A Flashback to the Post-WWII in Southeast Asia

Eyewitness Testimonial 

Two weeks ago I posted a testimonial from Corrie den Hoed, one of the three people in my mother’s camp diary who are still alive today. This week you can read a testimonial from Rob Vierhout, in his own words.

“As a child I was interned with my mother and two brothers in the same camps as Ronny, her mother (Aunt Netty) and her sister Paula. Because of Aunt Netty’s detailed journal Ronny was able to clearly relate how desperately women and children tried to survive in overcrowded concentration camps under very harsh conditions and cruel treatment by the Japanese guards.

I feel great admiration for Aunt Netty who not only had the strength and courage to support her own family and keep a journal, but supported others like my mother and her three young boys as well.

Because of her support we were able to continue to live normal lives again in complete freedom when our families were reunited after the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945.

In her Memoir Rising from the Shadow of the Sun Ronny describes the experiences of her father who escaped the camps and joined the Allied Forces; the years she, her mother and little sister spent in Japanese prison camps and the return of her family to a normal existence after the liberation. In addition she illustrates that despite the suffering the Japanese had caused life can hold hope and joy.”

I met Rob Vierhout and his wife in November 2011, and did not recognize the old “Robbie” after so many years. They came to my mother’s memorial service and it was a total surprise for me to see him again. Time was too short to share our lives, but thank heaven for email!

Until next time,


Arlington National Cemetery: A Place to Honor our Fallen Heroes

Honorable Burial

One of my very best friends was buried at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month. She earned that honor as the wife of a retired Air Force pilot who was on active duty during the Vietnam War. When he visited last Wednesday I talked with him about his wife’s valiant fight with cancer during the last three years and her beautiful final resting place at Arlington.

More than 220,000 white marble headstones line the hills of the cemetery. At each grave site, as we approach Memorial Day, an American flag is proudly posted, including two inside the tomb of the unknown soldier to honor our fallen brothers and sisters who gave their life specifically for this flag. It’s an annual tribute, a tradition that started in 1948: the flags are distributed and delivered by hundreds of soldiers from the Old Guard. One by one, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are all paid homage with red, white, and blue. It’s an exhausting and emotional task that takes about four hours to complete. The soldiers from the Old Guard consider this task a privilege, not a job.

A new columbarium has opened at Arlington National Cemetery, just in time for Memorial Day. Columbarium Court No. 9, as it’s called, has more than 20,000 niches for U.S. military veterans and their families. Each niche in the two-acre columbarium has space for 3-4 urns. The project cost $15.6 million and began in January 2012. Columbarium Court No. 9 is 2.5 times bigger than the cemetery’s next-largest columbarium. This project required near perfect quality and pristine finishes ensuring longevity and suitability in the green-scape of Arlington National Cemetery.

Columbarium Court No. 9 is nearly the length of two football fields at 116-feet wide, 11-feet tall and 540-feet long. The project features interior and exterior landscaping with a central water fountain, new irrigation and underground electrical systems and storm water management. The columbarium will help extend Arlington National Cemetery’s effective life as a final resting place for the country’s war dead. While the cemetery will always remain open to the public, it will eventually run out of space for new burials.

Without the Columbarium Court No. 9 expansion, Arlington National Cemetery would have run out of niche space in 2016. By adding more than 20,000 niche spaces for our veterans and their families, Columbarium Court No. 9 is extending the life of the cemetery for years to come. Arlington National Cemetery’s Millennium Project will include a new columbarium and additional in-ground burial spaces — for up to 30,000 military veterans and their families — but this will also result in the loss of about 800 older trees.

Over the next few days, cemetery officials expect tens of thousands of visitors to pass through the cemetery gates to honor the service members buried here. On Monday, formal Memorial Day events get underway at 10:30 a.m. with a U.S. Navy band concert followed by the wreath-laying ceremony.

In observance of Memorial Day, commemorating the men and women who died while in the military service, the United States flag is displayed at Half Staff from sunrise until noon. The flag, when flown at Half Staff, is first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. At noon, the flag is raised to the top of the staff until it is lowered for the day.

While we honor and commemorate the heroic men and women who died for our country — and who saved my life and the lives of my mother and little sister — let us also treasure and take care of the many veterans who are still with us. They deserve the best.

Until next time,



A Flashback to the Post-WWII Era in Southeast Asia

Eyewitness Testimony 

Of all the people my mother mentioned in her camp journal on which part of my book is based, only three are still alive. They are Corrie den Hoed, Rob Vierhout and I. Corrie and Rob live in the Netherlands, I in the United States. The following is an eyewitness testimony by Corrie den Hoed in her own words.

“A little girl of five, I felt very much alone in the world right after the war. I had lost my mother and her unborn baby just before I was incarcerated by the Japanese in a camp on the island of Sumatra. Her grave was washed away by a torrential flood; we have never been able to locate it.

After the Japanese surrender my father, who had narrowly escaped torture by the extremists fighting for their independence, finally found me and we went to live in Surabaya where he became the district manager in the Darmo area. We became friends with the Herman family who lived close by. Tante (aunt) Netty was so wonderful; she became a second mother to me. I loved to play with Ronny and Paula and we went to the same school. We all eventually ended up in the Netherlands; in 1998 Oom (uncle) Fokko died; then, unexpectedly, Paula died in April 2011 and Tante Netty in November 2011. She was almost 102 years old and until the end of her life she was always thankful, loving and hospitable. She saw the silver lining of every threatening cloud.

For me, Ronny’s book Rising from the Shadow of the Sun is truly a Story of Love, Survival and Joy. Part One, based on Tante Netty’s camp diary, fills in the gaps of my life in the camps as a toddler and has happy memories of the years thereafter. For you, the reader, it may fill in the gaps of four years in WWII history when innocent women and children were incarcerated, tortured and starved to death by a ruthless army of Japanese and it will tell you about women’s strength in dire situations. Women survived because of the love for their children. Part Two, Ronny’s Memoir, shows the resilience of the human spirit, which makes it possible to truly survive deprivation and misery and find joy in life.”

Two days before Paula died Corrie visited her in the hospital: the last friend to see her alive. Paula died alone. Always my little sister’s protector during our early years in the camps and thereafter, I could not be with her at the time of her death. I will always regret it.

Until next time,


Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 7, 1939 in Soerabaja, the Dutch East Indies, was one of the happiest days in the life of Nettie Herman-Louwerse: her very first Mother’s Day. She loved being a mother, and she was the very best, the most loving mother I have ever known. She celebrated seventy-two Mother’s Days and over the years she told her two little girls how thankful she was for us, and how happy that we all had survived the horrors of the camps, and that the three of us were still together, a three-leaf clover after our pappa had died; a tight-knit threesome, a mother and her little girls.

When she was 101 years old, she lost one of her little girls before it was Mother’s Day again, and she cried her heart out; unstoppable, silent tears of the greatest pain she had ever had to endure, the greatest loss of all, the loss of her little Paula. “Paula is no longer with us”, she said over and over, “Paula is no longer with us”, and the tears kept coming.

Then it was Mother’s Day again. It was to be her last one. And she lifted her face, my dear, brave, little old mother, and told me how thankful she was that she had  one daughter, one real, live daughter, of whom she was so very proud, and who had made her life so very happy.

It is a joy to be a mother; it is a blessing and a gift. I have had the best example of how to  be a good, loving mother that anyone has ever had. In my book I have created memories of her through her own words and mine, and I hope that you will read and enjoy all the days of her life.

Until next time,


Mother's Day
Mother’s Day

A Place of Refuge



Once in a while we need to leave all our work and worries and problems behind and seek the safety and peace of a place of refuge, the maluhia of a place where we can live life a day at a time, enjoying the wonders of nature, the fragrance of flowers, the songs of hundreds of birds, the warm water of the ocean as we float with a buoyancy of body and mind in total relaxation. Maluhia…

Ask me where to find that place and I will let you know…

Until next time,