By Keith Lacey
Roelef and Jannie Bootsma weren’t there in the flesh, but their spirit, love and fond memories were felt by everyone who attended the Bootsma family reunion in Osoyoos in August.
An incredible 91 members of the extended Bootsma clan gathered at the Casa Del Mila Oro condominium complex to celebrate the life – and love – of the couple affectionately known as “Rudy and Janny” by their eight children.
The family reunion was organized as 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of their parents becoming engaged back in 1942.
“They would be smiling and be so happy that we did this,” said Frances Vegt, who along with her siblings helped organize the family reunion that attracted family members from as far away as Holland, England and towns and cities across British Columbia and Alberta.
“They are looking down and smiling, that’s for sure.”
Rudy and Janny met in Friesland, a northern province in the Netherlands and “it was love at first sight” for her father, said Vegt. “He wanted to meet this cute, sassy girl that skated away on the ice with her friends.”
Rudy attended a community play thinking Janny would be in the audience, but lo and behold she was performing on stage “and the rest is history.”
Their mother got engaged to their father in 1942. After getting married in 1946, they worked in the bakery business until 1951 in the Netherlands, when they decided to emigrate to Canada with their three youngest children.
They chose Vancouver after their dad was set up with a job at a bakery.
They soon owned “Cake Varieties” in the Commercial Drive area in Vancouver.
Their father became ill with stomach ulcers and sold his original bakery and he and his wife worked in the cleaning industry for several years, but baking was in their blood and they bought Moore’s Bakery in Vancouver in 1962.
All eight of their children worked at Moore’s Bakery.
After 11 years owning that business, they packed up and moved to Calgary and bought Eric’s Bakery and changed the name to Glamorgan Bakery, where the four youngest kids worked after the oldest four had married.
“So many Calgarians know Glamorgan’s for their amazing cheese buns,” said Frances.
There are now 108 members of the Bootsma family and to get 91 to attend a family reunion like this is remarkable, she said.
They chose Osoyoos for a very simple reason.
“My parents loved Osoyoos,” she said. “They started coming for vacation back in the 1960s and all us kids loved coming here every summer.
“My Dad loved the hot weather. He called Osoyoos the Mexico of Canada. When we were planning this over the past year, we had no doubt the only place to hold the reunion was in Osoyoos.”
In 1981, Rudy and Janny celebrated 40 years together by holding a special reunion at Safari Beach Resort in Osoyoos, even though they couldn’t attend due to Rudy’s medical problems.
Their mother died of cancer in 1986 and their father died 15 years later in 2001.
The extended family continues to gather for weddings, funerals, reunions and special occasions.
Seven of the eight children were in Osoyoos for the reunion. They included Florence Sleyt, the oldest daughter who still lives in the Netherlands, and her six children.
Also attending were siblings Jenny Bakker (Lacombe, Alta.), Greta Minnesma (Calgary), Martin Bootsma (Salmon Arm), Ron Bootsma (Rocky Mountain House, Alta.), Jan (Edson, Alta.) and oldest son Walter, who lives in Oliver when he’s not working in the Yukon.
The majority of 25 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren also attended.
The fun never stopped from the Friday until the Monday morning, when the majority of family members headed home in different directions, said Vegt.
“We watched old family movies, ate together at breakfast and dinners, had barbecues, spent time at the beach, went water skiing, did skits in the Dutch tradition, biked, played golf and just basically had a wonderful time,” she said. “With so many family members here, we did our own things during the day, but made sure we were all together for dinners and entertainment at night.”
Florence Sleyt said making the long visit from Holland to attend the reunion was an easy choice.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said. “We have a very large and very close family and it’s always a wonderful time when we manage to get together.”
The influence of their parents was so strong, several family members owned and operated their own successful bakery businesses and one of the grandchildren, Steven Bootsma, is currently in the process of purchasing the same bakery in Calgary his grandparents owned and operated decades ago.