Making a Difference

October 16, 2015

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The local long term care home, Southampton Care Centre, a Jarlette Health Services facility, celebrated their annual 'Making a Difference' award (MADA) recipient, Bill Verkerke, on October 16th (2015). 

The award honours residents of Jarlette Health Services’, 12 Long-Term Care Homes and six Retirement Lodges, for their remarkable accomplishments, outstanding contributions to society, to their community and/or their home or lodge.  Eighteen recipients were honoured this year across the province.

Centre Administrator, Brenda Ohm, presents certificate to Bill Verkerke

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 recalls 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”. Bill 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 boy did he ever.  

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You see, Bill Verkerke is some what of a local legend, and not just for his onions or freezer jam. If you live in Southampton, chances are you have met Bill at the beach, seen him out on his fold up bike and he’s likely knocked on your door. 

Bill canvassed for the Cancer Society, volunteered at the Salvation Army and most notably became the largest Heart and Stroke Society door-to-door fundraiser in Grey Bruce.

In 2011, Bill was given The Rotary Paul Harris Fellow Award, the highest honour a club can bestow on a person who gives "service above self" and was honoured by the Salvation Army for his 1,749 volunteer hours at the Port Elgin Thrift Shop.

Also, in 2011, he received the "Heart and Soul Award" by Grey-Bruce Heart and Stroke society, presented to those who demonstrate loyalty and commitment to the Foundation.  Since 2002, Bill has raised nearly $50,000 for Heart and Stoke during their annual February campaign.  While others are headed south for the sun, Bill diligently, travelled through snow, ice and sub zero temperatures in an effort to help others.  

He had made many friends through out the years canvassing, all of whom were just as dedicated to him.

 Bill suffered a stroke in November 2014 that left him less mobile but that was not going to stop him. A bit like a garden weed, he was not going to give up without a little more effort.

This past February, with the support of staff and family, Bill welcomed dozens of donors from his former canvassing routes to a booth he set up in the lobby of his new home at the Southampton Care Centre.  The news hit the papers and social media.  Donations poured in and once again, Bill was able to gather his harvest of giving, to make a difference because he needed something to do.

It is with great pride and honour that the Southampton Care Centre announces their 2015 'Making a Difference' Award Recipient, Bill Verkerke.   Recipients were presented with a framed certificate and pin to commemorate their achievements along with a choice of a donation made in their name to a charity of their choice, or a park bench donated with a commemorative plaque. In addition, each of the homes and lodges will host their very own celebration.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015