March 1, 1936 – November 24, 2021
Jan (John) Veerman was born in Bodegraven, Netherlands on March 1, 1936 to Leendert and Johanna Veerman. He was the oldest of four children, preceding his sister Liesbeth (1939) and brothers Teo (1948) and Leon (1950).
Although he moved to Canada in 1956 and learned to speak near-perfect English, if you visited John’s home or took a peek inside his cupboards, you would never doubt his heritage. The son of a cheese warehouser and salesman, John was a connoisseur of Dutch gouda and was known to enjoy a daily boterham (slice of bread with butter) topped with a thick slice of quality Dutch kaas from his friends at the Coombs Wooden Shoe.
John’s first memory, as a four year old child, was standing in his backyard on Koningsstraat, watching the shadows of military planes heading into battle. He always had a sharp memory for details, dates, names and places and was a captivating storyteller. He shared a few memories of growing up during the Second World War, but one that he cherished was the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian Forces. He vividly remembered being 9 years old, dancing in the streets with his teenage neighbour. That connection to Canada was incredibly meaningful to him.
In 1956, with just a few dollars and a cross-country train ticket in his pocket, John travelled across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Groot Beer, landing at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia two weeks later. He then took the six-day train trip to Vancouver in search of his cousin Teije de Vries and childhood friend Jan Dijs, both of whom had arrived in Canada the year before. John could recount his early days in Canada with picture perfect detail; from selling bread door-to-door in Vancouver to travelling to the Yukon Territory with Teije in search of the Wild West they had experienced in films. John loved telling hilarious stories of working on the Alaska Highway, operating heavy machinery he wasn’t qualified to drive, then playing jazz and rag-time numbers on the saloon piano until all hours of the night, only to wake up at 8am to play the organ at church the next morning.
John first arrived in the Gold River area in February 1959 to work as a log scaler, measuring the volume and quality of the trees. That was the beginning of his long history in forestry. In 1963, he became the first timekeeper and camp accountant for the Sandpoint log sorting and booming ground. A few years later, he was transferred to the Tahsis Company’s head office in Vancouver, just when the town of Gold River and the pulp mill were being built. In 1972, he became the Assistant Controller of Forestry and Logging for the Tahsis Company, a position he held until his transfer back to Gold River in 1984.
In 1979, John returned home to the Netherlands and met Angelique Witkamp. The next year, Angelique moved from Bussum to North Vancouver and together they went on adventures in Canada and the United States before getting married in 1981. Later that year, they welcomed their first child, Kathleen. Dirk followed two years later and then Nicole in 1986.
The family moved to Gold River in 1984 and John continued his career with the Tahsis Company. In 1987, six months after having open heart surgery, John went to work for Bob Warwick at the pulp mill. He described Bob, who became his good friend, as the best boss he ever had. John remained with the mill until it closed, completing his final day of work on a Friday, only to return to work as an accountant at the logging division on the following Monday. He stayed with Western Forest Products until 2003, when he retired at the age of 67. In honour of his contributions to the area, a forestry road near McCurdy Creek was named the Veerman Mainline.
John had a great appreciation for beautiful things, from nature to wildlife, to art and music. He was a talented piano player and was able to sit down and play jazz and classical compositions from memory. He was a loving and supportive father and enjoyed taking his children into the woods, sharing stories of the old days and his knowledge of the area and the flora and fauna that thrives on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He never forgot a birthday or an anniversary and was often the first person to call and wish you the best. He was a Scout leader, the organist at the St. Peter and St. Paul Church, and in recent years a proud member of the Revellers Club, where he kept up his exceptional mental math skills playing endless rounds of crib. John had a quick wit and a great laugh, which he loved to share with his Saturday morning coffee crew at Sea and Field.
John was surrounded by his three children when he passed away on November 24 in the North Island Hospital in Campbell River. He is survived by his daughters Kathleen (Mike Rocheleau) and Nicole (Ian Vaydik) and his son Dirk; grandchildren Isaiah, Eligh, Evander, Nova-Marie and Iker; siblings Liesbeth (Pim), Teo (Jadwiga) and Leon (Mieke); as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews, and a group of close friends in Gold River.
Our family is grateful to the staff of the Gold River Health Clinic, who provided John with exceptional care over the years, and to his neighbours and friends who were always there to help when he needed a hand. John loved his home in Gold River and made it abundantly clear that he didn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. With the incredible support of his friends, neighbours and healthcare providers, John was able to live on his terms until the end. We cannot thank the community of Gold River enough for giving him that gift.
Although John loved to joke that Dutchmen are known for having short arms and deep pockets—and although he certainly loved a good deal—he didn’t live up to that stereotype when it came to charitable giving. He was generous and thoughtful when choosing charities to support. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you donate to your favourite charity in his nameObituary
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