Friday, February 6, 2015

My Grandfather, Jenneke "John" Vos

Back row L to R Standing
Julia, Winnie, Pete
Front row L to R
Grandma Winifred, Mother Elsie on lap, Theresa,
Grandpa John, and Louie
My blogs, so far, have been about my father's family.  Today I am writing about my maternal grandfather who was an immigrant from The Netherlands.

My grandfather, Jenneke "John" Vos was born in Scharnegoutum, Friesland, Netherlands on 24 October 1879.  He lived to be 90 years old and died on Christmas Day in 1969.  He married Wiepkje "Winifred" Piers de Jong on 7 May 1904 in Sneek, Friesland, Netherlands.  She was the daughter of Pier Jans de Jong and Tjitske Jentjes Leenstra and was born in Hommerts, Friesland, Netherlands on 10 March 1882.

The first two children of this family were born in The Netherlands:  Jeltje "Julia" was born in Scharnegoutum in 1905; Pier "Pete" was born in Sneek in 1906.  In 1907, while my grandmother was expecting her next child, they came to the United States.  They departed from Rotterdam aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam and arrived at the Port of New York on 18 November 1907.

They first settled in Paterson, Passaic Co., New Jersey.  Some members of the Vos family preceded them to America and had a house there.  As other family members arrived, they all lived together in that house.  My grandfather's parents, Lolle Jenneke Vos and his wife Jeltje Jellema and all but one of their children came here.  John and Winifred, as they were called in the USA, had their third child, my aunt Winifred "Wiepjke" on 14 February 1908 in Paterson, New Jersey.  Also in Paterson, they had a son Louis "Lolle" in 1909.  He died there in 1910.

89 Akron St., Rochester, NY as it looked in 1992
In about 1910, the family moved to Rochester, Monroe Co., New York, and settled in a Dutch community there.  At this point, the various family units had their own homes.  My grandparents' home was at 89 Akron St.  Four additional children were born to them in Rochester:  Theresa "Tjitske" in 1911, Louis "Lolle" in 1914, Elsie "Uilkje" (my mother) in 1917, and Rudy "Ruurd" in 1918.  My aunt Winnie told me this story about my mother's birth.  She was born on April 1.  The older children were told to take the younger children to the park and to stay there until someone came to get them.  After a long time, someone finally came and told them they had a new baby sister.  They thought it was an April Fool's joke!  My mother got plenty of teasing in her life because of being born on that day.  

In 1921, the family made another move.  This time, all the way to Santa Monica, California -- on the train.  In Santa Monica, their last child was born -- William "Wiebe" in 1923.  My grandfather and his brothers were carpenters and built a number of houses in Santa Monica.  My grandparents lived in several places before they finally built their own home on Berkeley St. just off of Wilshire Blvd., which was a dirt road at the at time!

My Grandpa Vos gave me my first Bible.  I still have it.  The family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church until they moved to Santa Monica where there was no DRC.  They tried several churches and, eventually, settled on the Baptist church.  My Grandpa sang in the choir there.  In fact, all of the Vos family were musical.  Grandpa could play the organ and any kind of horn.  He had a booming bass voice and did lots of solos.  Sometimes my mother and I would go to his church to hear him sing.  The Vos family had a family band in The Netherlands.  In the picture below, you can see that some of them are holding their instruments.  They have many musicians among their descendants.
Back Row Standing L to R
Wiebe, Trijntje, Ruurd, Jenneke (my grandfather)
Middle Row L to R
Jeltje (great grandmother) holding Tjerkje, Liewe, Lolle Jenneke (great grandfather)
Front Row L to R
Eeltje, Tjerk, Pier

During WWII, many workers were needed in the aircraft industry.  My grandfather went to work at Douglas Aircraft and he remained there until he retired.  In 1924, he became a citizen of the United States.  When he died in 1969, he was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica next to my grandmother who had preceded him in death.

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