March 28, 1928 – April 12, 2003
Berber left us peacefully to be with her Lord early Saturday morning.
She was born to Karel Hendrick and Tjebkje (nee Kuiper) Van Reijn in Vlissingen, the Netherlands. She was the first grandchild and eldest of four children. Like many of her contemporaries Berber endured many hardships during her formative years under German occupation. At the war’s end she took a nursing course, followed by a secretarial course, which was more to her liking. She worked in an accounting firm till her emigration. While attending a family get-together, she was re-acquainted with Andries (Andy) Verhagen. Andy had come to say goodbye to family just before he left for Canada. He walked her home, and they enjoyed three more weeks together. During that time Andy asked Berber’s father for her hand and she accepted. For the next year she prepared to emigrate to Canada, leaving Holland December 18, 1950. She was 22.
Unlike the present day, when flying from Amsterdam to Vancouver can be accomplished in hours, her journey was long. She boarded ship for England, then crossed the Atlantic, leaving behind the family she loved, to begin an adventure in the New World. She arrived in Halifax December 25, boarded the CPR train and travelled across Canada arriving January 1, 1951 at Mission’s railway station. Andy was there to meet her. They had New Years dinner with the mayor of Matsqui Jim Reid. Andy was working as a farmhand on Pat Reid’s farm in Deroche. Berber spent her first night on the couch in their farmhouse. The Vandrager family took her in until her wedding day, January 17, 1951. They were the first couple to me married by the First Christian Reformed Church in Abbotsford.
Their first home was makeshift, in an outbuilding on the farm. They had no insulation, one window, no toilet or bath, and few boxes to store their possessions. This was very different from the indoor plumbing and appliances she was used to in Holland! They stayed six weeks, then moved to a farm on Sumas Prairie owned by Moses and Anna Zanatta, who became close friends. This was their first house, and they were very happy there. Their first child. Charles, was born not long after, and unfortunately lived only 18 months owing to a congenital heart defect.
Although Berber’s first years in Canada with her new husband demanded courage to accept great changes and overcone hardship, they found comfort and support in the First Christian Reformed congregation, later the Central Heights Mennonite Brethren Church. Berber’s pastimes included socializing, dances, bowling, curling, and swimming at Cultus Lake. From the 1950’s onwards, the Verhagens raised six children. Berber’s life was full of fun. They had an active life, making many friends along the way, many of whom became ‘aunts and uncles’ to the children. Berber was the kind of mom who was always there for her kids, baking and sewing, and meeting their needs even in adulthood.
Although most of their years were spent in the Fraser Valley, the Verhagens spent several years in sunny Vernon and a short time in Revelstoke before returning to the Valley.
Berber and Andy found it possible to visit their native Holland several times. She returned home alone following his sudden death by a heart attack in early 1996. Her loss was eased in her remaining years by her many friends, and nearly daily visits by devoted family members. She was able to travel to Holland two more times.
Througout Berber’s life she maintained a close personal relationship with God. She enjoyed being a member of the church choir and participating in her Bible study group. Some of those members became her lifelong friends.
Berber was a loving grandmother to Krista and Kelly; Amy (Chris) and Gerry; Phillip (Heather), Sarah and Carla; Thomas, Joel, Samuel and Emalee; Cameron and Devon; Larissa and Kaili, and great-grandmother to Summer and Brayden.
Her children and their spouses; Douglas and Maryke; Ralph; Blanche and Ken; Linda and Dale; Bill; and Joyce will miss her dearly.
She is survived by her sister Mieke and brother-in-law Kees of the Netherlands, and her brother Charlie and Ruth in Switzerland, as well as her brother-in-law, Bill Verhagen, his wife Anne and family here in Abbotsford, as well as numerous relatives abroad.
A memorial service will be held at Central Heights Church in Abbotsford, Thursday, April 17 at 1:00 p.m.
Reception to follow at Central Heights Church Hall. In lieu of flowers kindly send donations to the Canadian Cancer Society.
The family wishes to thank everyone involved in assisting Mom on her difficult journey to rejoin the Lord. We appreciated your kind words, your prayers and hugs, and your efforts to comfort us. Mom and Dad are together in Heaven!