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Life Bart Doornink would always have a love/hate relationship with Dutch tulips

Lambertus (Bart) Goose Doornink: Father. Salesman. Provider. Piano Player. Born May 9, 1938, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; died Oct. 5, 2018, in Barrie, Ont., of cancer; aged 80.

Bart Doornink.

The Globe and Mail

My father anglicized his name to Bart (from Lambertus) when he arrived in Winnipeg in 1959 with his parents and sister, having left Holland for a better life in Canada. They had lived in Rotterdam during the German bombing of May, 1940, which destroyed the family businesses. Bart’s father was also shipped off to work in German factories. Fortunately, he escaped before the train made the German border but he spent the balance of the war in hiding and helping the Dutch resistance. Bart’s mother was left to get the children out of the destruction of Rotterdam.

Bart ended up with a love/hate relationship with the Dutch tulip. He loved the gift it represented when given to Canada, eternally grateful to the Canadian troops who liberated Holland. He also hated tulips, the bulbs of which he and his mother once had to forage for food during the darkest parts of the war.

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A few years after arriving in Canada, he met and married Roberta (Bobbie), my mother. I was 4 and my sister, Robin, 2. He adopted us, “picking us,” as he put it, his first gift as our new dad. A year after they were married, our sister Reanda came along, making our family complete.

Determined to get ahead, Bart sold bread, magazine subscriptions and life insurance before landing a job with Rexall Drugs in 1966. Moving us from Winnipeg, he started out as a travelling salesman in Yorkton, Sask., driving from small town to small town, five days a week for three years. The tiny bars of soap he collected in every cinder-block motel ended up in our Christmas stockings. Rexall became his love, his passion, and we moved to Toronto when he was promoted in 1969. He rose through the ranks, ending up as national sales manager.

Bart loved jazz, boogie-woogie and soul music, though whenever a piano came between Bart and his mother-in-law (an accomplished musician), they would bicker constantly about the key. Bart played by ear, having taken only a few lessons as a child. In Yorkton, he formed his own weekend band and packed in audiences at just about every bar in Southern Saskatchewan. Bart, being Bart, forced the band to play in his key.

Sometimes, he was a man difficult to love. His silence, when he was angry, spoke volumes. “If I wanted you to speak, I’d shake a pail of gravel,” he’d say to me and my sister, or “If you don’t be quiet I’ll make two newspaper boys out of you." Through it all, whether he was good, bad or indifferent, I came to realize he had done the best he could, something else he instilled in me.

Over time he mellowed, bought a dog, and even fed it toast from his mouth. In the last 10 years he suffered several strokes but always held on. Told the end was near, I drove five hours, praying he’d hang on until I arrived. Only afterward did I realize the last gift I’d been given, being there as he left one world and entered another. I’d like to think he waited, his final gift to me.

Richard W. Doornink is Bart’s son.

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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