It's a generational thing

By Geoff Lee

June 8, 2017 12:00 AM

DUTCH TREAT Kees Daams and his wife, Greet, from Holland are flanked on their left by Maureen Davidson and Neil Brassington, and on the right by Donna Knutson and Carol Anderson who are the four adult children of Art and Joyce Brassington. Art befriended the Daams' family following the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945 before marrying Joyce. Carol is hosting the visitors from Holland who she and her husband Lyle first met five years ago in Amsterdam. Kees spoke to a group of 50 people at E.H. Walter School on June 5 on the gratitude that all Dutch citizens feel toward Canada for the role Canadian troops played in liberating the Netherlands. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Families keep decades old wartime friendship alive

A bond between a former soldier from Paradise Valley and a Dutch family he befriended after the liberation of Holland in the Second World War has endured the test of time.
Kees Daams was two years old when Pte. Art Brassington met the Dutch family in the rural village of Loosdrecht while biding his time for transport back to Canada in 1945.
Daams’ parents, Jasper and Wÿnie,  are dead now and so is Art and his wife Joyce, but Kees, now 73, has kept in touch with one of Brassington’s daughters, Carol Anderson, for years.
Carol and her husband, Lyle, met Kees and his family five years ago while on a river cruise in Amsterdam.
Now they are hosting Kees and his wife Greet, at their farm in Paradise Valley.
The reunion in Canada is one of mutual admiration and lasting gratitude on multiple levels.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Carol.
“We were friends in a way, but now we know each other so much better.”
Asked if their own offspring would carry on the friendship one day, the Daams and the Andersons agreed they didn’t know.
“There is still an ocean in between,” said Kees, to cast doubt.
Kees spoke to a couple of groups in Paradise Valley this week about his experiences and how grateful the Netherlands people are to Canada.
He said the gratitude for the Canadian troops that primarily liberated Holland is kept alive each year on Liberation Day in May.
The international Canadian First Army suffered 13,000 casualties, including nearly 8,000 Canadians in the seven month campaign.
“Some school classes adopt certain graves,” said Kees.
“They go there each year to look after them; they adopt one grave of a soldier who gave his life for our freedom.”
He said they ask, why did they do that?
“These questions come up and are fully kept alive,” he said.
It’s still there, that feeling of gratitude, he said.
“It’s even growing in my opinion;  this is really important to know.”
On a personal level, Kees thanks the kindness of Brassington and his wife for sending letters and essential luxuries like soap and other gifts during the scarcity of post-war Europe.
“I remember when I was six or so that we got this tin corned beef; that’s the first thing I remember,” he said.
He recalls fondly the letters and the photos of the Brassington’s marriage on Dec. 26 1945 and news of their now four adult children and their prize winning cows.
“My dad wrote letters in Dutch,” said Kees.
“It was translated by a local teacher and they sent it to Art and Joyce.
“They kept sending us packages with the goods my parents asked for.”
When Kees learned English in school, he started the next generational exchange of letters and Christmas cards.
A common emotional bond between the two families is a photo of Art and Joyce meeting Jasper and Wÿnie face to face during the 35th anniversary of the liberation in Holland in 1980.
The event was called the We Do Remember celebration.
“We met them and went to certain places,” recalled Kees, who was married by then.
The couple’s connection with Carol and Lyle was legitimized when the Andersons toured in Amsterdam and met them for chat.
“So step by step, the idea grew to come over to Canada,” said Kees.
They arrived in Edmonton on May 30 and are leaving for Jasper on June 9.
Greet says the visit with the Andersons has been amazing for her with all the cattle, buffalo and crops that they raise.
Carol has filled the couple in on farm life.
“Her mom always wrote about the farm and how it was going each year and now we are here,” Greet said.
“Now we understand how important it is in their lives.”
Kees and Greet will be seeing the Rocky Mountains soon, but the view and the two hour drive from the Edmonton airport to Paradise Valley will stick with Kees for a long time.
“In my country when you drive two hours, you’re bound to be in another country; there’s Belgium or Germany,” he said.
“Here, you are still in Alberta.”
“It’s open and wide; it’s really impressing.”

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