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Peter Hans Oomkes, 82, of Noblesville, passed away February 10, 2024. He was born in Voorburg Netherlands, son of Pieter and Maria (Noordijk) Oomkes.
Written by his children:
To try describing him in words and to do that justice seems as complex as he was.
As far as a father, Peter was more of a provider and kept working to better our existence. He did take his family on vacations: camping in Wales, Germany, and Ireland. Ultimately he had the vision and drive to move his 3 children ages 5 to 12, Yvonne, my mother, and 6 (5.5 business/half personal) shipping containers filled with home and business to the United States. Spiceland, Indiana is where he landed and managed to set up his awning business in an Old Coca Cola building. Over the years he moved the family and business from town to town, and ended up settling in the Indianapolis area. There he set up shop for his final run in the awning business while his kids were going through high school and college,
Peter always talked about being honest, to not lie or steal, work for what you want. Work he did and apparently that started young. Growing up he played music with his brothers and started playing in some groups, including a Buddy Holly cover band. He also organized shows and met his future wife during this time as she sang. His mother was a successful author who was kind and strong and seemed filled with wisdom. He regarded her with the most respect, at least after he was a teenager. His mother may have put him on the path of reading because he read many, so many books, and then he would read them again. Peter told stories of growing up in his grandfather’s bike shop which I think helped shape his work ethic. As far as being organized, it was more that he kept everything, wrote everything down, and made photo copies of everything. Including photos and achievements of his family. You can tell that is what he was proud of.
Peter was not the easiest person to get along with at times. Generally knowing what was right and correcting you even if it wasn’t his expertise. Plus the conversation became a one way story from him which I believe is due to his mind moving quickly which was good for all his accomplishments, but a challenge to his relationships. Still he would not want to hurt anyone, and he would say ‘do not even have negative thoughts about others because that can harm them.’
Having successfully given his family the opportunity to live in the U.S., he stopped the awning business. “Make a million, lose a million, and start over”, he would say. Peter and his wife went their own ways and he met the mother of his 4th child. There were some dark times after that, but he eventually found his way out and decided to open an Indonesian restaurant, at the age of 70. Really he was setting up a business for the next generation and a place where he could eat for free. With determination he rode his bicycle for the last 20 years of his life. The Eagle is what he called himself. Always ready to act.
As Peter aged, he became softer and more aware. Speaking more of karma and higher power. When things slowed down for him, he enjoyed his grandkid’s soccer or baseball games.
Some of his last words were “what’s wrong with this world is that everybody is too busy with themselves. We need to take care of each other and the planet and things will be better”. Two days before passing he sang along to Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel, throwing his fist up to leidalei.
I think Peter’s passing could not have been any more perfect. He fought to live till the last day and then in the end he switched his determination and passed within hours. His family was there for him on his last day holding space and signing songs.
The last hour I was with him, he had his head tilted toward the window and I picked up one of his books which I realized was his spiritual handbook. Deepak Choprah’s Ageless body, timeless mind.
The jest of the book is about living in a land where no one grows old. That in the current perception of the world we except certain assumptions that keep us from being free to fully live without suffering and aging. The book breaks it down into 10 assumptions that are about the physical world, our mind and our bodies which are limiting as to fully live. Then there are 10 opposing points of view which describes a way of existing without being limited to space and time. Free of suffering and filled with love. Happy healthy, sad, not healthy. Peter was happy in the end and I hope the words of this book carried on with him as he transitions on. Helge, his second son.
Peter, this is your older brother Rick,
Our mother used to refer to our sister Sonja (died in 2016) and me as “the elder ones“ and to Frank and you as ”the younger ones”. The elder ones were always urged to take care of and be gentle to the younger ones. You Peter, I remember you as very competent in manual work, very persistent in the goals you set for yourself (be it study, courting girls, managing your own plant)
Thank you for the things you left for me. I look to my books. All the writers of shared interest. Many with your name still in it.
You were a good companion, thank you for all! Peter
I met Peter 40 years ago on Schiphol. It was the day that Yvonne, Peter and their children left Holland. So I came to know Peter bit by bit over the years, when he was back in Holland for a family visit. And of course we saw each other when we visited the States a couple of years ago.
Peter wrote Rick some letters over the last years, in Dutch, Rick kept them all.
We would like to share some highlights of the letters with you.
The first fragment is about his youth:
I’ve got a beautiful youth, our mother has giving me everything I asked for. She managed to give us a second home whenever she was traveling for work. My second home was at grandfather and grandmother Noordijk - fantastic!
My grandfather Noordijk was the founding father of our family.
He married my grandma from the orphanage. She was the daughter of a miller, ‘a higher rank’.
Granddads long way to succes is an example: lower school and ‘rijwielvakschool’ (school for repairing bikes). After three years he finally reached his goal: a sign above his frontdoor, saying bike repairer.
Rick always says Peter got his golden hands form his granddad. He had such a talent for making things.
I wanted to go to sea, just like every young Dutch man. From my little bed at grandpa and ma’s, I was sleeping under the roof, I heard the steamers in the Waalhaven (harbour). Then I would call to them: I’m coming!
Although I divorced, she is still part of my family, my soulmate Yvonne.
I have three wonderful children born in Holland, 7 grandchildren, lovely!
And of course my American Child.
I’m sad that I hurt others, Yvonne and my three beautiful kids. I intend not to hurt anyone anymore.
I actually never was addicted, just lonely. My last wish (Indian Style):
Looking for a new mate, a comrade (to grow old with, or grow older with).
But I am happy: I have a big family. Helger listens to me. I enjoy the birds singing around the house. I talk to them.
Thank you Peter for your optimism and energy! Even the last year we saw you friendly and cheerful!
Thank you Helge for supporting Peter and connecting us!
Peter, Self-willed and not afraid!
When we were young Peter and I were hanging around together, at the fights on the stone mountain in the heaps of rubble in the Bezuidenhout neighbourhood, going blackberrying in the dunes, racing on roller-skates, crawling through bunkers and making and selling garlands. He had guts and recklessness and I admired him. After we went to secondary school we got on less well. We shared a room and had territorial quarrels, until I got my own room. We fought regularly and I kept on loosing, up to the moment when I, sixteen years old, defended myself so fiercely that his ear was torn. He warned me not to make love without a condom: “Little brother, some girls let themselves get pregnant on purpose, and then you’ll never get rid of such a broad.” He gave me some rubbers, ‘Durex, the best there is’: a nice gesture. We chuckled about our mother, who called us that she was coming up the stairs soon to bring us tea when we had a girl in our rooms: then we could get decent quickly.
Peter is ten and I am eight. On a Sunday we walk to granddad and grandma in Schiedam. We don’t tell this to our parents, because they certainly would forbid this. We always go by train, so we can find our way walking alongside the railroad. Sometimes we have to jump over a ditch. The widest is at a factory at Delft, where they make glue out of bones. I don’t make it and stand up to my middle in the stinking dregs; Peter pulls me out. Bridging the eighteen kilometers between The Hague and Schiedam takes five hours. The riskiest thing is crossing the railway bridge over the river Schie, over the gangway beside the rails, where we are much too visible. Our grandparents are shocked by our unexpected visit, clean us thoroughly and phone our parents.
Peter is a member of a roller hockey club, the Marathon, a roller-skating rink with a canteen and adjoining dance hall in the foothills of the dunes. He is a crack. I am a bit jealous: he is quite handsome. The girls on figure roller-skates wear tight ensembles with short skirts over tall bare legs. Especially Astrid is a Scandinavian beauty. She’s in love with Peter and stands infatuated with a girlfriend in front of our door in the Laan van Eik en Duinen. I do something unforgiveable. From the balcony I pour out a bucket of water over the two of them, to cool them down.
Although Peter is not at all stupid, things don’t go well in secondary school. Finally he ends up on the Beeklaan HBS, the last resort in The Hague. After military service he changes course drastically, passes the practical exam accounting and earns a good salary at the NDSM. That brings him a Lambretta motor scooter, then a glamorous sportscar, a Glas 1700 GT; his brothers are poor students. Peters ‘American dream’ starts in The Netherlands: in Ermelo he opens a factory in awnings and sun rooms and refines his machinery until they do what he wants them to do. He buyes a delivery van, photographs with a Hasselblatt camera his most successful projects and engages an advertising agency. He works rock-hard, as he keeps on doing all his life. His wife Yvonne also makes every effort: until late in the evening she brings round deliveries with the Toyota Hi-Ace.
When Rick and I go camping, sailing or skiing he says: “My turn will come when I’m a millionaire, before the age of forty.” As if learning to go skiing still is fun when you are forty, or camping in the snow … But it’s a beautiful dream. He buyes a sailing canoe though and a piece of land on the Irish coast.
When Rick, Ineke and I visit Peter and Yvonne, he comes out of his factory to greet us. Full of pride I hand him a copy of my first book. He explains to me how one writes books, although he never wrote one. Against Rick’s warning he pours gasoline over the coals in the barbecue. With scorched eyelashes and eyebrows he claims that it still has to be done this way. He makes me think of the spider Sebastian in the verse of Annie M.G. Schmidt:
"Through the window he climbed in, self-willed! And not afraid.
Said all the other spiders “Look, there he goes with his Urge.”
After a short time this message was passed on:
In the house a murder took place, Sebastian has been swept up.”
This almost happens to Peter. By flying away with his family by way of Zaventem airport (Belgium) he evades a large tax assessment. In America he lives in the country for a while, where he tries to uproot tree-stumps with a tractor. The resistance is enormous, he steps on the gas somewhat more, the tractor turns over and lands on top of him. He overcomes the bruised ribs: he is extremely tough. Then he opens a factory in Indianapolis, because the best business provisions are offered there for entrepreneurs. That factory becomes a great success; above the factory door he hangs a shield saying: “Royal Warrant Holder”. Then disaster happens: Yvonne wants a divorce, she is tired out of working this hard and getting little attention. It almost wrings his neck. He gives here the house and continues the business. His last employee leaves. Peter looses his customers because he can’t handle production on his own. Sebastian is almost swept up again, but Peter can’t be smashed, his fighting power is almost superterrestrial. He moves to a lesser neighbourhood, starts using crack and defeats his addiction! He slaves as a waiter on call, cycling to his work. An Afro-American girlfriend, addicted on drugs, sponges on him, gets pregnant and disappears. Many years later Peter comes into contact with his daughter: Gillian Bundles. She did very well in high school: she even became ‘valedictorian’, the best of her year. Like her father Gillian is a true survivor. Peter tells me he has become a top class waiter who teaches the trade to younger waiters. Also that he is going to write a manual for starting entrepreneurs, and translate the books our mother wrote. Peter’s dreams are too big for his possibilities, notwithstanding his inexhaustible energy …
Again Peter makes a leap forward and opens an Indonesian restaurant: Garuda, but that is not successful enough and closes down after six months. I pity him. Like a Greek tragedy the gods punish him for his hubris (pride). Like Icarus Peter is an overconfident high-flier. But he left the youngest son, Helge who is faithful to Peter during his last twenty years, part of his share of our mother’s inheritance to. This good son who employees him, also took care of his bank account and organizes everything for him.
What drove Peter? Surpassing Rick and me? Peter is inventive, an excellent professional, technically highly skilled and an inexhaustible worker. He is a go-getter. But maybe that’s not enough. Like his father, Pieter Oomkes, he boasted about things that he did not do. He fantasized about a glorious past and present, urged on by Alzheimer. But I admire Peter, for his guts and resilience. His hard life became too much. In his last days he was surrounded with love, and of course Helge sat next to him almost to the end and took care of him.
Frank Oomkes, youngest brother