Private Loren Nelson
In May 2010, Dolores and Ron Friesen traveled to both Holten and Groesbeek Cemeteries in Holland, to visit the graves of their uncles, Loren Nelson (Holten Cemetery) and Menno Janzen (Groesbeek Cemetery).
Below you will see personal accounts and photo galleries of each visit.
On May 9, 2010 we rented a car and drove from Amsterdam to Holten Cemetery which was about one hour and a beautiful drive on perfect roads. The town of Holten was decked out with Holland and Canadian flags because they had just celebrated the Memorial Day on May 5th. The Holten Cemetery, we were told is located in a National Park and the lane leading down to the cemetery is lined with trees which reminded me of being back in Sprague, Manitoba which is where Loren Nelson lived before he enlisted in 1944.
Once at the cemetery we saw there were a lot of wreaths and fresh flowers everywhere from the Memorial ceremonies held 4 days before. We set about the task of finding Uncle Lorenís grave. There are registry books located in the buildings on either side of the entrance and they list the names and grave row #ís to assist in finding their location because there are over a thousand graves there. Once we located it, and I read the inscription, I was overcome with emotion, as I thought about how young Uncle Loren was when he went to war and only 19 when he died in 1945. And I thought about his parents (my Grandma and Grandpa) and his brothers (my Dad Harley and Uncle Evert) and sister (my Aunt Clarice) and how they must have felt when he was killed and buried so far away from home. And I thought about the ages of my own 2 sons which were age 20 and 22 at the time. And what that would have felt like to lose them like that. Thankfully we currently live in peace as Canadians and most of us will not have to make that sacrifice!
I had heard that he was killed and first buried somewhere in Germany but that after the war the Netherlands had given land for the Canadian cemeteries and that graves that were scattered all over were consolidated into sites such as this, so Uncle Lorenís remains would have been moved to this final resting place. And what a beautiful location it was, right in the middle of a forest, which was so fitting for a family of tree-cutterís and carpenters. They had laid Uncle Loren in a most appropriate place.
Also, a curious thing happened while we were there. As I was standing by Uncle Lorenís grave and praying, there appeared an elderly and small of stature man dressed in a Veteranís uniform with medals on it, and he asked our reason for being there. So I explained that my Uncle who I had never met was buried there. And I told him that I wondered, if he had lived, what it would have been like to know him as an Uncle and maybe he would have had children that would be my cousins, and because he died, I would never get to have that chance. The man was so incredibly kind and gentle as he offered his condolences to me and my family. And then when I looked up that man had disappeared! I asked Ron if he saw where the man went and he said he did not see where he went. This is a very large cemetery and you can see quite a distance around and so I could not figure out how he could have walked out of our sight so fast and he really did seem to simply disappear. His presence there was so benevolent and calming that I am inclined to believe that he was an angel. And he showed up to comfort me.
Following Holten Cemetery we drove another hour to Groesbeek which is located in beautiful farmland with rolling hills. This is where Ronís Uncle Menno Janzen age 22 was buried. This cemetery is even larger than Holten and it also included larger memorial buildings in which names were inscribed of those who died and there were no remains that could be found and there were many, many names there.
We found Uncle Mennoís grave and there was also a program from the May 5th memorial tucked into the flowers there, and it had a sticky note on it, presumably from the young lady that tended his grave. When we got back we told Ronís sisters about it and they asked if we had the note, but we said, No, we left it there, it was for Uncle Menno! But we took a picture of it.
Ron has Mennoís whole story as well if anyone is interested.