by John H. Somsen [2353]


John Howard Somsen, our advisor from the USA, came over to The Netherlands for a about a week. Below he gives a day-to-day account of his experiences and his visits. With his digital camera he recorded all the events. Every evening he retreated under the awning of the caravan for a while. Sitting on a camping-chair with just enough light he transported the pictures to his laptop. He did this very skilfully and with much concentration and sometimes there were a few silent spectators behind him.

When back at home he wrote his account with the help of these pictures and then he mailed us the whole story.


After the memorable experience of the Great Reunion in 1997, I knew that someday I would return. This past August, I decided to return for the camping weekend in order to spend time with as many relatives as possible. Leaving Boston on Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Amsterdam the next morning to be met by my cousin, Theo [227]. On the way to the campground in IJzerlo, he took me on a tour of the homes of many of the Board members.


When we finally arrived, I once again had the strong feeling of being home. Forty-six people were there, many of who had visited us in the US. It was wonderful to renew acquaintances and meet the few that I didn't know. It was exciting to see them all, especially Dikky [133] and Derk [130] who has worked so tirelessly to gather our genealogy. Theo left to pick up Josette [394] and the caravan in which we would be staying. Gree [53] and Jan [679] van Daatselaar invited me for a lovely chicken and vegetable casserole dinner. I also met the youngest camper, Noa Iserief, 3-month old daughter of Joost Iserief [2884] and Ilse Vloothuis. Theo finally showed up after learning that towing a caravan through the narrow streets of the Netherlands takes some getting used to.


After a late start, the Board meeting of the Somsen Foundation began at Wim's [518] home in Dinxperlo. It was the first that I have been able to attend and was the first trilingual meeting (Dutch, German and English). Most of the discussion centred on the possibility of a second reunion in Baldwin, WI, USA in 2002. Margriet Iserief-Somsen [2878] took over the role of secretary allowing Ada [75] to concentrate on the finances.

When last seen, she was muttering about Euro's.


Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. Everyone kept telling me how rainy the Netherlands are; but in two trips, I've yet to see a drop. The annual IJzerlo Summer Festival was being held nearby so several of us decided to go. One of the highlights was the Koningschieten (king shooting) in which the object is to shoot a decoy from its perch high overhead. The winner would become the next King of the festival. Theo, Dick [408], Jan Willem Hoopman [606] and I all tried with no luck.


























The king shooting by John [2353]


That afternoon, it was time for the annual trek to Japikshuis to give the farmer his bottle of Dutch gin and his wife a bouquet for maintaining the lime tree planted in 1997. The tree is flourishing and must be nearly 20 feet tall. It was the farmer's birthday, so he had several relatives visiting. Between the relatives and the Somsens, over 40 people were there making it the largest gathering since the tree was planted.


In the evening, the barbecue was held and many more Somsens showed up. I was pleased to meet our hosts from the Reunion, Dick [144] and Alie [239]. Tante Zus [1187] told me how frustrated she was because I didn't speak much Dutch.

The party lasted into the wee hours of the morning. As I left to go to bed, Joke [523], Johan [1089] and Wim [518] were sitting in the dark and composing the "Somsen song".                         Õ

Sunday, and another beautiful day. We left for Wertherbruch, Germany, to attend services at the Evangelische Kirche where Helmut [1562] and Liesel [1569] are members. On the way, we picked up Emma [1190] in Dinxperlo. Afterwards, we had coffee at Helmut's house which was a former post office (ca. 1900).

In the afternoon, we rested in the shade at the campground, as the day was quite warm. In the evening, we all went to the Marketplace in Aalten for a marvellous dinner. The owner of the café was quite a joker but he was no match for thirty Somsens. We returned to the campground for a night-cap at the caravan of Ben [396] and Hannie [397].


On Monday, many people left. After an effort to photograph Somie, the Somsen cow born during the reunion, we went to the Aalten town archives and met with Peter Meerdink who was very gracious in our quest to track the departure place of Jan Hendrik [308], my great-grandfather and the head of the 1881 branch, when he emigrated from the Netherlands. After much help from Peter and a search that would have made Derk (the Somsen-hunter) proud, we were able to track it down. It was in Dale, another of the hamlets of Aalten. After some searching, we found Pakkebier (Dutch for 'have a beer' - Jan must have rolled over in his grave) named after the family who purchased it after their departure. It was originally built by the Rauwerdinks, parents of Jan's wife, Janna [309]. The Rensinks, present owners, cordially invited us to come back that evening and compare notes. Our histories were a close match.

The farmhouse has been completely restored but the tiles around the fireplace and on the floor were original as was much of the façade of the original building.


On Tuesday, I toured Arnhem and Nijmegen including a visit to Theo's office. After  I met his computer manager, Theo said that he needed a translator….

Back at camping, Riek [74] arrived with her two lovely daughters, Maria [1013 and Laura [1014] to spend a couple of days.


Wednesday, a trip to downtown IJzerlo where we visited with a local historian and publisher and viewed the Hoopman Machine Company, International Seed Technology and the home of Thea Hoopman-Kaemingh [382]. We also stopped at the little store which is the extent of "downtown".

that afternoon, we found the Rauwerdink farm and stopped at the Aalten fire station where I exchanged shoulder patches with the fire commander, giving him patches from the town for which I work. That evening, we packed up and returned to Vaassen.

























With the Veerbeek family at the Japikshuis


On Thursday, I finally was able to see Amsterdam, which I missed in 1997. Johanna van Os-Somsen [392] and her husband, George [393], treated us to a four-hour boat tour through the canals and rivers. What a luxury, and the only way to see the city. We returned to Vaassen and had dinner at the castle in what I found out were once the stables.


On Friday, we visited the summer home of Dick and Dikky in Grafhost, Overijssel. It is a beautiful place and I can see why they live there from April to October. They also have their boat, the "Skedaddle", on the canal behind the home.





















Amsterdam, Keizersgracht ('Emperor's Canal')

From there, we went to "Rosegarden Cottage", the home of Johan. He has really done a great job of landscaping the property. Johan then took me to buy souvenirs for my grandchildren and stroopwafels (those sinful cookies) for the folks back home.


Dinner was at Yvonne Reijs-Edel's home, "Curly Beeches". It has a thatched roof, stables and a dressage ring. We were joined by Derk [413] and Jacqueline [2049] and their two children, Mart [2050] and Penny [3239] as well as a friend of Johan's, Leo. Yvonne prepared Indonesian cuisine which was delicious. It was a relaxing end to my trip.


On Saturday, Theo took me to airport. I was filled with so many pleasant memories of a most enjoyable trip and promised to return.


On my return home, I was met with an e-mail from Theo who said that the Dutch skies smiled when I came and wept when I left. It doesn't rain in the Netherlands, does it?                                ¦




























John with his host Theo [227]









SOMIE                                                                                                                     by Johan Somsen [1089]


During the great Somsen reunion in the summer of 1997 a calf was born in the field next to the mini-camping 't Hoftijzer in IJzerlo. At the time there were quite a few Somsens staying there and many of them witnessed the delivery which was quite a heavy one: the young had to be drawn to life by means of a jack, which turned out to be fatal for the mother.

Since this birth took place at the time of our reunion the idea arose to baptise the calf Somsen but because of all kind of regulations in the herd book our beautiful family name could not be used. The name of 'Somie' was the closest possibility and this was the name that was used.

Every time during the Somsen camping weekends in the years after the reunion we asked the farmer Dick and his wife Dienke Koskamp how Somie was doing and also this year we put that question to them. To our great pleasure 'Somie' is still in IJzerlo and by this time she has given birth to two calves. Her latest calf was born just a few weeks ago.

At the moment she is very busy raising the level of her milk yield.                                                  ¦























Dick Koskamp and Johan Somsen 'show'

our cow SOMIE