Wayne de Jong (son)
Herman de Jong was many things to many people. He was the loving
husband and life companion of Stiny, and a wonderful father to 7 children, a
dear Opa to 14 grandchildren, a great brother and uncle, a good friend to many,
and a child of God.
When I arrived in his life, not long after Henry, Dad was already a respected teacher and accomplished organist. From my perspective as a shy little boy he had a very high profile -always standing at the front of the classroom, or sitting at the church’s organ. I was in awe. It wasn’t very “cool” to be the son of a teacher though, and we all got picked on a bit, but I was still proud of him – except when he would pinch my cheek in public. Although students poked fun at him, I could tell that they also liked and respected him, and loved his stories. I’m sure that they learned what they needed to from him, but also about life, faith, humour and music. He was a great teacher, but his first love was music - playing the organ, directing choirs, teaching organ and piano, imparting his knowledge of and enthusiasm for music to many others – including his children.
Dad had many talents and virtues, and a warm and loving personality, and life was good - but there were trials and struggles along the way too, including doubt and depression. We children were rather oblivious to these struggles at the time. To us, he was just Dad – loving, stern, funny, serious, happy, sometimes sad, Dad. I loved him, however he was. I loved to hold his hand and sit in his lap. I loved how he would pick me up and toss me around, playfully. I even loved how he smelled.
Dad enjoyed being with his family - also his siblings and in-laws. We loved to be with them too, and our many cousins. Our home was always full of guests and Dad was a good host, entertaining everyone with music and funny stories. There was always lots of singing and laughter. The house will be too quiet now.
Dad left teaching in 1970 after 16 years and started an upholstery business. He did high quality work and supported us all very well. It was difficult work though – aggravating his bad back, and impairing the dexterity of his organ playing fingers. He sacrificed a lot for us, we could see that, but we were not always glad to have to help him pick up and deliver heavy furniture, and strip it in preparation for re-upholstery by the master craftsman. He also liked to renovate the house and build additions and sheds, and we got to help him with that too. He worked so hard, but also helped Mom around the house – particularly when she went to nursing school and then began working herself. He enlisted our help too, of course, and we all pitched in then – especially Gerine.
After moving to Jordan Station in 1979 Dad resumed the upholstery business for a while, but it was slow and he was tired of it. He worked for Salem, and later for Friendship Groups, and was a strong promoter of those causes. He became quite well known in those roles. Who can forget the “Salem mobile” he drove, and Ex-Inspector Van Halsema? Again, I was very proud of him.
Marriages began in 1980 and our spouses were warmly welcomed to the family. Grandchildren started appearing in 1982, and they were the icing on the cake. They loved their Opa dearly, and he them. It was always a joy to visit Mom & Dad. Dad was ever present, a steady but quiet influence on us, not offering much advice, necessarily, but always supportive. At times he seemed a bit bewildered in his roles as father and Opa, by the busyness, noise and confusion around him. As his hearing deteriorated it became harder for him to pick up conversations above the background din, and this was frustrating. He would often tune out, read a book, get some “fresh air”, or take a nap. He missed a lot, and we missed him.
He was a prolific writer in those years – books, stories, articles, letters and emails in 3 languages. Many, many people enjoyed his writing, and for Dad it was a great way to express himself and share his deep feelings and beliefs. I do wish I could have seen more of those writings much earlier. He was not one to show off his work
Dad sometimes seemed to feel a bit out of place. Perhaps he never truly felt at home in Canada. He loved to visit the Netherlands, especially Terschelling. I will always cherish the time that we travelled together in Holland after Oma de Jong’s funeral.
But best of all, Dad liked to be home with Mom, lekker rustig, reading, writing, puttering around, playing or listening to music, and making furniture that we will cherish even more now. As we and our families grew he continued to do the things he liked best and find fulfilment in working as an organist and choir director. But he also struggled at times with his role in life, and with the addiction that ultimately took his life.
Dad provided amazing support for Mom during her recent cancer treatments and surgeries. He summoned up all his strength, even while – unknown to anyone - his own cancer was likely already growing and spreading within him. As Laura said “he was a real Superman.” He lived a life that is worthy of our admiration and respect. He served the Lord to the best of his ability, and we thank God for him and his love for us, and the example that he was to each of us. I don’t know how we will fill the gaping hole that he leaves. He was my rock, my foundation. I loved him and will miss him terribly, but I will not crumble. We will all miss him so much, especially Mom.
He was taken from us too soon, and too quickly. But we rejoice that he died peacefully, without much pain, at home, and surrounded by loved ones, and we take comfort in knowing that he is now with his father. When some of his children and grandchildren sang a hymn during his last hours on earth he must have thought he had already arrived, and was probably already wondering about serving as organist and director for the heavenly hosts. He praised God in life, and will now continue to do so, forever.