Dutch Resistance fighter, husband, great-grandfather, good-looking guy. Born Feb. 13, 1917, in Oudega, Netherlands, died March 23, 2013, in Orangeville, Ont., of natural causes, aged 96.
Andy was a proud Dutchman who never forgot where he came from.
After fighting in the Second World War in the Netherlands, he came to Canada in the 1950s, built a life for his family here, and was known as a valued friend and neighbour and a hard worker.
The best part of Andy’s approach to life was his wicked sense of humour. You could see it first hand if you ever mentioned to him, especially in the last few months, that he was looking good, and he’d respond, “Well, I am a good-lookin’ guy, you know.”
Andy lost his mother when he was 11. He experienced hunger through the Depression, lost a sister to a diphtheria epidemic, and lost many friends and relatives during the war.
Just before the war broke out, Andy was in the Dutch militia as a dispatch rider. When the Germans invaded in 1940, all active servicemen were ordered to burn their uniforms to avoid capture as active combatants.
Andy and his squad joined the developing Dutch underground resistance to fight as best they could for the balance of the war. Their weapons and supplies were parachuted in at night by British allies. Andy rode a motorcycle to relay information to other resistance groups.
He and several other fighters were once captured by a German patrol after curfew. They were lined up along a canal and shot. As fate would have it, the bullet only grazed Andy’s skull, and he fell backward and drifted downstream with his comrades’ bodies, the sole survivor.
Andy had a strong appreciation for everything life gave him.
After the war, he married Patricia Van der Meer, the love of his life for 66 years. They moved to Canada in 1953, taking the train right from Pier 21 in Halifax to Orangeville, Ont., where they would reside for the next 60 years.
They arrived with their young son John and daughter Reta, and later welcomed another daughter, Katherine.
Andy worked for many years as a pipe-fitting contractor with Imperial Oil, then opened his own contracting business. In later years he worked in the engineering department of Toronto Western Hospital, and finished his career at the Dufferin Area Hospital in Orangeville.
After he retired, Andy and his wife spent their time working their beautiful gardens. Neighbours would always recognize him by his bright yellow Dutch wooden shoes (Klompen).
True to his heritage, Andy was also a huge soccer fan. “You couldn’t get him to wear anything but Netherland orange during the FIFA World Cups … and those last for weeks?” laughs his wife.
Andy’s stories and photos of himself as a goalie in the Netherlands inspired his 11-year-old great-granddaughter to follow in his footsteps. She would bring him videos on her iPad to share the enthusiasm and pride.
There is a saying in soccer that the toughest losses make the strongest teams, and Team Hiemstra and friends have certainly faced their toughest loss. But what they gained in love, experience and memories will make them stronger.
Susanne Hiemstra-Gage is Andy’s granddaughter.
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