Seventy years after the liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian soldiers and after the Dutch government thanked Canada with the gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs, Terrace celebrated with the planting of 700 tulip bulbs that are part of the 70th anniversary Dutch-Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden, one of 140 gardens distributed across the country.
The red and white bulbs were planted out front of the gates to Heritage Park Museum Oct. 16 with many residents, students and dignitaries in attendance.
Students and residents lined up to plant a bulb in holes already laid out in a repeating red and white pattern by Eric Lennert, the city gardener, who is also credited with sending in the application for Terrace to be one of the recipients of the tulip bulbs.
Bill McRae, city freeman and one of the soldiers who landed on the shores of Normandy in 1944 and who later helped to free the Dutch in 1945, said the people there had a tough time after the war. With service medals affixed to a dark blue sport coat, McRae sat in the front row of the audience, learning during the celebration that both of his great-grandddaughters, Thayna and Zyah Healey, were two of the winners of a Heritage Park contest for their drawings depicting the relationship between Holland and Canada.
On behalf of the Dutch community in Terrace, Joe Vanderkwaak spoke of remembering the liberation of his homeland.
“I distinctly remember standing along a road in my hometown, on a sunny May morning, waving and cheering as the Canadian forces drove by in an impromptu parade,” he said, adding he came to Terrace in 1953.
Many Dutch people left the war-torn country afterward for other countries to build new lives, said Vanderkwaak.
The ones who came to Terrace did so via contacts with the Christian Reformed Church of North America and in 1952, the denomination formed the current congregation, he said.
Many residents are descendents of these immigrants and Dutch names continue to flourish here, such as Van Heek, Mantel, Onstein, DeJong, Talstra, Vandevelde, Braam and many others, he added. All of these Dutch immigrants shared the same feelings of immense love for, and gratitude to, the Canadian soldiers who sacrificed so much to liberate the Netherlands, said Vanderkwaak.
“Guys like Bill [McRae] here can never do wrong as far as a Dutchman is concerned. For over 70 years, they have been, and still are, our heroes,” he said.