With the passing of Jacob Veldhuisen, Eugene lost a unique educator, humanitarian and dedicated Duck fan. Jacob’s remarkable life ended peacefully on Jan. 16, 2020, in Hood River, Ore., with his family beside him.
Jacob’s eventful 89 years began on Oct. 27, 1930, on a dairy west of Amsterdam, Netherlands, as the firstborn of Trijntje Franzen and Cornelius Peter Veldhuisen. He was soon followed by a sister, Gysberta, and later, brothers Hendrik, Cornelius and Peter. Being surrounded by extended family and farm products eased the lean years of the Great Depression and the Nazi Occupation. Still, “Jaap” always looked forward to Sunday School and history class.
In 1948, Jacob’s family left their deep-rooted community and emigrated to the northwestern U.S., landing in snowy Trout Lake, Wash. The Korean War erupted and Jacob was drafted by both the Netherlands and U.S., and he opted to serve his new country as a clerical specialist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he reached the rank of Staff Sargent and was immersed in the diversity of American culture.
After an honorable discharge in 1953, he enrolled at the University of Oregon, completing an education degree in 1958. This is when he became a lifelong fan of the GI Bill (veteran’s benefits) and the Oregon Ducks.
In 1960, he married another young school teacher, Kaye Nissen, and they had a son (Curt Nissen Veldhuisen, 1961) and a daughter (Jan Kathryn Veldhuisen, 1964). Jacob taught history and social studies at the brand-new Sunset High School in Beaverton. On top of classroom teaching, he volunteered to coach the school ski team and led the local teachers association.
In 1965, Jacob and family returned to Eugene, where he remained for his lifetime. Jacob worked toward a Master’s degree and in 1972 completed a Doctorate in Education. The PhD was a significant academic accomplishment for an immigrant whose predecessors’ success resulted from their dairying prowess and industriousness. Another career milestone came in 1976, when the Oregon legislature approved collective bargaining rights for teachers when Jacob was serving as support staff for the Education Committee. The late 1970s were also a stressful time, and in 1978, he and Kaye divorced.
During the 1970s and ‘80s, Jacob mentored thousands of teens during his tenures at South Eugene, Sheldon and North Eugene High Schools, and Jefferson Junior High. To his final days, he couldn’t walk through Eugene without encountering past students and colleagues that would express their appreciation for his lasting contributions.
Around 1986, Jacob retired and dedicated his last decades to his family, church, community … and Ducks. He got great joy watching his children build their own lives and families and being their supportive “Opa.” Jacob became more active at the First Congregational Church, using his keen knowledge of history and group discussion to lead the adult study group.
Did I mention he loved his Ducks? He attended countless Autzen games, being a season ticket holder for four decades, arriving via wheelchair for his final season of 2018! Not to mention the basketball games, track meets and other campus festivities he relished.
He remained in his Eugene home until May 2019, when Alzheimer’s forced him to move to Hood River for his final months. Despite declining health, he rekindled his love for singing with the Sunshine Club for seniors.
Aside from his eventful life, what truly set Jacob apart was his continued growth in both wisdom and compassion. Despite witnessing war firsthand and the uprooting of his family, he was always alert to the needs of others, even a homeless stranger knocking on his door. Despite his accomplishments, he was humble and had time for anyone and had an off-hand joke to lighten many potentially awkward situations. All that knew him aspire to absorb those qualities.
Jacob is survived by four siblings, Gysberta “Barbara” Babbitt of Springfield, and brothers Cornelius “Case” Veldhuisen of Salem and Peter Veldhuisen of Portland (brother Henk Veldhuisen of Woodburn, Ore., is deceased as of 2015); children, Curt (and Joanna) Veldhuisen of Bellingham, Wash., and Jan Veldhuisen (and Dick) Virk of Hood River; former wife Kaye Veldhuisen of Portland; grandchildren Kathryn, Meredith, and Anneke Virk and Leah and Ty Veldhuisen. Jacob leaves behind several nieces and nephews and their families.
Jacob will be buried at Willamette National Cemetery 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13 at Willamette National Cemetery, 11800 S.E. Mt. Scott Blvd., Portland. A life celebration open to all is planned for Friday, March 6 at the First Congregational Church, 1050 E. 23rd Ave., Eugene, with the time of service pending. Direct donations can be made to the Hood River Sunshine Club and UO scholarships, sent care of Anderson’s Tribute Center.
The family would like to thank Providence Hospice of the Gorge and Nightingale Private Care in Eugene for the wonderful care they provided.
Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson’s Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River. Visit www.AndersonsTributeCenter.com to leave a note of condolence for the family.