March 18, 2017
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In Southampton, Bill Verkerke is a legend and, thankfully, we had the chance to talk with him many times and learn about how a man from Holland came to be ... a legend in Canada.
For more than 15 years, he went door to door canvassing for the cause that he believed in, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and was, in fact, one of the highest single fundraisers ever in the province of Ontario.
After suffering a stroke himself and having to move to Southampton Care Centre, it didn't stop his fundraising effort.
Bill Verkerke (February, 2015)
Every February, he would 'set up shop' for fundraising at the front door of the Care Centre to continue on with his passion and, this year, his 18th fundraising year, he was there once again for what would be his last.
While being recognized by the Heart and Stroke Foundation as one their 'best-ever' fundraisers, Verkerke was also recognized in 2011 by Rotary International with the Paul Harris Fellowship Award. In addition, in 2015, he was the recipient of the Jarlette Health Services 'Making a Difference' award.
Born in the Netherlands in 1929, Bill Verkerke was one of eight children of Willem and Jannette Verkerke. His father was a produce farmer and Bill recalled working along side his siblings as they would weed their own staked-off rows in the fields.
Growing up in the Dutch depression, the German occupation and then the devastating North Sea Flood, the virtues of diligence, generosity and community were firmly rooted with Bill at a young age.
After the Flood, with determination and $27 dollars in his pocket Bill immigrated to Canada in 1953. He was supposed to travel to Saskatchewan but he spotted a map and thought that Ontario “looked so much nicer, more fertile” and he settled in Galt with his younger brother who had made the journey before him.
He headed to the employment office and landed a job with Galt casting. He stretched his 45 cents an hour and took a night course to learn English. He worked diligently for years. He drove truck for Canada Packers and then at a factory, Sturdamens-Westinghouse.
All the while, he found time to plant and tend to a garden and shared his produce among his co-workers. Bill was homesick for Holland however and was considering a return to the Netherlands until he met Glennys Beechey, a fellow employee that caught his eye and who had a knack for baking pies and preserves.
Their love bloomed and the couple married in 1967. Bill’s family grew as he embraced Glennys' three children as his own; Brenda, Rob and Joe. They lived in Cambridge and Bill worked in maintenance at Babcock-Wilcox.
In 1978, they purchased a cottage in Southampton where they enjoyed summers together with kids and grand-kids. Bill delayed his retirement until 1992 and then filled his days watching sunsets and thunderstorms with Glennys and playing with grandchildren. He always had some riddles or funny jokes.
They gardened (for themselves and a few elderly neighbours), curled up when the weather was cold and played cards, travelled to Holland and, Bill with Rob, built a few houses too!
Bill was very devoted to Glennys and after her passing in 2004 he needed to stay even busier. He wanted to make a difference, to do something, and that's when he took on ... fundraising.
In addition to canvassing for Heart &
Stroke, he also volunteered for the Salvation Army and the Cancer
Societ and was honoured by the Salvation Army for his more than
1,700 volunteer hours at Port Elgin Thrift Shop.
Visitation from the Eagleson Funeral Home, Southampton, on Wednesday March 22, 2017 from 2-4 p.m. The Funeral Service will be conducted at the Port Elgin United Church on Thursday at 2pm with visitation beginning at 1 p.m. A Time of Fellowship will follow the service in the fellowship hall. Interment will take place in the spring at Southampton Cemetery.
Beloved husband of the late Glennys Verkerke (nee Lichty)(Beechey). Dear father of Brenda and her husband Jack Stewart of Stratford, Rob Beechey and his wife Donna of Southampton and Jo Beechey and his wife Cheryl of Mt. Forest. Loving gramps of Darryl, Darren, Glennys, Alison, Miranda, Leslie, Jacquie and great Opa of Taylor, Peyton, Olivia, Hannah, Jazmin, Abbie, Clara, and Whalen. Survived by his sisters Nel Nyhof of Holland, and Margaret (Tim) Vanderwell of Paris, ON, by his sister-in-law Margaret Verkerke of Cambridge, and by many nieces & nephews in Canada and Holland. Predeceased by his parents Willem & Jannetje, by his brothers, Neil, Ruth, and Len, by his sisters Tina and Corie, and by his great grandson Jonah.
Visitation from the Eagleson Funeral Home, Southampton, on Wednesday March 22, 2017 from 2-4 p.m.
The Funeral Service will be conducted at the Port Elgin United Church on Thursday at 2pm with visitation beginning at 1 p.m. A Time of Fellowship will follow the service in the fellowship hall. Interment will take place in the spring at Southampton Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Southampton Care Centre Residents Council or to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.
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Sunday, March 19, 2017