Henk Jan Saaltink

Henk Jan Saaltink

Apr 20, 1923 – Nov 12, 2017
Henk Saaltink – Environmentalist, POW, Engineer, Honorary Dutch Vice Consul, Centennial Commissioner, Consultant, Mentor, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather – Hendrik Jan Saaltink, P.Eng. died in his sleep at his residence on November 12, 2017, at the age of 94.

Henk was born in Semarang, in the Dutch East Indies, on April 20, 1923 to Hermanus Saaltink and Yka Saaltink-Wind. Raised in Indonesia, he spent much of World War II as a POW in Burma and Japan.

After the war he met, wooed, and married his lifelong partner Johanna Spierenburg while studying to become an Engineer in Delft.  They had two children in the Netherlands, and another two after moving to Canada in 1952.

Henk had a long and successful engineering career – and made good friends in many provinces, working for H.G. Acres and Co. first in Niagara Falls, then in Vancouver BC from 1960-1963, and then in Saint John N.B..  There Henk, in his ‘spare time’ joined the Rotary Club, co-founded a Unitarian fellowship, represented the Netherlands as Honorary Vice Consul, and participated in Canada’s 100th birthday celebrations as the city’s  Centennial Commissioner.

When all kids were in University in the early 1970’s he and Johanna lived for a year in Athens, Greece.  Subsequently they spent a year or two in Montreal and then in London, England before moving to a farm near Abbotsford, BC where they designed and helped build a wonderful residence so they could settle down.

But first, to cover extra construction costs, Henk worked for two years in Sri Lanka for the Canadian International Development Agency, where he and Johanna enjoyed the cultural richness while making yet more lasting friendships. 

For the remainder of his professional life Henk undertook international projects for clients including the World Bank, working in countries including Indonesia, Nepal, Colombia, and Ecuador.  He took a great deal of pride in his professional contributions, working well into his 70’s.  By the time he retired Henk was able to express himself in Indonesian, French, and Spanish as well as Dutch and English.

Once Chair of his local Conservative riding association, by his eighties Henk had become active in nature conservation, helping to defeat a gas plant near Abbotsford, and participating in many initiatives to protect natural habitat.

Henk and Johanna worked to build cross-generational relationships in their family, sending each of their children to the Netherlands at age 10 and travelling to England, the Netherlands, and Greece with the gang, welcoming grandchildren to stay with them on the farm in pairs; taking their 5 older grandchildren in a trip to the Netherlands and then the younger 4 whale watching on Vancouver Island.  And they arranged and sponsored whole-family trips to destinations including BC, Ontario, the Netherlands, Mexico, Hawaii, and Bali.

Later in his life Henk created for his family thoughtfully-written accounts of his experiences across so many lands and cultures, including his experiences as a soldier and prisoner of war during World War II. 

Henk’s WWII experiences had a profound effect on his philosophy of life.  He made a conscious decision to harbour no grudges and he enthusiastically promoted cross cultural respect and accommodation.

He will be remembered for his magnificent moustache, the sparkle is his eyes, his wisdom and wit.  For supporting the arts, yet sleeping through performances of classical music.  For his great kindness and consideration – except when driving, which he did rally-style. And for his amazing ability to bond with animals and small children.

Henk was predeceased by both his brothers, Guus and Arend, and tragically by his dearly-loved granddaughter Heather. 

He is survived by his loving wife Johanna; his grateful children Elmie (Dale), Guus (Mary Anne), Hendrik (Brenda), and Mark (Jane); his surviving grandchildren Christopher, Lia (Ryan), Robyn (Adam), Elexa (Peter), Emma, Philip, Rebecca (Alex), and Owen; and his great grandchildren Heath and Clara.

A celebration of his life, will be held in Penticton, BC on Friday April 20, 2018, the 95th anniversary of his birth.

The family wishes to thank the staff of Prairie Valley Lodge for their compassionate care.

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