Overlijdensbericht en herinneringsplaats van

Bert Boonstra

      In Loving Memory of Bert Boonstra
      01-03-1937 ~ 24-05-2020

      Bert Boonstra of Wassenaar, The Netherlands, died unexpectedly on May 24, 2020 at the age of 83, after an acute illness resulting in multisystem organ failure. He passed quickly and peacefully surrounded by his loving family.

      Bert was born in Tzummarum, Friesland on March 1, 1937. Despite a difficult birth, he became the oldest of four siblings. Growing up, during wartime, in a small rural village (now a ghost town), his parents owned and operated a local store. On cold winter days, he would skate to the regional secondary school. He and his friends would jump canals, hunt for bird eggs, and pluck apples from farmers’ trees.

      In 1952, Bert and his family boarded the S.S. Ryndam for a new life in America. As a 15 year old, newly arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bert went to work for his family. He worked a series of odd jobs as a farm hand, a stock boy, and a grocery clerk. Once he’d learned the language, he took correspondence courses to earn his high school equivalency diploma.

      In 1956, Bert began attending Calvin College. It was there, in 1958, that he met the love of his life, Jane D. Horzelenberg of Hamilton, Ontario (originally of Rotterdam). They became engaged in 1960, at his spontaneous suggestion they purchase rings as they walked by a jewelry store.

      After a long distance relationship, while Bert pursued a Master’s degree in Theology (with a ministerial license) at V.U. Amsterdam, Bert returned to Hamilton to marry Jane on September 1, 1962. For their honeymoon they boarded a student ship back to Amsterdam. He was seasick the entire voyage.

      Soon after returning to Holland, Jane was hired as a teacher at the Dupont School in Dordrecht. Bert continued his studies in Philosophy of History towards a doctorate (for the next 9 years!) while minding their two children, Peter and Allison. In his “spare time,” he wrote sermons and filled empty pulpits around the Netherlands on weekends.

      Bert’s calling was to become a minister. At first, he pursued a career as a Christian clergyman. Later, he put his energy towards becoming an administrator in the field of education. His approach to leadership was to encourage and support from within as a facilitator and mentor.

      In 1972, Bert began his career at The American School of the Hague. Spanning many years in multiple roles, including Dutch teacher (for which he wrote his own textbook), MS social studies teacher, Head of Arts Department, Director of Transportation, and Middle School Principal. In the late 1980’s he was also very involved with the building project of ASH's new campus in Wassenaar.

      He was an active and integral part of ASH in every role. Besides being a teacher and administrator, he is remembered by students mostly as their Scramble Overseer and Ski Trip Organizer. Over the years, Bert and Jane organized and supervised twenty-one (Yes, 21!) ASH ski trips to Austria and Switzerland for ASH middle and high school students.

      After 26 years of service, Bert retired from ASH in 1998. Jane joined him.

      The Boonstra's enjoyed traveling and spent their summers alternating between visits to family in North America and extensive European travel by caravan. There were countless kilometers by car, all driven by Bert. Christmas was usually spent in the Alps, as the family loved skiing so much. Bert developed his own style on the slopes; tall and upright, listing slightly to turn, letting gravity do most of the work. He enjoyed skiing well into his seventies.

      In retirement, Bert and Jane began migrating seasonally between Holland and Boston to participate in both their children’s lives and spend time with growing grandchildren. They enjoyed gathering the family together for summer holidays in Southern Europe.

      Up until the day of his illness, Bert led an active life. He had many hobbies and interests, including reading, art, travel, cooking, and trading on eBay. Bert was an avid collector of stamp covers and a self-professed expert in US postal history, focusing on the 1901 World's Fair in Buffalo. He was also active as an elder in the local Wassenaar Protestant church.

      Bert was a lover of life; personable, approachable, and kind hearted. He was a true man of the people. He had a goofy and mischievous sense of humor, accompanied by an infectious laugh. He was generous with his time and his resources. He especially loved doting on (spoiling) his four grandchildren.

      As his family we feel blessed and deeply grateful to have had Bert as our husband, father, and Opa. We were completely unprepared to say goodbye, yet his passing was peaceful. He will be greatly missed, though we trust he is safe in God’s hands.