Fred Van Kuipers is one of several inspiring volunteers in Williams Lake to be presented with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary year on the British throne.
Fred was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in a surprise presentation by Navy League President of B.C. David Houde during the first ever joint review of the 202 Chilcotin Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps and 3064 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps held at the Elks Hall in Williams Lake, June 6.
He is pleased but not surprised by the relatively large number of people in Williams Lake, who also received such medals.
“This community is volunteer oriented,” Fred says. “If we didn’t have volunteers a lot of things wouldn’t get done.”
Fred grew up in Amsterdam until the age of 15 when he emigrated to Canada with his family. When they left Holland it was 10F, but –40 during their stop over in Winnipeg on the way to Calgary.
“This in itself was a cultural shock,” Fred says.
In Calgary Fred attended James Fowler High School and joined the Air Cadets 604 squadron.
In the summer of 1972 he moved to Hope as a sales representative for Franklin Laboratories — a job that took him throughout B.C.
“My first visit in Williams Lake was at National Grain where I first met Willie Crosina, John Margetts, Eleanor Cox and the late Tom Denny,” Fred says.
But it was a visit to Spencer Dickie Drugs (now Shoppers Drug Mart) in 1975 that would result in him settling down here.
He credits pharmacist Addie Hamm for introducing him to his future wife Debbie (nee Elsenheimer) who was working in the pet department.
Debbie was born in Edmonton and moved to Salmon Arm with her family in 1969 at the age of 13. She finished high school in Salmon Arm then moved to Williams Lake to take the job with Spencer Dickie Drugs.
Debbie and Fred were married in September 1976. After they married he took a job as sales representative with Littler Floors, which soon became Baron Floors, and is now End of the Roll.
While their three children were growing up the family lived across the street from Marie Sharpe Elementary School. A stay-at-home mom, Debbie ran an after-school day-care program for French Immersion students for many years.
Fred started his own painting business in 1998.
“In 1998 I decided to venture out on my own and take up painting with Ming’s Palace being my first job,” Fred says. “There was no looking back until I retired in February 2012, but that doesn’t mean you are out of the woods. I do lots of volunteering and painting for the Stampede Association, Elks, and Legion.”
I love to paint, especially if there are no deadlines,” Fred says. “Painting is very relaxing.”
Over the years Fred has volunteered with the Downtown Business Association, following Tony Borkowski as president in the early 1980s; co-facilitating the Parents Together support group for parents with difficult teens, serving as a director and then vice-president of the Williams Lake Bingo Association, and a director with the Esler Community Association for a time.
Then he says there is his pet project which is the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets.
In addition to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Fred received his 10-year service medal with the Navy League of Canada this year.
He is currently president of the Chilcotin Branch of the Navy League of Canada.
“We look after the financial well being of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets,” Fred says. “The Cadet program in Canada is probably one of the best programs for our young people and it is absolutely free.”
The Cadet program is open to youth ages 12 to 19 and started for the new season on Sept. 13 at the Elks Hall where the group meets every Thursday evening from 6:15 to 9:15 p.m.
Fred encourages potential new Cadets to register by the end of October so they can qualify for camp next summer.
Participants in Sea Cadets learn how to sail small boats and big ships. They learn biathlon, rifle marksmanship, marching drills, and have the opportunity to travel and participate in training camps aboard the HMCS Quadra off Comox for two to six weeks a year depending on the cadet’s rank.
“The ceremony of the flags is huge,” Fred says.
This year he says their granddaughter Shelby participated with local Sea Cadets in Victoria’s May Day Parade.
By chance he says they had the TV on and when Shelby passed by the camera she turned her head and “real quick, smiled and looked.”
He says the Navy is always the first out in any parade because it is the oldest branch in the Canadian service.
“It is so satisfying to see these kids grow up and make their way in the world,” Fred says.
“Cadets are often hired immediately because employers know they have learned structure, how to work with other people, how to work as a team and how to be respectful and disciplined in their work … teamwork is most important.”
“The kids have lots of fun,” agrees Debbie, who often attends events with Fred.
Before they were married Debbie and Fred made a trip to Holland together and have also been able to make trips around the U.S. and Canada with their children as they were growing up.
He says they were also thrilled when Baron Floors gave the couple a trip to Hawaii for their 15th anniversary.
As a couple, Debbie and Fred enjoy being out in the community having coffee, participating in community activities and spending time with family.
Daughter Terri is a “Deli-Lama” at Walmart in Williams Lake and has two children Shelby, 12, who is in Sea Cadets, and Dale, 11.
Their daughter Jenn is a registered nurse working at the Abbotsford Hospital.
Their son Mike is a junior soft-wear developer at North 49 Business Solutions in Burnaby.
Debbie’s dad Pat, who passed away in 1998, was also a painter. Her mom Charlotte just turned 97 and lives in Williams Lake.
Later in life Fred’s late mother Henny Jordaan moved from Calgary to Williams Lake to be near the family and worked at Gourmet Delight Deli for quite a few years.
In her spare time Debbie enjoys crocheting, knitting, and conversing with friends and family and surfing the Internet on their computer. She says the Internet makes it so convenient to converse with friends and family around the world but there is no place they would rather live than in Williams Lake.
She says they have had a few shocks losing close friends and family over the years so “you have to make every day special.”
“We are lucky to live in Williams Lake,” Fred says. “There are no floods, no famine, no hurricanes, no earthquakes, and four beautiful seasons … . It doesn’t matter where you go, life is what you make of it,” Fred says.