September 21, 1927 – November 27, 2021
Annigje Burggraaf was born September 21, 1927 in Veur, the Netherlands, the oldest child of Cornelis Burggraaf and Maartina de Jong, followed by her sister Adriaantje and brother Arie.
In 1935 the family moved to Bodegraven, where her father was a secondary school teacher. Her teenage years were marked by the German occupation and the hardships suffered by the Dutch people, especially in the severe war winter of 1944 before the liberation.
Anneke’s father opposed the Nazi occupation as a commander of a Knokploeg, a resistance cell. The Burggraaf home was raided by the Gestapo, but Cornelis managed to escape. The family was taken away to prison. Anneke suffered beatings and mistreatment as the Nazi jailers sought information about her father.
Anneke eventually was released and the entire family survived the war.
With delay due to the war years Anneke did finish her high school and received her Lyceum diploma followed by graduation as a nurse studying at the Prinsengracht hospital in Amsterdam. From 1956 – 1958 Anneke traveled by air three times to Indonesia returning by boat through the Suez Canal back to Rotterdam to take care of Dutch citizens being repatriated after Indonesia’s independence.
Before deciding that Canada was to be her new home country, she worked in different hospitals in London. She left in 1960. Anneke started her new life in Elliott Lake in Northern Ontario. Working in the local hospital, she met another nurse from the Netherlands, Riet Van Kerkoerle.
Anneke was helping care for Riet who was hospitalized with neck injuries when she met Riet’s handsome brother Peter, who had earlier immigrated to Canada. On March 27, 1965 they married. Peter became her soulmate for 54 years.
They moved to Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, where Peter worked in the forest industry. After they bought their forty acre forest near Cassidy, they rented a log cabin at Boat Harbor.
From there they worked hand-in-hand and back-to-back to clear their land, to architect and build their cedar home, and design their beautiful gardens of flowers, vegetables and fruit trees with a beaver dam and ponds. They developed five acres for growing asparagus where their Arboretum was later located.
The asparagus crop was sold at local markets, Inns, and the Crow and Gate Pub. Their rustic chalet was destroyed by fire in 2009 but Anneke provided from memory the original dimensions to rebuild.
Anneke and Peter frequently traveled to Central America, returning with a passion for its indigenous people and history, and sometimes bringing special orchid species to share with friends in the Vancouver Island Orchid Society.
Anneke and Peter were avid members of the Nanaimo Field Naturalists and regular contributors to the newsletter. As well they were keen “birders”. Anneke would talk to the elk, deer, cougars, beavers and black bears that enjoyed the protection of the “Parnassian woods”. As true naturalists and environmentalists Anneke and Peter sought to protect their treasured home and land.
They entered into an estate agreement with the Nanaimo Area Land Trust (NALT), which now manages the property and maintains a native tree and plant nursery. Anneke was an original member of the Cedar Tai Chi Club and continued exercising with the “Danyu” challenge. Anneke was a strong-willed and passionate person with a critical mind and warm heart.
Anneke and Peter enjoyed what they built together over many years. Generosity and hospitality were the VanKerkoerle trademarks. In their final years, in their nineties, they received the necessary extra care at the Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo where Peter died in 2019.
As Anneke preplanned, cremation has occurred. A celebration of life for both Peter and Anneke will be scheduled when possible at the Parnassian Woods, their legacy entrusted to NALT.
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