Carnations 5

Theresa Van Vlissingen

August 13, 1927 ~ April 2, 2023 (age 95) 95 Years Old


Born Taatske (Theresa) Andringa in St. Annaparochie, Friesland, the Netherlands, on August 13th, 1927, from parents Herman and Joukja Andringa (Bos). Theresa passed peacefully on April 2nd, 2023 at the Penticton regional hospital after a nasty fall. She was the eldest of seven children, growing up as a typical Dutch child wearing wooden shoes, skating canals, and cycling. When she was 12 years old the second world war broke out in Europe, so she was forced to quit school and go to work on farms alongside her dad to help support the family.

Food was scarce during those years and eggs and meat were luxuries, eaten only on Sundays. Theresa remembered it as scary times. Curfews were in place with blackout blinds were drawn over the windows in the evenings, so the town remained dark to avoid getting hit by airstrikes at night. Occasionally German SS officers would raid the town in the night, barging into homes, forcing men or teenage boys from their beds, and shipping them to work in the factories in Germany. To avoid getting taken, her dad and two oldest brothers ended up hiding under the canvas tarps at night that covered the potato hills, to sleep. It was a rat-infested, damp, cold, and miserable sleeping arrangement causing her dad to fall deathly ill for several weeks. The family feared he would die at that point (but he survived).

After the war ended, unemployment was high, so Theresa and her whole family took the first passenger ship to immigrate to Canada for a better life. Theresa, 19 at the time met the love of her life on the 2-week journey across the stormy Atlantic… John (Jan) Van Vlissingen was a young man from Brabant, a southern province in the Netherlands. Romance soon blossomed much like the story of the Titanic, except their ship didn’t go down.

They landed in Montreal where Theresa and John had to part ways for that year. John worked on a farm in Montreal while Theresa and her family took the long 4-day trek across Canada by train to Alberta where her family was sponsored.

In Alberta, Theresa started working as a nanny, maid, and cook around Calgary. Being a quick learner, she soon learned to read, write, and speak basic English on her own. John moved to Alberta after a year and worked for the forestry and logging camps. Their courtship continued, then when she was 24, and John 30, they got married and settled on a homestead in Highway, Alberta, in the middle of bear country.

It was quite an adventure of survival. Not having electricity or running water was new for both so the learning curve of pioneer life was steep. In the next few years, they ran a logging camp, farmed, and brought 4 babies into the world; Pauline, Norman, Bertie (Joan Alberta), and Margaret. They changed farms a few times in Alberta. During that time Theresa worked on their farm, got involved in community, the school board, gardening,  and taught 4-H sewing. In 1965 when Theresa was 38, they finally settled in McBride BC. where they started dairy farming. Theresa worked alongside her husband and children for the next 20 years. After 50 she got her driver’s license and spent the summers and other holidays enjoying and loving her first 4 grandchildren; Grant, Gary, Tony, and Cara. Sadly in 1985, her husband John passed.

Theresa stayed in the farmhouse for the next 28 years renting out the land. During that lonely time, she got more involved in the community. She started singing in the choir, doing oil painting, and crafts with her artistic flare coming to life. And she even taught others painting and crafting. Much of her work she entered to compete in the fall fairs, winning many first prizes. When her oldest grandchildren were teenagers and didn’t come quite as often, she was blessed with a new batch; Travis, Marty, and Lindee to love and enjoy. She especially loved the daily phone calls from her youngest grandchild, Lindee until she left for college.

When Theresa’s health started to deteriorate being in constant pain due to a crumpling hip, and no longer had her driver’s license, she eventually moved into the Beaver Lodge in the town of McBride for a year and a half. She got her hip replaced, then in 2017, she moved to the Summerland Senior’s Village in Summerland, nearby to her middle daughter Bertie for almost 6 years. Life had slowed down for her by 95 but she still enjoyed great visits over a cup of coffee, phone calls, or video calls from granddaughter Cara. She also enjoyed reading, doing word searches, playing board games, (and still could win at Chinese checkers), and enjoyed Sunday family dinners every week.

Theresa was predeceased by her husband John, her parents, Herman and Joukje Andringa, all 6 siblings; Stuart, Eva, Sylvia, Henry, Dick, and Gerrit, daughter-in-law Holly, and son-in-law Ron. She is survived by her children; Pauline Heffernan (Austin), Norman Van Vlissingen (Barb), Bertie Colgur (Darrol), and Margaret Franke; “adoptive daughter” Sue Bergstrom (Dean); grandchildren; Grant, Gary, Tony, Cara, Travis, Marty, and Lindee; 12 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

Theresa loved family gatherings, phone calls, visits, and being social. She was known for her feisty stubborn spirit, her kindness, and always being optimistic and grateful. Even in her last days though in pain, her nurse was astounded by her gratitude she had for the kindness of the nurse's care. She always did love getting looked after. Soar high sweet Theresa, you will be missed and remembered by all.

Celebration of Life will be in McBride BC sometime during the week of July 17th to 23rd. The exact date, time, and place will be announced later.


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