Hilda Koopmans died Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Cranbrook. Hilda was born in Rottevalle, Fryslan, the Netherlands. She read compulsively from an early age, and when she had exhausted the contents of her own town library, she biked 20 km to a neighbouring town to read through that library’s collection.
As a teenager, Hilda moved to the town of Garyp where she caught the eye of George Koopmans. Though more interested in homework than dating, she eventually succumbed to his determined pursuit, and their courtship spanned the years of World War II. During that time, Hilda worked for a local doctor connected with the Dutch resistance. Many evenings found her cycling through the dark after curfew carrying messages to aid the opposition to German occupation. The day Canadian troops liberated Holland was one of the happiest days of Hilda’s life. She vividly recalled dancing on the street all through the night of Liberation Day.
In 1949, Hilda and George emigrated to Canada with 11-month-old son Bill. Hilda, seven months pregnant, experienced severe seasickness during the rough ocean voyage, as did her baby. She often spoke of the kindness of the Salvation Army worker at Pier 21 in Halifax who nourished and bathed baby Bill, and dressed him in clean clothing. Hilda donated generously to the Salvation Army all her life.
Though existence in Canada was much harder than the life she had left behind in Holland, Hilda never complained. She learned English by listening to the CBC, worked hard and expressed gratitude for what she had.
Hilda’s five children were the centre of her life, and she stood as a steady and loving presence in theirs. Each was made to feel as though they alone were her favourite. Unfailingly patient and gentle, she took pride in their accomplishments and felt their pain as her own. Heartfelt little gifts from her children and grandchildren were her most treasured possessions.
In 1967, Hilda taught herself to drive, obtained her driver’s licence and began work at Cranbrook & District Hospital as a dietician’s assistant. She enjoyed interacting with staff and patients and often spoke fondly of her years in the hospital kitchen.
Hilda volunteered as the Knitting Convenor to the hospital auxiliary for many years. During that time, she knitted hundreds of baby sweaters for the auxiliary.
Hilda loved growing flowers, listening to Pavarotti and knitting. When her eyesight failed and she could no longer knit intricately patterned sweaters, she continued to knit simple baby blankets for the auxiliary.
Hilda was also an avid “Jeopardy” watcher. In her 90s, a very good day was one which saw her solving “Final Jeopardy” when none of the three TV contestants could do so.
Hilda was well known among her children as a champion gravy maker, and her roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and red cabbage were without equal. Hilda loved a good potato and was always in search of quality produce. In her last days, she spoke of heaven and how she looked forward to cooking and baking there as she had in the old days. “I bet,” she said softly, “they have good potatoes up there.”
Hilda was predeceased by George, her husband of 66 years. She is survived by her children, Bill Koopmans (Judy), Hilda Muir (Bob), Pat Hall (Dave), Don Koopmans (Debbie) and Shannon Rodgers (Pat); nine grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful friends and neighbours whose attention allowed Hilda to maintain her independence and Dr. Caroline Shilhan for her amazing dedication and support.
A funeral service celebrating Hilda’s life will be held Saturday, Oct. 29, at 11 a.m. at Knox Presbyterian Church,
2100-3rd St S., Cranbrook, B.C.
Mark Memorial Funeral Services in care of arrangement