Hales Corner

Jan Van Dam

Because of a perfect storm in South Holland off the North Sea Jan and his wife Janny had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States of America in 1956. The World Church organization relocated families when disaster hits. It hit Jan and Janny’s family on an early February morning in 1953. A tsunami slammed into the shores of a little island called Goeree-Overflakkee in South Holland. Towns were decimated. Livestock, and people drowned. Jan and Janny were married for almost 3 years. Had 1 child, and another on the way when this storm hit. As the water came families fled to higher ground. Jan and Janny and their 2 year old daughter Corry found refuge in a local store which was on one of the few high spots on the island. As water engulfed the first floor, about 7 people, a few children found their way to the second floor of this little store. With no food to eat Jan dove through the cold February water down to the first floor to retrieve as much canned food as he could hold. Beer was about the only safe beverage to drink which Corry drank to keep her hydrated. It was a rough night to say the least. When morning hit, the island looked like a disaster area. Livestock bloated with water. People who had drowned lying in the streets. A whole re-build needed to be done on this island they call Goeree- Overflakkee. They were relocated to North Holland not for a new life, until Jan saw a little add in the local newspaper stating that any families surviving the flood had the opportunity to come to the United States. Jan, being the chance taker that he was, talked Janny into moving and took the biggest gamble they had ever taken. They would emigrate to the United States of America to start a new life. The World Church relocated Jan and Janny to a little town called Waukesha where he would would work for a farmer named Homer Williams who owned Wern Farms. Without knowing any English Jan and Janny and their two little daughters learned American customs, and made new friends. It was tough learning a new language, and finding your way around new surroundings, but they did. They even stopped speaking Dutch, and started speaking only English. Eventually they made their way and moved out of the Wern farms and started Van Dam Janitorial. After Jan and Janny retired they became apartment managers for another 30 years. As we think about our father we are all proud to say that we are his children. He has taught us very much about life because he had lived enough for 2 lives. 67 years of marriage. 70 years with one girl. 3 kids. 7 grandchildren. And 6 great grandchildren. That is what a full life looks like. Jan is survived by his wife of 67 years Janny, Corry (Joe) Van Aelstyn, Nellie Schmidt (Steve) and Laine Van Dam. Grandchildren Jennifer (Tony) Richards, Shannon (Josh) Leclair, Jan Michael (Andrea) Van Dam, Casey Van Dam, Abigale (Scott) Veith, Jessica (Ben) Reynolds, Lauren Schmidt. Loved by great grandchildren Jackson, Bryn, Winston, Laine, Oliver and Gwen. A Memorial Service is being planned for June 17, 2017.