Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Finding a Family Hero

Back in 1989, I sent my aunt and uncle a letter to inquire about what they knew about our Timmer family, who had came to the U.S. from the Netherlands. The story (which was true) was that my great-grandparents, John and Martha (Bolhuis) Timmer came over in 1906 on their honeymoon and never went back. Aunt Jeannette was gracious enough to send me what they had and also provided me with the name of a family friend who lived in the Netherlands. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Fred (John and Martha's youngest son) had taken a trip to the Netherlands around 1980 and shared with me some postcards from the province of Groningen where she said the Timmers came from among other tidbits of information and some photographs.

I explored the world of international postage and return replies and wrote to this family friend. It turns out he was part of a family that one of my great-grandfather's aunts had married into. He, in turn, gave me the name and address of the daughter of my great-grandfather's sister.  I promptly mailed a letter to her as well and received a reply from her son, Harry Haakman.

The same age as my mother (and her second cousin), Harry and I corresponded for a couple of months. He shared with me photocopies of several photographs he had of his Timmer family connections. My great-grandfather John had two sisters Trientje and Jantje as well as an older half-brother named Thomas Timmer. (Refer to My Dutch Heritage page for more information.) Jantje Timmer (born 8 May 1875 and died 27 June 1963 in the Netherlands) married Eltje Olthof. Jantje and Eltje had Frouke, Floris and Tryntje.

This Tryntje was Harry's mother. Floris had no children. Frouke married Jan Molenkamp and had three children, one boy and two girls. Harry sent me copies of photographs he had of his Molenkamp cousins. The first one was labeled "Harm Molenkamp and fiancee. Harm was born 29 January 1920 and killed by the Germans 13 October 1944. He was a member of the Dutch Resistance Movement."

I have always been fascinated by stories of World War II in relation to the Holocaust. It started in school when we were instructed to read the Diary of Anne Frank. History was made real for me when one of my teachers invited a Holocaust survivor to speak to the classroom as well. I became a lifelong sympathizer of the plight of the Jews.

And here later I discover that I had kin who apparently also was a sympathizer.

I got married shortly after I began my correspondence with Harry and we lost track of each other. I tried several times to reconnect but never had any luck. Last year, I tried to make contact through the internet with someone from the family but again was not successful.

It's been over twenty years and that's the most I've known about my hero cousin. I've also tried off and on to "google" for information on the internet to discover more about Harm, but was unable to learn any more.

That is until last week, when a Netherlands cousin posted a comment on my blog and sent me an email saying that if I wanted to get in touch about the Jantje Timmer family, I was welcome. Boy, did I! And one of the first things I asked about was our mutual cousin, Harm Molenkamp.

I am learning a lot more and will share it with you on this blog in coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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