BY LIZ TWAN
Special to The Tribune
A family friend passed away earlier this month.
Many of you would recognize him as the friendly gentlemen in the wheelchair, with the old brown cowboy hat on his head, who sat outside Cariboo Lodge on a daily basis for the past several years.
He liked to watch the activity in the park and the passers-by on the street. He would wave in response to a honk or wave directed at him.
His name was Ty Nieuwenhuizen and he was a long-time resident of Williams Lake.
Tijmen Hendrick Nieuwenhuizen was born on August 11, 1928 in Hilversurn, Holland. He had four brothers and one sister, and his family was quite poor.
Times were tough for Tijmen growing up in Europe. There were never ‘extras,’ most often there simply wasn’t even enough.
At the age of 17, Tijmen was hired to cook for the Canadian Army in Holland.
He got along well with the young Canadians who were so far from home; and they soon referred to the Dutch teenager as Cooky. The moniker stuck.
He often told stories about his army career cooking challenges during war.
One story was about how he had stretched five pounds of ground beef into a meal for 200 soldiers.
He and ‘his Canadians’ forged friendships and the soldiers encouraged him to think about immigrating to Canada, promising that life there was better.
They told Ty that a brighter future would be in store for him on Canadian soil.
With his mother’s passing in 1949, Ty saw no ties to bind him to a life in Holland and he decided to go see what a life in Canada could hold for himself.
Tijmen made all of the necessary arrangements and boarded a ship bound for Canada with $100 cash in his pocket. He also had command of a bit of the English language lodged in his mind; he had learned some of the language in school and more in speaking daily with his Canadian soldier friends.
He landed in Halifax and took the train to Pemberton, B.C. — where farm work (he had signed an immigration contract) for a year awaited him. It was a very hard, lonely year for the 21-year-old Dutch lad. The winter that year was long and cold and Ty said, “I often sat and cried because I was so bitterly lonely.”
After his year of farm work was over, he moved to Mountainside (Christian Valley) where he hired on at the mill. He soon realized that millwork didn’t suit him too well and he traded that for working in the bush as a logger.
He met his future wife, Ramona (Kit) Petch in 1953 in Penticton and they married in 1954.
Mountainside was their first homesite, a 20-shack logging camp, where they were very happy. The first of their four daughters, Gay was born in Mountainside in 1955, followed by Debra in 1957. In the spring of 1957, Ty moved to Cawston to work in the orchards with an old acquaintance, Dwayne Strong, who was a pal from those old army cook days.
In October of 1957 they moved to Williams Lake. They moved into a home on Fifth Avenue just below the hospital, a street they would call home for the next 18 years (two different homes on Fifth Avenue).
The year 1957 was a big one! Ty began his own logging company, which he called ‘Hurricane Logging.’
In November of 1957, he was very proud and honoured to become a Canadian citizen. Third daughter, Sandra was born in 1959, followed by the fourth child, Charlene in 1961. Ty was teased regularly about his household full of women, his harem, but he was very proud and thrilled to have four daughters.
In 1964 Tijmen purchased a logging supply business in town, it was called Kovisto Sales and Service and was located in a small wooden building on Mackenzie Avenue.
The business grew and flourished under Ty’s management, over the years he expanded to sales of snowmobiles, boats and the dreaded motorcycles (Ty didn’t like motor bikes) as well as the logging supplies (power saws, etc.). As a result, Ty now had access to a toy for every season, which he then shared with young and old alike.
He gave everyone rides on his machines, up and down town streets, on Williams Lake Senior Secondary grounds (behind their home) and on the old golf course (Boitanio Park).
There was a lot of kids living on Fifth Avenue North in those days and they all enjoyed Ty’s snowmobiles, the best part was that he supplied the endless fuel for them, too.
Ty was good with people and treated them fairly, so the business thrived.
He had a unique perspective when dealing with folks who came through his doors. One example was a young man without money who shoplifted a motorcycle helmet.
Ty saw him do it and let him go — but the next time he came in, Ty offered to let him exchange it for one that fit properly. He was far more concerned with the young fellow’s safety and well being than he was for the loss his property.
On another occasion, a young man came in and told Ty that he had had a job offered to him, but couldn’t take the job until he had a power saw of his own.
He told Ty that he had no money and a bad credit rating. Tijmen grabbed a saw off the shelf, gave it to the young man and said, ‘go to work and pay me when you can.’
Ty did business in his very own style. He enjoyed the kids who came into the shop, giving them sugar-cubes and pop.
One young boy was the recipient of a toy power-saw. He obviously never forgot, 25 years later he approached Tijmen again, to thank him for that little saw.
One continual problem for the merchants along Mackenzie Avenue back in those days was that of drunks sleeping off their binges in the doorways of businesses, something that did nothing to attract customers.
Ty dragged an old van seat into his shop basement and he used to let the fellows sleep off their drink in his warm basement on that bench-seat. It was better for his business, much better for those down on their luck. He had a kind heart.
Ty was an active community member.
He belonged to the Kiwanis Club; contributing to the building of the Kiwanis Children’s Park and Cariboo Park Lodge, as well as other projects over the years.
In 1975 he was elected president of the Kiwanis Club. He also served as a director and member of the Williams Lake Stampede Association, where he was active in the project of building the grandstands.
Ty loved to curl and was the member of a team who curled an eight-ender.
He contributed financially to the construction costs of our present curling rink.
He supported 4-H, buying beef and donating funds, he sponsored minor hockey and ball teams.
Anonymously, he donated to many charities (always mindful of his own childhood of poverty).
Tijmen did well in his adopted country and in 1975, at the age of 47, he was in a position to sell out and take an early retirement. He did.
He had always had a life-long dream to have a hobby ranch, so he sold the place on Fifth Avenue, too and purchased acreage on Fox Mountain in November 1975.
Retirement, as Ty had planned, was short-lived.
In January 1976, Ty suffered a cerebral aneurysm, which was not the end of a life, but the end of a dream. It changed his life irrevocably.
Ty and Kit moved to Kelowna in 1980, but over the years in Kelowna it became apparent that Ty really missed the familiarity of friends, as well as his hometown of Williams Lake.
Ty moved back to town, into care, at Cariboo Lodge in 1992 and he enjoyed his life there, visiting with old friends and making new ones.
That’s where you would often see him sitting outside the doors, enjoying the fresh air, waving and smiling at passers-by.
Tijmen enjoyed attending many local events, often in the company of his daughter, Debbie and her children.
He was a familiar figure to many people in the community.
Ty passed away peacefully October 2, 2004.
He leaves his loving family; wife, Kit (Kelowna); daughter Gay (Skip) Jones (Portland); Debbie (Williams Lake); Sandra (Jim)(Kelowna) and Charlene (Rick) (Williams Lake).
Also, nine grandchildren; Marlon, Ryan and Aimee Stowell, Tim and Annaka Westwick, Brodie and Lacey Holland and Christina and Nicholas Ratzinger. As well as two great-grandsons, Travis and Bradley (honourary).
The hat’s missin’
Ty’s gone fishin’