hardtop. He paid $3,900, including $800 in trade, for the powder blue chariot. This classic auto was the finest car John and Marie ever owned and they put 150,000+ miles on it before selling it in perfect condition in 1978. This included several trips to California.

In the 1970s and 1980s, after the children were grown and John had retired, he and Marie continued to ride the Santa Fe, but increasingly they took the plane as prices declined. John preferred to drive and did so every second or third year, giving them the freedom to visit and sightsee along the way. In any case, they went to Hanford annually. The last four cars were a 1975 and 1979 Chrysler, both bought from VerHage Motors, and a 1983 and 1990 Cadillac. Dad frequently drove the 1990 "Caddy" to Grand Rapids, Ohio, and Wisconsin to visit family, but it will be the only one never to see Hanford.

 

Family Picnics and Vacations

On summer Saturdays and holidays, the clan attended annual family reunions of the Swierengas, Dykhuises, Clausings, and Hoekstras. They also picnicked and swam at lakes north of the city, especially Drews Lake, Bangs Lake, Gages Lake, Long Lake, and Grays Lake. Family ties were strong and outing usually included John's siblings and their families, plus Uncle Lambert and Aunt Rika Dykhuis, a childless couple and favorite of the children and grandchildren. The same clan gathered at Grandpa and Grandma Swierenga's home for the Thanksgiving day feast, and weekly after Sunday morning church service for coffee and cookies while the children attended Sunday school.

Many reels of film (now on videotape) chronicle the family travels to the West and to the children in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, California, and elsewhere. There is extensive coverage of each new grandchild, which eventually numbered twenty three, and of historic and scenic places along the way. John and Marie vacationed four times in western Europe or Holland, twice to Hawaii and Mexico, and once to Alaska by way of the inland passage. They traveled in every one of the fifty states at one time or another.

 

The Move to Elmhurst

After all the children were married and the business sold, John and Marie in July, 1969 sold the home in Cicero and bought a spacious brick ranch home in Elmhurst at 353 East Butterfield Road. They enjoyed the bright airy view, the tree lined yard, and the city park directly across the street. The home was less than a mile from their relocated Cicero church, now called Faith CRC of Elmhurst. The children had to adjust emotionally to the loss of the home, church, and neighborhood of their youth. They experienced the old adage: "You can never go home again."

 

The 50th Wedding Anniversary

A highlight of John and Marie's marriage was the very special 50th anniversary dinner in 1984 at the Holland Home retirement center in Crete. All the married children, grandchildren, siblings and spouses, and favored cousins, more than a hundred in number, came for the celebration. The children prepared a program that began with a litany of praise composed from Psalms 136, 128, and 34, all sang their wedding hymn, "Blest the Man that fears Jehovah" (Blue Psalter #270), the dedication hymn, "Happy the Home When God is There," concluding with "Blest be the Tie that Binds our Hearts in Christian Love." Sister Evelyn HetJonk read a poem of Helen Steiner Rice, "The Meaning of True Love."

Appropriately, the night was full of instrumental music. A trumpet trio played John's favorite, "Bugler's Holiday" by Leroy Anderson. But the big surprise was the impromptu "Swierenga ensemble" of 28 children and grandchildren playing their instruments--wind, strings, and percussion, under the direction of son-in-law Gary Nyland, a school music teacher. They played Hyfrydol (John's favorite), "Like a River Glorious (Marie's favorite), the Knickerbocker Male chorus theme song "My God How Wonderful Thou Art" and classic "The Love of God," closing with "Now Thank We All Our God" and "Blest Be the tie." After thanking Grandpa and Grandma for their selfless love and devotion, and telling them of our appreciation for modeling a Christian home, they were given an engraved clock as a remembrance. As the oldest son and oldest daughter in their respective families, they sent an example for many.

 

Marie's Victorious Death

On one of the vacations to visit family and friends in Florida and attend the wedding of brother Ralph's son James over Christmas 1988, Marie encountered difficulties breathing. She had long suffered from bronchitis and colds, but this was worse. On returning to Chicago she immediately went to the family doctor, Philip Van Reken, who found much fluid around the lungs. Several quarts of fluid was drained by Dr. Marvin Tiesenga, a family friend and surgeon, at the West Suburban Hospital, but the diagnosis was a fatal cancerous tumor on the lining of the lungs, known as mesothelioma. There was no effective treatment for this disease, although Marie was selected for an experimental drug regimen at the University of Chicago Hospitals, which was administered by Dr. Nicholas Vogelsang, a first cousin of Don's wife Mary. The treatments proved futile. Marie accepted her illness with fortitude and was only bedridden the final two days. Six weeks before the end, she mustered the will to travel by car to Grand Rapids to celebrate her 55th wedding anniversary with all the children and grandchildren at the University Club. This was a bittersweet moment of saying goodbyes and reminiscing with a Godly mother who had lived for her family and trained all of her children "in the way they should go." Sister Win and daughter Grace, both nurses, came to be with Marie the last weeks and sister Evelyn and daughter Alyce joined them the last week. Hospice nurses were also on hand to provide drugs to ease the breathing difficulties. On Sunday, 36 hours before she died at midnight on September 26, 1989, the children and their spouses all came home. They gathered around the bed and sang favorite hymns, prayed, hugged Mom, and talked with her about seeing Jesus and loved ones in heaven. Hers was a Christian life and death.

 

John's last years as a widower

John Swierenga made the difficult adjustment of living without his helpmeet. He learned to cook, wash clothes, and do all the necessary chores of housekeeping. He continued to love to drive and regularly visited the children and relatives, going to Michigan at least monthly and flying to California and Ohio. After seven years of living alone, in July 1996, John sold his home and moved into a two-bedroom apartment at Sunset Village, a retirement complex in Jenison, Michigan. He made the adjustment quickly and enjoyed the fellowship and being close to five of his children and their families. But his health declined, primarily due to a heart weakened by the earlier attacks.

On February 9, 1999, John passed away peacefully while sitting at his kitchen table after finishing a light lunch. Son Robert tried to call him all day without success and in the evening he was found at perfect rest still in the chair. Undertaker Robert Van Staalduinen of Lombard, Illinois arranged with Zaagman Funeral Homes of Grand Rapids for an evening visitation with the family in Grand Rapids, and then Dad's body was transported by car to Lombard for another full day of visitation by family and friends. The funeral was held in John and Marie's church, Faith Christian Reformed Church of Elmhurst, of which John had been a member for his full 88 years. John's friends and pastors, Lee Koning and Joel Scheeres, conducted the service. Several family members reminisced and Mrs. Pat Koning sang several of John's favorite hymns in her melodious soprano voice. The children and grandchildren concluded the service on a triumphal note by singing the benediction, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You." Internment was alongside Marie in the family plot at Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park.

 

Winifred Ruth Hoekstra Dykstra

Winifred was born on May 5, 1913 in the parsonage of the 14th Street CRC in Holland. The doctor came to the house and mother Alice was given chloroform to mask the pain, as was done in those days. Grandma Clausing assisted, as she did for all the children. She had practiced as a midwife for years after her husband died, and applied techniques her father, a medical doctor, had taught her. Grandma also helped care for two-year old Marie while Alice remained in bed for the customary ten days.

By the time Winifred started school, her father had taken a pastorate in Paterson, New Jersey. Grandma Clausing came along as a live-in nanny. Win was enrolled in the local Christian school, where all instruction was yet in the Dutch language, which she had to learn.

In her memoirs, Win recalls this time in her life:

I remember a few things about life in Paterson--such as seeing a horse fall down after crossing the bridge near our house. The horse was pulling a fire engine. I remember a mad dog nearby and a neighbor shooing us girls into our house to escape it. And I remember seeing soldiers march in New York as they got ready to embark for their ocean trip during World War I. There were also many funerals Dad had to conduct during this time of the great flu epidemic.

In 1919 the family moved back to Michigan, to the Alpine Avenue CRC on the northwest side of Grand Rapids. Here at the West Side Christian School, Win had to take the first grade over because she had failed in Paterson due to the language barrier. She continues:

The parsonage on Alpine Avenue was a large brick house with many rooms and large walk-in closets, one of which contained a few steps. We enjoyed playing in this spacious home and we spent many happy hours on rainy days playing with paper dolls, Noah's Ark animals, and playing school in the basement with a real blackboard. We also enjoyed a wind-up phonograph using wood needles which we often sharpened. We enjoyed listening to classical records and children's songs with sound effects. We played outside whenever the weather permitted--jacks & marbles, jumping rope, croquet, romping in large piles of leaves.

Win attended West Side Christian for eight grades of elementary and junior high school; Marie and Jo accompanied her on the twice-a-day (lunch too), round-trip walks to the school located a mile from home. The four-mile routine in rain or snow kept the girls fit. They all liked to read and devoured nine books a week (limited to three each) borrowed from the church library.

All three younger siblings were born in Grand Rapids: Andrew, Evelyn, and James. Grandma Clausing continued to live in and help with meals and childcare. A milkman delivered enough bottles of milk for each of the children to drink four glasses a day, which mother insisted on.

For vacations, the family drove to Roseland to visit Hoekstra relatives or rented a lake cottage at Spring Lake, Gun Lake, and Green Lake. The Roseland trip took eight hours, including a picnic lunch at a lake side park in St. Joseph.

The Hoekstra family moved to Cicero in May 1927 and were the first to live in the new parsonage at 1406 S. 58th Court, immediately south of the new Second Cicero CRC. Since neither building was quite finished, they lived with other church families briefly and worshipped in an empty factory on Central Avenue.

In the fall of 1927, Win and Marie went to Chicago Christian High School (CCHS) in Englewood, then in its ninth year. Marie graduated in June, 1928. The younger children--Andrew, Evelyn, and later James--attended the Timothy Christian Grade School less than a block away from home. The daily commute by streetcar to CCHS took 1 1/2 hours each way, with a minimum of two transfers. Win dropped out in February of her junior year to help her mother at home with the younger children. After 1 1/2 years, she completed her high school work in one year at Morton High School in Cicero, and then did housework for church families. At age 17, while finishing school, Win made profession of faith at the Cicero II church of her father, and soon began teaching Sunday school.

She has fond memories of going to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and the thrill of riding the Skyway. She also recalls family vacations--to the Winona Lake Conference Grounds to see Billy Sunday preach and Homer Rodeheaver sing, to the nascent Tulip Time festival in Holland, and to Niagara Falls.

As a young child, Win told Grandma Clausing that she wanted to be a missionary in Africa. She was inspired by the work in Nigeria of Johanna Veenstra, the first female foreign missionary of the Christian Reformed Church. To fulfill this desire, in 1935 Win enrolled at the Presbyterian Hospital of Nursing on Congress Street near Ogden, and after three years of study she graduated with the RN degree and scored the highest in her class on the State Board nursing exam. She then enrolled in evening classes at the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, while working as a visiting nurse in the "tenderloin" districts of the city. After some time, she switched to day classes and worked part-time at Passavant Hospital. So opposed were the church elders to the Arminian theology taught at the Moody Bible Institute that they refused to reappoint Win as Sunday school teacher, fearing she might pass the contamination to the youth. Being the PK (preacher's kid) cut no ice with these stijf kops (literally, stiff heads).

With the training completed both in nursing and evangelism, Win applied to the Foreign Mission Board of her denomination, the CRC, but World War II broke out in 1939 and all overseas assignments were put on hold. Then she noticed an advertisement in the Banner, from the Rehobeth Mission Hospital in Rehobeth, New Mexico, pleading for a nurse. She answered the call and for the next eight years worked at this CRC ministry to the Navaho and Zuni reservation Indians. The shifts were 12 hours, either days or nights, to serve about forty patients and ten newborns in the nursery.

After two years, Win's responsibilities became overwhelming when the medical director, Dr. Richard Pousma, resigned in July 1941 to begin a private practice in nearby Gallup and Win was named Acting Superintendent of the Hospital. Pousma came every day to the Hospital Indian clinic and performed operations, but Win had to run the hospital, deliver babies, and take charge of patients. The responsibilities were overwhelming and she decided to take a furlough for a few months with her parents in Hanford, California. She then returned and was instrumental in recruiting a missionary friend, Dr. Paul Brown, to take over the hospital, but he was drafted into military service after six months. This forced the Mission Board to close the hospital for the war's duration, except for treating and inoculating the 140 Indian children in the Christian boarding school of the Mission. After the War the hospital was again opened under Dr. L. Bos, and Win continued until 1949, when after ten years she resigned for health reasons and returned to California. She resumed nursing in a hospital in San Diego, where her parents had moved, and then became a visiting nurse.

In 1951 she left nursing permanently for matrimony, marrying Peter Dykstra of Cicero, Illinois, on July 25, 1951, after a whirlwind courtship of several months. It was the first marriage for both. Peter was born on March 6, 1904, and grew up on the West Side of Chicago. He spent virtually his entire working life at the Western Electric plant in Cicero. Win's brother-in-law and sister, John and Marie, convinced Peter, age 47 and Win, age 38, that they were meant for each other, and arranged for Win to come from San Diego to meet him. It was love at first sight and within a few weeks Peter asked her to marry him and put a diamond engagement ring on her finger. When his vacation time came in July, Peter went to San Diego for the marriage ceremony. Sister Evelyn and her husband Simon stood up in the ceremony. Win's parents and the family had known Peter for many years, since he was member of the Cicero II church that Pa Hoekstra had served more than a decade earlier.

The couple built a new home in Western Springs after renting for eighteen months in Cicero. A few year later they built another home in Western Springs on Lawn Avenue near 55th Street. They had two children--Dennis Peter, born September 23, 1953, and Don Irwin, born Feb. 3, 1956. Don, unfortunately, was born with severe mental deficiencies of unknown cause.

In 1966 Peter retired from Western Electric after 39 years, and the family moved to a newly built home on Martin Avenue in Cutlerville, Michigan, where they joined the Cutlerville East Christian Reformed Church. Drawn by her love of books, she became head church librarian, a post she has now held for more than twenty years. Her missionary heart also remains strong, and she corrects Bible study papers of prisoners through the Crossroads Bible Institute. For many years after retiring Pine Rest Christian Hospital, Win and Peter made yearly automobile trips out West.

Peter died at age 96 on January 2, 2001 after 49 years of marriage. Win continues to live in the Leisure East condominiums on south Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids and to enjoy her children and three grandchildren.

 

Josephine Hoekstra VandeBeek

Josephine May was born on New Year's Day of 1915 in Holland, Michigan, but within six months the family moved to the "silk city" of Paterson, where she spent her pre-school years near the mills. One day she wandered off near the mills and a VerMeulen girl from the church recognized her and brought her home. The family returned to Michigan in 1919, and a year later Jo began school at West Side Christian with her two older sisters. In Grand Rapids, she remembers playing on the front porch and sometimes looking through the front windows to see couples being married in the parlor by her father.

Jo had completed seven grades when the family was uprooted once again, to Cicero in 1927. Here she completed the eighth grade and graduated from Timothy Christian School. Next was the long trip by streetcar to CCHS in Englewood. She graduated in 1932 and went to work. The first job was at a candy company. Then she clerked at the WLS radio station in Chicago, until getting a desk job at the nearby Hot Point factory on Roosevelt Road in Cicero.

In 1940 Jo accompanied her folks and two younger siblings, Evelyn and Jim, to Hanford, where she met John VandeBeek at the Hanford CRC, where his family were long-time members. In August of 1941 Jo took a trip east with the Lawrence and Corrie Vaalberg family (friends from the Hanford church) to see old girl friends and visit sister Marie and her family. Donald was a baby and Alice was a toddler. They saw Yellowstone and the Great Salt Lake en route, and made a special point to stop in Minnesota where John VandeBeek was visiting.

After returning to Hanford, Jo married John VandeBeek on September 25, 1942, with Evelyn as bridesmaid and Everett VandeBeek as best man. He was John's younger brother and Jim Hoekstra's best friend. They had a morning wedding to allow time to catch the bus and train for a honeymoon in downtown Los Angeles. They stayed in a hotel near the famous Church of the Open Door. The nation was at war but John was classified as 4F, unfit to serve, because of a spot on the lungs. Their only child, Joyce Alyce, was born on Aug. 15, 1943, in the Hanford Sanitarium. Joyce is not married.

John VandeBeek was a successful businessman and retail storekeeper, who operated the Workingmen's Store in downtown Hanford, which featured the popular Levi jeans and other work and leisure clothing. Jo did the bookkeeping. John had learned the clothing business when he worked for the J.C. Penney Company during the war.

John organized and was active in the local Christian Business Men's Committee of Hanford, the Kiwanis club, the Gideons Bible ministry. He wrote articles for the religion page of the Hanford Sentinel and for ten years edited the Gideons state newspaper. In 1971 John was chosen as "man of the year" in Hanford; everyone knew him as a friend and active citizen. Jo was a member of the Gideons Auxiliary and traveled with John to Gideons conventions in the USA. She also played the organ for the English service at the Hanford CRC, sang in the church choir, and joined John in the community chorus.

The VandeBeek family loved to travel by car and by train, and John's retirement and the sale of the store in 1980 made this all the more possible. They visited all parts of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, plus Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zeeland. John by himself also toured the Middle East--Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. In the summer they often spent a week at the Mt. Hermon Christian Reformed Church Conference Grounds taking in the spiritual food of gifted Bible teachers and inspirational speakers. For many years John also taught the adult Sunday school class at church and headed the Sonshine Group for seniors, arranging many bus tours for them. One tour visited the Rehobeth (NM) mission station where Jo's sister Winifred had worked as a nurse for many years. John's slide shows of his travels often entertained the senior group.

For many years the VandeBeeks and Jo's folks, the Hoekstras, lived in houses on adjacent lots in the 2100 block of Pine Street that brother Jim had built. Subsequently, John, Jo, and Joyce moved into a new home with an in-ground swimming pool. Here they cared for Mother Hoekstra in her declining years, from 1986 until her death at age 107 in 1993. The last years, when Mother was confined to bed and needed 24-hour care and spoon feeding, Jo and sister Evelyn bore the brunt of the responsibility. They remembered that Grandma Clausing had been a blessing in their home when they were young, and they were determined to be a blessing to their mother for as long as necessary.

 

Andrew Hoekstra

Andrew was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Nov. 26, 1919, and attended West Side Christian School until the family moved to Cicero, where he resumed his education at Timothy Christian School and Chicago Christian High School, graduating in the class of 1937. Andrew was the fourth child in the Hoekstra family to graduate from CCHS. During one high school summer break, Andrew and a friend bicycled all the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit old school friends and relatives.

Andrew followed in his father's footsteps and attended the University of Chicago, also on a scholarship, graduating in 1941 with a B.S. degree in chemistry and physics. He then took graduate courses in physics at the University of Colorado before entering the medical school there. After graduation in 1945 he accepted a residency in psychiatry under the auspices of the U.S. Army and practiced in the military for eight years, first at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Chicago, and then at military hospitals in Louisville and Lexington, KY. He attained the rank of S.A. Surgeon, and was certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

At the University of Chicago he met Portia Kellog Rich and they were married in 1940 in the parsonage of the Rev. Frank Doezema of First Roseland CRC. Andrew's father had several months earlier moved to the CRC of Hanford, California, so he could not marry them. Witnesses at the private ceremony were the Rev. Doezema's married daughter Annette Boomker, who lived two doors away, and sister Marie, who traveled by streetcar from Cicero. Curiously, sixteen years later Annette's daughter Joan married Marie's son Robert, and the women became mothers-in-law!

After completing his military obligations, Andrew practiced psychiatric medicine in Grand Rapids from 1951 to 1972. He first joined the staff of the Pine Rest Christian Hospital in Cutlerville from 1951 to 1952, and then entered private practice in clinics in Grand Rapids, Ionia, and Stanton. During these years he taught Abnormal Psychology and Mental Hygiene at Calvin College from 1952 to 1954 and later, after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, at Aquinas College. He had previously taught in Louisville and later would teach in Springfield, Illinois, after moving there to accept the position of Superintendent of the Jacksonville State Hospital and later as Staff Psychiatrist in Springfield.

Andrew had two publications: "The Varieties of Health" and "Concerning Science and Society" and he was working on another at the time of his death. For recreation Andrew played the violin in his youth, and in later years he mastered the art of sculpting and even taught a class in the craft at Springfield, Illinois.

Andrew and Portia were blessed with a house full of children, eight in all. Three were born while he was in military service and five in Grand Rapids. In order, they were Peter Lloyd, born June 24, 1945, who died young on April 1, 1982, leaving wife Barb and three children; Anna Maria, born Sept. 24, 1948; James Andrew, born in 1950 and died in infancy; Margaret Alida (Margo), born July 22, 1952; Elizabeth Adrianna (Adrianna), born July 26, 1954; Andrea Lucy, born Jan. 19, 1956; Mary Joanne (Mary Jo), born July 24, 1958; Catherine Francis, born Mar. 1, 1960; and John Thomas, born Dec. 19, 1961. At the time of Andrew's death on Oct. 14, 1993, he and Portia had eight grandchildren. Portia has since had two more, plus a great grandson born in September 1999.

Evelyn Hoekstra HetJonk

Evelyn was born in Grand Rapids on Sept. 11, 1923, and spent her pre-school years there. Grandma Clausing took her for walks around the block on Alpine Avenue and she recalls trips to John Ball Park and a family vacation at Gun Lake. Her education began in Chicago, but was interrupted briefly in the first grade by the dread scarlet fever. The county health nurse red-tagged the door of her bedroom and she was quarantined alone in the room during the entire holiday period, from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Years Day. Her mother could only enter the room for necessities and she had to wash her hands with Lysol coming and going. "I can still smell it," Evelyn recalls after seventy years. When other children in the Hoekstra family subsequently came down with the disease in varying degrees, Evelyn was confined alone again over the Easter holiday, living in the upstairs area of the parsonage next to her father's study. She could attend school but had to knock on the door at the bottom of the stairs to warn the others and then leave immediately though the basement entrance.

Evelyn and her oldest sister Marie shared a bedroom and dresser until Marie married. Each had one large drawer and one small one. Evelyn still owns the dresser. As youngsters, she and Andy had great fun crawling through the small space that separated the front and back attics. During her high school years, Evelyn played a lot of tennis in the public courts across the street from the parsonage in Cicero. On school holidays, she rode the Twelfth Street streetcars to the Field Museum of Natural History for a fare of 3 cents. On warm summer days a streetcar trip to the Twelfth Street beach at Lake Michigan was a treat. She also visited the 1933 Chicago World's Fair several times and vacationed with the family at Billy Sunday's Winona Lake Conference grounds.

Evelyn graduated from Timothy Christian Grade School in 1936 and Chicago Christian High School in 1940. That summer she went with her family to Hanford, where she found a job as cashier and office manager at the J.J. Newberry Company, a department store. Here she met the dashingly handsome Simon HetJonk, Jr., a member of her father's Hanford CRC. Simon was born in 1921 and thus two years her senior. They met at a band concert in the city park and began dating. But Evelyn missed her friends in Chicago, where she had spent her teenage years, and decided to return, at least for a time. In 1942 she went to board with John and Marie for six months. In Chicago she worked full time for an agency in the Insurance Exchange building on Jackson Boulevard downtown, and was a live-in helper with the four children, including baby Donald. Marie's numerous pregnancies had caused kidney problems and she was frequently bedridden with infections. Thus, Evelyn briefly relieved John's sister Etta, who lived nearby and bore the brunt of helping Marie.

Back in Hanford she continued dating Simon and, until her marriage, worked as the joint secretary for the superintendent of the Hanford Elementary schools and the principal of the Woodrow Wilson Junior High school.

Simon and Evelyn were married on March 16, 1945 in the Hanford parsonage. Her father conducted the ceremony with family members in attendance. The couple settled on the Kingston Ranch that Simon inherited from his father. It was a few miles northwest of Hanford in Kingston along the Kings River. The family farmed until they sold the place in 1998 and moved into a new home in Hanford. Simon grew cotton, grapes, orchard fruits, barley, wheat, and corn, and for a time raised cows. Evelyn did the housework and helped on occasion during crucial times, such as stacking raisins before a storm, driving the tractor with a baby on her lap pulling the trailer with smudge pots before a frost, and hauling raisins in the narrow vineyard rows.

Evelyn worked for many years after their children were in school as an administrative assistant to the superintendent of the Kings River-Hardwick school district.

Their five children are Sheryl Lynn, born June 18, 1948, who died suddenly during the night on Maundy Thursday, April, 3, 1980, leaving husband Paul Charlton and three children; David John, born Dec. 11, 1950; Pamela Ann, born Mar. 7, 1952; Andrew James, born Dec. 11, 1957; and Richard William (Ricky), born Feb. 21, 1960, who died at age 1 1/2 on Aug. 10, 1961. In 1995 Simon and Evelyn celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Hanford with all their children and eleven grandchildren. This was a rare treat, because the families are scattered. Today, four grandchildren live in the Grand Rapids area, three are in the Los Angeles area, three in Las Vegas, and one near Seattle. Much of their travel now involves happy visits with the grandchildren.

The HetJonk family have been members of the First Presbyterian Church of Hanford for more than fifty years. Both were ordained as church deacons and Evelyn chaired the deacons' board for several years. Simon was also ordained as a church elder and he served as Sunday School teacher and superintendent. Evelyn faithfully taught adult and children's Sunday School classes over the years.

Music has been a very important part of their lives. As young people, both sang in their church choirs, Evelyn as a contralto and Simon as a tenor, and Evelyn played the organ "loud and very often" in the Christian Reformed churches in Cicero and Hanford. In the Hanford Presbyterian Church they are fifty-year veterans of the choir. Evelyn also sang with the "Golden Trio" of Hanford and soloed at most of the churches and at hundreds of funeral services, masses, rosaries, and weddings in the region. She has sung contralto solos in regular performances of The Messiah by the Community Choral Society and the Kings Symphony Orchestra of Hanford. Simon sang for many years in the barbershop choirs of the Fresno and Hanford chapters of SPEBSQSA. Evelyn was a member of the Women's Auxiliary and traveled with Simon to many out-of-town barbershop conventions. Recently both enjoy singing in the Young at Heart Singers, a community chorus in Hanford for seniors.

For recreation, the HetJonks enjoyed folk dancing, musical concerts, and traveling. They went to the San Francisco and Vancouver World's fairs, to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, and made frequent trips to Pismo Beach on the Pacific Ocean, and occasionally to Tijuana, Mexico. Every few years, they traveled east by car to visit family in Chicago and Michigan, and to see the sights around Lake Michigan, Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. They also visited the national parks of the West, especially Sequoia, King's Canyon, and Yosemite in California, and parks in Utah, Colorado, Washington, and Canada.

Both were active in the community. Evelyn served on the Kings County grand jury and learned much about the functioning of local government. She attended school board meetings regularly. Simon was on the board of the Salvation Army and for thirteen years was a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture County Board, which administered the rules and regulations at the local level that were handed down from Washington. Simon became vice-chair and then chair of the board. In this capacity, he and Evelyn enjoyed attending the regional USDA conventions in Santa Barbara and Lake Tahoe. Simon also served on the Federal Appeals Board hearing cases for Central California. Both were also involved with the King's Outreach, a Christian organization to help troubled boys.

 

James Peter Hoekstra

James P. Hoekstra was born November 20, 1926 in Grand Rapids. He spent his early childhood in Cicero and his high school years in Hanford, California. Sister Jo recalls that the milkman in Cicero took a liking to Jim and let him ride on the milk truck. Jim attended Timothy Christian Grade School in Cicero for the full eight years and at age thirteen was just about to graduate when his parents moved to California in June of 1940, which caused him to miss out on the graduation ceremonies. The family traveled in a new 1940 Nash, dark blue in color that featured snap-in screens for all windows and a back seat that reclined into a bed.

James spent his teenage years in Hanford, fully involved in the activities of Hanford High School from 1940 to 1944. There he expressed an interest in photography and was assigned to shoot the yearbook pictures. His love for photography became a life-long passion and he took thousands of picture, slides, and videos of family, friends, and church. At age 15, he learned to drive on the western outskirts of town among the jack rabbits and scrub grass in an old pickup truck. "I couldn't hurt anything out there," he quipped. While standing up in the back of the slowly moving pickup, he and his buddies often shot rabbits transfixed by the headlights. In 1945, just out of high school, Jim bought his first car for $75 from his employer, a farmer and fellow church member, Henry De Ruiter. He had to work all summer to pay for this prize, a black 1935 Chevy coupe with rumble seat and side-mounted spare tire. The first thing he recalls doing after buying the car was piling in thirteen buddies to go out and steal watermelons.

Putting such un-Christian pranks behind him, Jim made profession of faith in the Hanford Christian Reformed Church, in a consistory meeting chaired by his father, the church pastor. Later, he served as deacon and elder several times in the consistory of this church, including the position of clerk.

 

James Does Calvin and Finds Jane Vander Velde

In the summer of 1946, Jim decided to go east to attend the denominational college in Grand Rapids, Calvin College. While waiting for classes to begin, he boarded at the home of sister Marie and brother-in-law John Swierenga in Cicero, staying in their finished attic bedroom. Just before leaving for college and an expected four-year stint, Jim met Jane Vander Velde of Englewood on the Labor Day weekend. Jane was born in Chicago on October 30, 1928, a daughter of George and Grace (Muller) Vander Velde. The couple "hit it off" from the start and began an almost daily letter exchange. Jim returned to Chicago periodically on weekends and during school holidays to see Jane, as the relationship became more serious. He could not afford a car at college, so he took the Pere Marquette train or hitchhiked. Chicago streetcars sufficed between Cicero and Englewood--a 1 hour ride each way, but on rare occasions, John let him borrow the family's 1940 Buick sedan. Sometimes, Jane's father even let him use the family's 1937 Hudson Terraplane sedan for a date. This long distance dating was most inconvenient!

In Grand Rapids, Jim boarded with relatives, John and Ethel Hoekstra, on Alexander Street, which was only a few blocks southwest of the Franklin Street campus. Jim recalls his freshman year was a "disaster," but in retrospect his grades were entirely respectable except for one course, trigonometry. This was a required course for his intended pre-med program, and so at the semester break he switched to a general course. At the end of the school year, he decided to drop out of college. His grades were mediocre (could his mind have been on a certain woman in Englewood?), he ran out of money despite working two part-time jobs, and worst of all, he got lost in the crush of World War II veterans who inundated Calvin on the GI Bill in 1946.

Jim is convinced that the overworked Calvin professors deliberately sought to get enrollment under control by weeding out the GIs ruthlessly. In a letter to Jane of October 17, 1946, he wrote: "I heard a rumor the other day that Calvin was giving such hard studies & ex [exams] to Vets because they want them to become disgusted and quit so they'll have more elbow room. Could that be true?" Jim's next letter a week later expanded on the theme:

I'm getting sooooo much homework that I can't see straight--that is for the past month or so & especially the past couple weeks. This is no fun!! I've been getting an average of two or three 'Blue Books' per week lately & those 'Blue Books' are very important toward the final grade. You've probably heard a lot about this before from me but here goes again. These buzzards aren't satisfied with giving plenty of homework but they go & give enough to work a person all day & nite--plus--!! I'll tell you more about this whole deal around Thanksgiving when I throw down the ole books for a breather--but they'll slap on triple work for vacation!! I've gotten to the point where nothing bothers me anymore--if I get an F in a 'Blue Book' it don't phase me anymore than if I get an A of which I have yet one to get.

They really are pouring on the work (as I have mentioned before) and everyone is walking around with along face yapping about the situation.

The rumor you heard in Chicago is exactly like those going around here!! And if it isn't true. I don't know what else these Profs got up their sleeves! I talk to lots of kids who have gone here before & invariably they'll say there's a complete change at Calvin--they say they never had to work half as hard--that they used to do the work & get B averages while going out at nites. Now they say they get low grades & can't even go out. It is a sad outfit. Everyone feels the same way, practically. An average student doesn't stand a chance. One has to a born 'brain.' That ain't I either!!!! sob! sob!

Jim was caught in a revolving door, even though he had wiped out his savings to pay full tuition, room and board, books, and all the rest. Needless to say, he never had much love for Calvin College, although denominational loyalty runs deep. In the 1970s they sent daughter Kathleen (Kathy) to Calvin (class of 1975), but son James L. chose to attend Fresno State University (class of 1972).

At the end of the 1946-47 academic year, Jim returned home to California to work and build up his depleted bank account so he could return to Chicago to be near Jane. In Chicago, he enrolled briefly in the McCormack School of Commerce and then took a job at Kumfy Undies & Woolies, which was located in the Brooks Building at 223 West Jackson Boulevard in the Chicago "Loop." This was the one of the accounts of Excel Motor Service, his brother-in-law John Swierenga's trucking company, which had its office in the same building. Jim recalled in 1994: "I was shipping clerk and then was made a missionary salesman in virgin territory with my little suitcase of samples traveling via foot & streetcar. I spent more on carfare than I made in commissions!!"

 

Working in Chicago and Courting Jane

After some months, Jim decided to cut his commute to Englewood to date Jane Vander Velde. He quit his job with Kumfy Undies & Woolies and boarded with an old German widow, Mrs. Bargefeld, who lived about two blocks from the Vander Velde home at 7134 S. Sangamon Street. Jim found a job at an Ace Hardware store at 63rd and Halsted streets. Soon he rented a room with the Aardema family, which was directly across the street from the Vander Veldes (could he get any closer without marrying her?), and Aardema's son found him a job at Armour & Company at the Chicago stockyards as a timekeeper and paymaster. He commuted from Englewood on the old red streetcars that ran on State Street. After his marriage in 1949, Jim became an apprentice bricklayer for several years. All these jobs prepared him for later owning a lumber and hardware store and running a home construction business in Laton, California.

Jim and Jane married on September 13, 1949, "exactly to the day, three years after my first letter to her," Jim recalled fifty years later. They had only $60 in wedding presents to pay for the honeymoon at the Wisconsin Dells. The Vander Velde's graciously let them borrow the family car, the Hudson Terraplane. There were no hotels at the Dells then, so they stayed in a tourist home for a few days until the money ran out. Then they went to relatives in Friesland, Wisconsin, to finish out the week.

Back in Englewood, they lived above Jane's folks and both went back to work. Jim soon left Armour to learn the bricklaying trade, working for a Hollander, Richard Vander Muil, in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn. To get to work he bought a 1939 Ford sedan for $90 cash, which featured a continental spare tire mounted on the sloped back trunk lid. When the old Ford gave up the ghost, he found an old Chevy sedan with a trunk mounted on the back. After the couple decided to move to Hanford, California, Jim asked John Swierenga to sell the Chevy, which he did for $85.

The move to Hanford came after the birth of James Jr. on September 20, 1951, and was prompted by the decision of Jane's parents to resettle in Waupun, Wisconsin. With her family gone, it made sense to return to Hanford, where Jim grew up and the weather was sunny and warm. No more laying bricks with ice-cold hands and long layoffs in the winter months. Mayflower Van & Storage Co. trucked their meager possessions to California's San Joaquin valley, while the three of them took the plane from Midway Airport to Fresno.

 

Jim and Jane in Hanford

In Hanford, Jim got a job in the hardware department of the newly built Central Lumber Company store, and he found an apartment in the same four-flat on Douty Street where his best friend, Everett VandeBeek and sister Grace, lived. By going into hardware, Jim continued a career he had begun while in high school, when he clerked at Hanford Hardware. After a year, Central Lumber assigned him to their Lemoore branch, where he learned the lumber business and continued for six years, until 1957. Then he began carpentry finish work for Bill Lowe, a contractor he met at Central Lumber. This was ideal, since Jim loved to work with his hands.

In early 1953, the Hoekstras purchased their first home for $7200, at 426 W. Florinda Street, where they lived for six years (1952-58). Kathleen Grace was born on January 22, 1953 and spent her pre-school years in this home. The next three homes were all in nearby Laton and constructed by Jim. The family lived in each for a few years until the next one was finished. The first was located at 6777 DeWoody Street (1960-64), the second at 20768 S. Pueblo Street (1964-67), and the third at 6700 Murphy Street, which backed up Murphy Slough, an irrigation canal that was excellent for "tubing" in the swift current. Jim also built four homes in Hanford on adjoining lots on Pine Street that brother-in-law John Swierenga had bought as an investment. Dad and Mother Hoekstra bought one and sister Josephine and husband John VandeBeek, Everett's brother, bought one next door.

In 1975, Jim and Jane and children moved back to Hanford for good. They bought homes at 265 Magnolia Street (1975-79) and then 1609 Redington Street (1979-81), and later he built their condo at 871 Greenfield Street (1981-84). In 1984, Jim built a luxurious duplex at 128 High Street, that was uniquely designed to accommodate both he and Jane and Jane's brother Harold Vander Velde and wife Jo. Harold was suffering from kidney failure at the time, and Jim and Jane could help him and Jo cope, while he slowly lost his battle with the disease.

Jim and Jane were active in the Hanford CRC. He was in the consistory, assigned to the building committee and as clerk; both sang in the choir, besides a community chorus and a mixed quartette with Harold and Jo. Jim relished barbershop harmonies and he and Harold sang in a quartette with Arie Waanders and Dick Ravenhorst, all church friends. They bowled in a church league and Jim was a charter member of the Laton Lions Club. In politics, Jim and Jane considered themselves conservative Republicans. For a hobby, Jim always enjoyed model trains. Already in Englewood he built an HO gauge train layout. Much later, in the 1990s, he moved up to the very large "G" gauge trains.

For vacations Jim and Jane went to Santa Cruz every Labor Day holiday for fifteen years in a row. Other favored ocean haunts were Pismo Beach and Morro Bay. Together with Harold and Jo, they bought a travel trailer and parked it at Morro Bay as a get-away haven. Trips to the Midwest to visit family were scheduled regularly. They drove to Illinois and Michigan about 25 times over the years, plus 10 train trips and several plane flights. The first new car was a 1958 Volkswagen Beetle bought for $1500 with money Jim borrowed from Dad Hoekstra. Over the years, they also owned an Oldsmobile Toronado and five Fords, plus many used cars, including a 1962 Lincoln Continental.

Jim's business career continued. In 1958, he bought Laton Lumber, a small hardware and building supply yard in Laton, with partner Tom Van Groningen, another friend from the Hanford CRC and a high school teacher in Laton. They incorporated and Jim borrowed his $12,000 share from brother John Swierenga at 5 percent interest. Three years later, in 1961, he was able to buy out Van Groningen's share. Annual gross sales were under $100,000 and the business did not thrive, as he hoped. The land for the store was leased from the Santa Fe Railroad for only $25 per year, because the railroad owned a spur on the site and expected Laton Lumber to buy many carloads of lumber. But in fourteen years, Jim's company only needed four carloads, so Santa Fe in 1972 raised the rent and threatened to do so again. This prompted Jim to buy the adjacent Tamarack Inn property as a possible alternative site.

While Jim ran Laton Lumber, he also became a building contractor. This fortunately "grandfathered" his license when the state stiffened its requirements. His carpenters were two Dutch immigrants in Canada, whose families he sponsored--the Schraa and Van Heeringen families. The men built homes for Jim on a four-acre plot Jim and Tom had platted in Laton's Oakview subdivision. Jane's folks and her brother Harold and wife bought Oakview homes, as did several other families from the Hanford CRC.

In 1972, Jim sold Laton Lumber to Central Lumber of Hanford, which firm inherited the problems with the unhappy railroad landlord and closed the business within a year. Jim now used the Tamarack building as the office of his Tamarack Construction Company, doing remodeling work and making calf pens by the thousands for the burgeoning dairy farms in the area. In 1974, Jim took a job with Turner Feed Mill of Hanford with the mandate to develop a hardware store and lumber yard on Eleventh Street. He ran this venture for four years until 1978, when Turner laid him off.

Jim again went into remodeling under the business name of "The House Doctor," and he never looked back. The next year he took on a partner, Toby Junell, and changed the name to Hoekstra-Junell Construction Company. Large dairymen from the Hanford CRC, especially the John Zonneveld Dairy, hired his firm to build homes for their milkers' families on farm property. Hoekstra Construction put up 25-30 homes worth several millions of dollars, plus a mansion for Zonneveld himself, including an indoor swimming pool. Around 1984 Jim took on new partners, a draftsman and a business manager, and formed Hoekstra and Associates, with himself as general contractor. The firm continued in new home construction, mainly for dairymen, but now using hired help. Jim was "a clean shirt builder" until his retirement in 1989.

Jane Hoekstra was a homemaker and housewife until Kathy finished school. She kept the books for Jim and occasionally helped out in the lumber yard. In 1976, Jane took a full-time position as receptionist for Dr. James E. Dean of Hanford until 1986, when surgery for breast cancer forced her to retire. She learned about the cancer in a providential way, when all the women who were working for Dr. Dean, including nurses, decided to have mammograms. This turned up Jane's early stage tumor in a lymph gland, which was cured by radiation and chemotherapy.

Jim and Jane decided in 1990 to leave their "Shangri la" in sunny California and move to wintery Holland, Michigan, because both of their married children and five grandchildren resided in west Michigan. They sold their duplex (they had bought Jo Vander Velde's half in 1989), and bought a home in Holland--their sixteenth home! It was a two-bedroom condominium at 821 Harvest Drive, where they lived much longer than any previous residence. They moved their furniture into the new home in 1991, but continued to spend more time in Hanford than Holland, because of the needs of Mother Hoekstra and especially Mother Vander Velde. Mother Hoekstra died in 1993 and Mother Vander Velde early in 1995. Only then did Jim and Jane finally became bona fide Michigan "residents," but California still beckoned them for several winters.

Before a rare form of Parkinson's disease slowed Jim down after 1997, he continued to dabble in construction work. He put his carpentry skills to work and converted the unfinished basement of their home into a recreation room and third bedroom. He supervised the building of the Holland branch of Bethany Christian Services, a counseling center, and handled the project of finishing the lower lever of the new home in Holland that nephew Robert P. Swierenga and wife Joan were having built. Also, Jim with the help of his grandson and namesake, Jim Hoekstra, built a suspended track system to run his "G" gauge trains on a shelf high off the floor in the finished basement. This was a capstone to a life-long interest in model trains and railroad paraphernalia. Jim and Jane joined the Pillar Christian Reformed Church, where their son James and family are members, and thus they continued within the familiar denominational fellowship of their birth.

Because of the degenerative nature of the neurological disease--PSP and CBO, Jim gradually lost the use of his arms and legs and was mostly confined to his home, although he traveled by car each year to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for treatment. The doctors took a research interest in his rare disease as a case study. Eventually, in mid 2006, Jim was admitted to the Haven Park Nursing Home in Zeeland, Michigan, where Jane faithfully attended to his needs and fed him the evening meal each day. In the last year or so, Jim was under Hospice Care. He could communicate somewhat by gestures and sounds, but could not speak. This limitation must have frustrated him greatly, given his active mind. He also had difficulty eating, although he retained a good appetite. His strong heart finally gave out, and on Saturday morning October 25, 2008, a month shy of his 82nd birthday, he passed away peacefully and his soul went to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Family and friends gathered for a memorial service for Jim at Pillar CRC on Saturday, November 8, 2008. His place of interment is the Vander Velde family plot at Oak Grove Cemetery in Laton, California. Jane continues to live on Harvest Drive in Holland.

 


Sources

 

Interviews and notes from Evelyn HetJonk, James and Jane Hoekstra, John R. and Marie Swierenga, Tom Hoekstra, Winifred Dykstra, and Josephine VandeBeek.

 

Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, 75th Anniversary Book, 1881-1956 (Grand Rapids, 1956), p. 38.

 

Buikema, Karen, "History of the Hoekstra Family," typescript, Dec. 8, 1971.

 

Chicago City Directories, 1880-1920.

 

"Chicago," Origins I (Number 2 1983), 10-14.

 

Cook County Death Records, Courthouse, Chicago.

 

De Jonge, Rev. John, "History of Moline Christian Reformed Church," in Christian Reformed Church Jaarboekje, 1914. Translated from the Dutch by Huug Vanden Dool.

 

Dykstra, Elaine, "Hoekstra Family Tree," Oct. 19, 1999.

 

First Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, 1867-1942, Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Booklet (Chicago, 1942).

 

First Christian Reformed Church, Paterson, New Jersey, Seventy-fifth Anniversary, 1856-May, 1931, p. 28.

Forest Home Cemetery Company of Chicago, Grave Lot Records and "Forest Home Facts" mimeo.

Genealogy of the Clausing-Kiel Family, typescript by Marie Swierenga.

Gertrude Hoeksema, Therefore Have I Spoken: A Biography of Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1969).

 

Hoekstra, Winifred R., "History of Winifred Ruth Hoekstra Dykstra," typescript, August 1989.

 

Hoekstra, Winifred R., "History of Peter Dykstra," typescript, March 1999.

 

"Holland's Fourteenth St. Church Ten Years Old. "Ebenezer," The Banner, July 25, 1912.

 

Jan Swierenga Genealogy, compiled by Robert P. Swierenga and Judy Hoffman.

 

"The Life of Rev. P. A. Hoekstra," typescript, ca. late 1930s.

 

Mayer, Harold M. and Wade, Richard C., Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis (Chicago, 1969).

 

"Netherlanders in the Chicago Area," Origins, I (Number 1 1983).

 

Netherlands Emigration Records, The Hague.

 

Ninetieth Anniversary Historical Booklet and Directory, The First Reformed Church of Roseland, 1849-1939 (Roseland, 1939)

 

Pullman Collection, South Suburban Genealogical & Historical Society, Harvey, Illinois.

"The Story of Alice J. Clausing Hoekstra," typescript, ca. 1975, as dictated to Evelyn HetJonk.

Swierenga, John R., business and financial records, 1939-1970

 

Swierenga, Robert P., "Robert (Bouwko) Swierenga Family History," typescript, Jan. 1997

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Fourteenth Street Chr. Ref. Church, Holland, Michigan, June 25, 1902-1927.

 

U. S. Population Census manuscripts, Chicago, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910.

 

U. S. Ship Passenger Manifests, 1893, National Archives.

 

Vanden Bosch, Amry, The Dutch Communities of Chicago (Chicago, 1927).

 

Warren Park Christian Reformed Church, Golden Anniversary, 1899-1949 (Chicago, 1949).


 

NOTES



[1]. Blocker (1881-1967) was born in Amsterdam, earned the BA degree from Rutgers University in 1905, the BD degree from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in 1908, and the Doctor of Divinity degree from Central University in 1934. He was professor of theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI from 1936 to 1952.

[2]. Ninetieth Anniversary Historical Booklet and Directory, The First Reformed Church of Roseland, 1849-1939 (Roseland, 1939), p. 10, states that a "minority group of members claiming to hold different opinions concerning matters of doctrine and discipline, and finding it impossible to bring themselves into agreement with the majority, seceded...."

[3]. John De Jonge, "History of Moline Christian Reformed Church, in Christian Reformed Church Jaarboekje, 1914, translated from the Dutch by Huug Vanden Dool.

[4]. "Church News: Grand Rapids Notes," The Banner, 14 May 1914.