160 years spun together, brother and sister through “thick and thin” – Dutch saying -, Marie and John celebrated their 80th birthdays on July 9, 2017, at the house of their granduncle, Joost van der Poorten Schwartz, alias Maarten Maartens, the once-famous novel writer around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Uncle Joost was the brother of their grandfather, John (Johannes) Schwartz, after whom this John was named. Although the castle-like house, named “Zonheuvel” or “Sun Hill”, located in Doorn near Utrecht in the Netherlands, is now owned by the Dutch business training and advice institution, SBI (de stichting Slotemaker de Bruine Instituut), it is still used as a regular reunion venue for the extended Schwartz family (and their counterpart de Savornin Lohman family as well). They revere their uncle’s fame with his pen and immense imagination and like to dwell in his library and workroom, where he kept his many old literary books while writing his own. At the same time, they enjoy the good catering services of “Zonheuvel Hotel,” which SBI built on the grounds of the estate.
Both Marie and John went around the world during their lifetime, Marie for “Women in Europe for a Common Future,” a non-governmental organization she created in 1994, and which has internationally grown over the years, now operating under the name of “Women Engage for a Common Future.” Having relinquished the direction of WECF to her daughter Sascha Gabizon, who directs the organization as Executive Director from München, Germany, Sascha has expanded the operations of WECF considerably under the guidance of her mother, Marie, still acting as Honorary President and Policy Adviser. Sascha was recently elected as European Regional Representative to UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, one of the primary activities of WECF. (UNEP’s election results are in: Sascha is now UNEP’s regional representative for civil society in Europe.) As she once told me – in all modesty – “I’m a good manager.”
Sascha’s brother Michiel Kranendonk became a devoted art painter who produces wonderful special-light-effect sea views, portraits, and sculptures and also accomplished an impressive wall-painting of the Maarten Maartens House that hangs in Hotel Zonheuvel.
Both Sascha with Marc Gabizon, and Michiel with Swenne van Roosmalen, were blessed with lovely children. Sascha with Lily, who at age 16 already speaks four languages fluently (Dutch, French, English, and German!), and Michiel with Marinke, a beauty in full bloom, and Ingmar, her younger brother in battle.
Photo above: Swenne van Roosmalen, Michiel’s wife. Next, their daughter Marinke, dancing with Preston John Schwartz, his sister Sadie looking on. Marinke’s brother, Ingmar, appears later as an Indian warrior in Karl May’s Old Shatterhand stories Marie always read endlessly on “de plee” – (Dutch word for toilet and pronounced “play.”)
John traveled the world for the World Bank most of his life, and also as an international consultant for 17 years after he retired, looking back on mixed results, as improving public financial management, sound economic investment, and modernizing old cultural habits with deeply-vested interests in less developed nations proves difficult, slow-moving, and often exasperating. His children did not think much of it – “Daddie is always away on mission” – while Joy, his dapper wife, had to drive them to and from school in snow and ice, or thunderstorms. In the end, Pa left it to others trying to improve the world – much too late the kids said – and became a writer. In the spirit of Uncle Joost, also writing in English.
Photos above: John’s books about Maarten Maartens’ stories. Next, leaving the two books to his greatuncle on his desk, in his memory and with great admiration. Standing against the bouquet of flowers is a booklet by Maximiliaan Schwartz, a cousin of Maarten Maartens, who translated some of his stories into Dutch. It was a gift to John from Ada Baars de Savornin Lohman. This is a rare booklet and little known in the family today. Uncle Max descended from the first marriage of the Great Grandfather Carl Schwartz and was a doctor in the classical languages, who translated the works of many Greek and Latin authors into Dutch while being Dean of the City Gymnasium of Nijmegen in Holland. These books are still in print.
John’s kids did not follow their dad to the World Bank but succeeded in making good careers of their own. Samantha obtained a Ph.D. in psychology and law and works as a jury consultant (US law system) traveling to all corners of the USA, and David is a successful sales representative of Ethicon, the surgical instruments division of Johnson & Johnson, selling “hammers and nails” to needy surgeons. The grandchildren would probably still be working on grandpa’s failed missions, a never-ending story, but, so far, they seem more interested in playing football and ballet dancing.
Preston is a Little League football player in the US and was named “most valuable player” (at the age of 7) of his region in 2016. On “Sadie Ballet”: she is the little one second from right. At the end of her show, she makes a summersault!
As a result, on this fabulous day of celebration, the two 80-year-olds – John reached his past November 10, 2016, and Mary will reach hers next February 11, 2018 – can’t complain about their life’s achievements, despite the pain, hardship and difficult moments. It was, therefore, a great pleasure to celebrate this lifelong achievement with dear family and dear friends from different parts of the world we had not seen for many years, some never before, in bright sunny weather (hooray for the Netherlands). It was a day of music, song, and dance, with good dishes, beer (Van Vollenhoven’s lager and stout!) provided by Poesiat & Kater, Muiderpoort-Amsterdam, courtesy brewers Eymert van Manen and Pieter Teepe, wine, and fun, and having a chance to interact with each other, even if it was for a brief moment. The serene atmosphere of the Maarten Maartens House offers a splendid environment for such an occasion.
After all this self-boasting, a few pictures of the event follow below. Most pictures were made by April R. Faulkner-Schwartz, an excellent amateur-photographer, whose diligence is hereby greatly appreciated. Other family members and friends (among others Nellie Mietes, Junte Schwartz, Lodewijk Regout) also contributed pictures and we are immensely grateful for that.
Welcome toasts at the Maarten Maartens House Marie – John – Max the Dog – Joy (John’s wife) son David, daughter Sam, granddaughter Sadie, Amalia Baracs, in the background Jan van Roosmalen, Michiel’s father-in-law, and
Mary, John, Joy, David with Sadie, Samantha, Jan van Roosmalen, Willemijn Banki (student friend of Michiel’s) and Amalia Baracs in the background – Next Joy and John toasting.
Guests still entering the hall of the Maarten Maartens House during the welcoming ceremony.
First cousins Junte and John chatting together. Next cousins Arent van Sminia and Alexander de Savornin Lohman talking.
Dear friend Amalia Baracs bringing flowers to Marie. Next Joy talking to Marie with April Schwartz listening in.
Pianist Bas Vermeyden playing classical music on Maarten Maartens grand piano, still in splendid shape, to accompany a show of Michiel’s paintings on screen. Children are watching the show.
Sascha, director of the performance, speaking. Cousin Samantha speaking as well.
Above Lily Gabizon, Naomi van Kleef, Sadie and Preston Schwartz, Marinke Kranendonk, Samantha Schwartz, performing.
The children and grandchildren performed a hilarious show.
Michiel, acting as Marie’s mother superior at her girl-boarding school, Sacré Coeur, who was not happy with her behavior.
Heleen de la Hayze (now Corbet), Marie’s oldest friend from Heemstede, Marie, and John watching the performance. Next Michiel being addressed by his mother during the show.
Ending the performance in applause and deep bows.
John dancing with Heleen (like they were 5 and 4 years old) – and the rest of the party in full swing.
More dancing after the show
Cousins Michiel and David having second thoughts about their parents’ speeches
Michiel turned off by David’s flirting with Lilly.
Joy and Alexander de Savornin Lohman. Next, Joy holding a gift photo with Mary, John, and sister Carla when they were teens.
From left to right: Willem Dólleman from Kenya and his wife Marie-José, John, (Willem Dólleman from Paris, hidden behind John), Judith and her father Junte. Willem Dólleman from Kenya became a successful farmer like his father Willem (from the North East Polder – Flevoland) and built a windfarm in Kenya of 365 wind turbines, producing 320 MW, with partners, in a remote but very windy area, to supply Kenya with cheaper alternative energy (at half the cost of European windfarms!) Read about it on http://bit.ly/2yHK1jL , how he overcame World Bank objections (!!!) and won the confidence of the African Development Bank, which was my employer for many years after my retirement from the World Bank. Also consult http://bit.ly/2yPUszf, and about Willem’s earlier successful exploits in Tanzania and Kenya: http://bit.ly/2iDeo4n. This is a remarkable story! If there is one family member who deserves the crown, it’s Willem Dolleman from Kenya! I regret we did not herald his terrific achievements more loudly at the party. The Dólleman family came from our grandmother Mary Dólleman, who married our grandfather Hector van Coehoorn van Sminia (Arent van Sminia, our cousin, below, attended our birthday party as well). Mary Dólleman’s mother was the daughter of Johan Jacob van der Wall, medalled Officer of the Cavalry in Holland, who as a young boy was forced to accompany Napoleon on his infamous Russia invasion. He was one of the very few who came back alive, on a beautiful horse, given to him by his saviors in Russia. I was delighted to meet again after many years with another dear cousin Willem Dolleman, who was a former diplomat of the Dutch Foreign Service and now lives in Paris with his French wife. We were so glad to reconnect with this illustrious part of the family.
Same photograph: Cousin and niece Judith, second from right, who had just recovered from a serious and mysterious infection and we were so happy to see her alive and kicking again, though still using a walking stick at the party. A few months before we were praying day-in-day-out that she would not succumb but she’s a very strong-willed girl (with a lovely little daughter Nicoline) and thank God made it back.
Next photo above: Marie in talks with Maartje Hamers-Dolleman, sister of Willem from Kenya, and Marie-José Dolleman.
Children having fun in the lovely garden of the Maarten Maartens House
A few of the many group photos. Names on the photo above:
Left: The open-air theater, built by Maarten Maartens’ daughter, Aunt Ada in 1939, as photographed in 1971, in a 1991 brochure of the Maarten Maartens Foundation. Next, the theater rediscovered and restored by SBI in 2017, just ready for the birthday party (photograph by Kim Mastenbroek of Hotel Zonheuvel).
April Renée Faulkner-Schwartz, the great photographer, with her two children Preston John and Sadie Rose. Next, her mother Doris Kooch.
We did not realize how important this festivity would become when the idea of a joint 80th birthday arose. When the day was over and everybody had gone home, it dawned on us what a great day it was. To us – and hopefully to all who came – the idea of the whole family and friends being together for a few hours became a memorable event. Even if we could not talk long with everyone, it was a great feeling being together and having seen each other again. Life is only so short.
Do you ever feel that you can talk to your ancestors?
I do. I didn’t think I ever would when I was young. But once your life progresses and you become more aware of life’s fate of family and close friends passing, you begin to think about where they went. They can’t just have gone away when you still feel their presence.
This happens to me with several people who have been instrumental or influential in my life. You still feel their heartbeat, you hear their speech, you know they’re in your room as if listening in, wanting to continue partaking in your life. My grandmother, my mother, Fioen, the girl who gave me my first kiss and died in a dreadful accident when she was 16 years old; and my dear cousin intended co-writer, Anne van der Laan.
It happened again when I dwelled in the library and workroom of my great-uncle Joost, or Joshua van der Poorten Schwartz, alias Maarten Maartens – the once-famous Dutch writer who wrote primarily in English at the turn of the 19th and 20th century – in his splendid house in Doorn, a small town in the Netherlands. I had visited this workroom many times before, always impressed by its serenity and literary wealth, with the many old books in French, English, German and even Latin and Greek, filling the shelves along the walls.
In 2002. I sat at his writing desk and suddenly felt Uncle Joost “speaking” to me. “Pick up your pen and write. Do as I did and feel fulfilled.” To my regret, I did not follow his gentle push right away as I was still fully absorbed by my consulting demands. However, a cousin, who had also been in that room at that time, and felt the same way, agreed with me to outline our first book together, entitling it Some Women We Have Known after the title of our uncle’s first volume of published short stories. Then he passed away before we could finish it and again on my next visit to Maarten Maartens’ desk I felt his strong urge, “John, you go on. Don’t let this fail.”
I started with short stories in English about each woman I had selected for this purpose. Audrey Hepburn, whom I had known when we were kids, she 13 and I 7, was the first. Eventually, these stories became a coming-of-age and early-adult memoir, ending with my marriage, this time keeping the same title as Maarten Maartens’ first short story volume, Some Women I Have Known.
After I climbed that first hurdle – everyone who writes knows that a first book is a hurdle – I wrote my first novel, Enchanting The Swan, about a musician couple whose love goes wrong before it gets right. It’s quite a dramatic tale, starting at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and from there to Brussels, Geneva and New York. Even though it is written in the first person, it is pure fiction, except for the description of the hall of Baron Maconville’s house in Waterloo: as close a description as possible of the antiques in the hall of Uncle Joost’s house. It had to be based on memory: when I went back to the house to verify my memory, all the antiques had disappeared (harnasses, musquet rifles fixed to the ceiling in a perfect circle, little canons, and other collections from North Africa where the Maartens traveled – see the picture below in Th. M. Gorissen’s book Maarten Maartens, 1992). For some sad reason and madness, they had been removed. Nobody could tell me how that happened and where they went, but it had to have had the approval of the then managing committee (including family) responsible for the upkeep of Maartens’ library. Shame. If I had still been in Holland, that would never have occurred.
At the stage of writing Swan, I strongly believed Uncle Joost communicated with me. In 2013, my sister Mary Kranendonk and I and a small group of family members decided to celebrate Maarten Maartens’ one-hundred-year passing in 1915. I heard this voice in me to write a summarization of his 13 novels and his 4 volumes of published short stories. By reading his work, often twice, to enable me to commingle my summarizations with passages of his own writing, I bonded with this long-gone family member-writer and now feel that I’ve known him all my life. When I am in his workroom, I don’t feel like an outsider. I am part of him. Other learned people may have studied his work and life, and analyzed it, but nobody ever made his works available in a contemporary format that allows family and interested readers to enjoy Maarten Maartens’ writing without having to read his sometimes lengthy 19th century style in full, that is, if they can still find them in antique bookstores or libraries.
The One-Hundred-Year Commemoration of Maarten Maartens in September 2015 became a very successful event, thanks to the hard work of a small dedicated group of family members who spent many months preparing it (see a previous blog in November 2015, describing the festivity). It gave us a feeling we had revived his memory and done him right.
Living in the US, I wanted to go back to Uncle Joost’s house once more. My sister and I decided to celebrate our 80th birthday there in July 2017 (she a half-year ahead and I a half-year past). This scribbler went “home” to the Maarten Maartens House to pay his respect and express his gratitude while at the same time celebrating a life with many family members and friends (the subject of a next blog). For me, as a modest scribbler with no fame, it was also a day of reconnecting with an uncle who had instilled in me the joy of authoring stories.
Soon to come:
Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State: She rises to the top of a mining conglomerate, demobilizes the anti-mining lobby, but will she save the company and find love in the meantime?