On Friday, March 11, 2022, Berend Veltheer passed away peacefully in the company of his children, Kevin and Miranda. He was loved, and will be missed.
Berend was the middle child of 5, born in the occupied Netherlands during World War II. I guess that was always my best explanation for why he was who he was.
I remember rides in the Mercedes up to the cottage, listening to oldies. He would always be singing out of tune but he enjoyed it. The same cassettes, over and over. When Dad moved back to Mississauga just before Christmas, he wanted to play his old records, and so one of the first things he ordered was a record player. Kevin helped set him up with speakers and would change the records for him. My brother, Kevin, and I, Miranda, listened to them on the way home from the hospital yesterday.
We must have spent countless weekends at the cottage with Uncle John and Aunt Marilyn. Grandma and the rest of the family were always around. We’d spend the day fishing by the channel or in the next bay. Maybe it’s a little morbid for a little girl, but I would join him by the dock or lakeside, while he would clean the catfish, with a fork and a sharp but old knife. I could probably do it now from my memories of watching him.
The stories I remember of him, especially growing up, often involved his connection to animals. Taking in strays and injured animals. I remember a story of him taking in a hawk. It would screech at Grandma, Catharina (Langstra) Veltheer, even though she would feed it, but would just sit on his shoulder, or the bow of the boat. At one point, he brought home an injured skunk. It never sprayed him. Animals were always drawn to him.
Our Dad worked hard as long as he could. He finished basements, build decks, and repaired almost anything even into his eighties. He wouldn’t slow down. Always had to be doing something. It took a stroke to slow him down, but in his recovery, he had big plans. He talked about travelling with Kevin and me through Europe. He also wanted to build a tomato garden on the balcony and turn his spare room into a year-round vegetable garden. I guess that’s where I get my green thumb.
I don’t remember him being a talkative person, or needing the attention to be on him. I do remember him showing up for us. I have memories of having school events or concerts after my mom and he divorced wondering if he would be there given his schedule with Mississauga Transit. We’d be lined up to perform and walking to the back of the gymnasiums, and there he would be. Standing in the back of the room. Standing room only for the whole show. He would show up, quietly in the back of the room.
This past fall, while in the hospital for something unrelated, the staff there discovered that my father had had a stroke that wasn’t noticed. In a way, his stroke was what brought our Dad back to my brother and me. With the help of his niece Michele, and her husband John, we fixed up his condo in Mississauga so that could move back home. There we were able to spend more time with him than we had in many years, watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation together, just like we were kids again.
We also got to spend one last Christmas together. That’s something I know he cherished. I found pictures he took on his phone from Christmas. Making sure to record the memories of his family around him. I am reminded that even though he wouldn’t say it, these moments were important to him.
He didn’t say a lot of things. My brother and I discussed recently that we always knew he loved us, even if we needed to say it first. That changed in the last few months. Dad would always make sure to tell us he loved us, every time we saw him or talked to him on the phone. We knew he loved us.
We love you Dad. We will miss you.
– Miranda and Kevin