Born in Belgium in 1863.
Died at Churchbridge, Sask., Canada, in 1937.
All I remember about Grandpa Van Hee's appearance was that he was huge. I'm sure he measured at least six feet tall. He was the oldest boy in the family of 14 children. He had five brothers. He came with his father to America in 1880 at the age of seventeen. While in America in 1880 they bought land, hired men to break that land and then they went back to Belgium to bring the whole family in 1881 to America. I was told the reason for immigration to America was to escape the army services their sons would have had to serve if they stayed in Belgium. My grandfather was a well educated man. He spoke several languages but one of his ambitions was to teach his grandchildren to speak and read French. Many times I've regretted not taking advantage of his offer to teach me French. How advantageous that would have been in high school!
Grandpa ran a store in Ghent, Minnesota, but it also seemed he farmed at one time, too.
When my grandfather was 32 years old he married my grandmother, Dorthea Van Emelen on July 16, 1895.
Grandpa and Grandma Van Hee always appeared to us as a unified team. Grandpa always treated Grandma as a lady. She helped him in the store. At all times she had help in caring for the children and keeping house.
My mother and her brothers and sisters were sent to a Convent school all the time they lived in America. They were also in a band and Grandpa stressed the importance of a good education.
When Grandpa came to Canada he tried to farm but I think he was much more interested in being on executives of organizations and experimenting with seeds from his vegetable garden than he was in farming. I never remember a summer when we'd visit Grandpa that he didn't have various plants wth bags tied on them. He was cross-pollinating some seeds to get better sugar peas, corn or sweet-peas. He usually had a huge garden of vegetables, a beautiful row of sweet-peas and other flowers and currants, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries. Grandpa was very successful with watermelons and I remember one Christmas holiday when every evening after playing games of checkers or cards, we would get one big watermelon from the root cellar and enjoy a juicy big slice of watermelon in the middle of winter! Yes, I know we can do that now but in early pioneer days watermelon in winter was truly a treat.
Grandpa Van Hee encouraged us to broaden our views of the world, He had many slides of London, Paris, Holland, Belgium, Spain and many other wonders of the world. We looked at these slides through a heavy wooden view-master each time we visited at Grandma and Grandpa Van Hee's. He always had time to tell us something interesting about that part of the world.
We also loved to play all the records on the gramophone which had to be wound up by hand. We could listen for hours at a time and never once were we told to stop playing it.
An experience of the advantages of an education always awaited us when we visited Grandpa Van Hee. He impressed me with his knowledge of the world, his appreciation of music, art, science experiments and his ability to speak several languages; he seemed to know so much I often wonder how he had time to learn everything. There were many magazines, books and other interesting things to read at Grandpa VanHee's. Everyone always had a great time when visiting there and I really missed Grandpa after he died of a stroke when I was eleven years old.
His contribution to the pioneers and country was one of leadership, respect for education, a keen interest in scientific advancement and in developing better seeds for families to grow bigger and better vegetables and fruits and his keen interest in helping to teach each family to try to be self-sufficient.