April 9, 1918 – February 24, 2017
It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa, Jan de Bruyn, on February 24, 2017. He died peacefully and gently.
Johannes (Jan) de Bruyn was born on April 9, 1918 in Abcoude, Holland. His family immigrated to British Columbia in Canada in 1926, when Jan was eight. They first lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), and later moved to New Westminster, and eventually to Burnaby. Jan graduated from John Oliver High School.
Jan worked in Ottawa before WW II, and that is where he met Betty Roy. They were married in May, 1941. Jan enlisted in the army in 1941, and worked in the Pay Corps until 1946, reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant. He went overseas to London in 1944, where he had to stay until he could return home to his wife and two children in 1946. After being demobbed, Jan went to UBC, where he received his BA in English Literature. In 1949, he won a Beaver Club Scholarship to continue his studies at the University of London. He received his MA from there in 1951.
After returning to Vancouver, Jan began teaching English Literature at UBC, where he worked until his retirement in 1983. If you took a course from him, we could look up your marks – he kept all his mark books until he had to move to a nursing home in 2016.
In 1958, to celebrate BC’s Centennial year and his 40th birthday, Jan and his friend Vic Hopwood hiked across the Rockies together, from Jasper, Alberta to Golden, BC. Their goal was to retrace the travels of the explorer David Thompson. Dad’s diary of the trip goes from June 3 to June 24. The first 5 entries describe the trip from Vancouver to Jasper in an ailing 1948 Chevy van, almost as fraught with adventure as the hike itself. Diane still has the pipe Jan had in his shirt pocket when he had a fall. The pipe caused two cracked ribs!
After retiring from UBC, Jan and Betty moved to Sandy Hook, near Sechelt, where they had built a retirement home. They lived there until 1995, when they moved to the West Kootenays, close to two of their daughters. In 2002, they moved to Castlewood Village, a seniors’ apartment complex in Castlegar. Here Jan formed a writing group called the Lifewriters. The members wrote stories about their lives, and over the years, produced eight books of collected stories.
Jan was always a craftsman. He went through various artistic phases – building furniture, making things of clay, carving masks, pictures and totems – culminating in two full-sized totem poles, one completed in 1986, and one in 1996. He also made bowls, plates, and cups on a lathe in his later years. When dad was 80, he got his first computer, and over the years, he produced around 35 novels. Up until about a month before his death, he was still writing – by hand because he couldn’t type any more.
Jan and Betty, married for almost 74 years, raised 6 children together. One of his sons, Frankie, died in a mountaineering accident in 1961. Jan is survived by his children Sydney Mason, Diane Andersson, John de Bruyn, Mary de Bruyn (Stephen Morris), and Kathy de Bruyn (Angel Offerman), 13 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law, and several nieces and nephews and their children.
Jan was predeceased by his wife Betty (2015), his son Frankie (1961), sons-in-law Bruce Mason (2011) and Rolf Andersson (2010), and daughter-in-law Sally de Bruyn (2014).
We would like to thank the staffs of Castle Wood Village and Castleview Care Centre for their compassion and care for our father.
Cremation in care of Castlegar Funeral Chapel has taken place.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, April 15 at the Sandman Inn in Castlegar – further details will be sent out to family and friends later.
If you would like to pay tribute to Jan’s memory, a donation in his name to your favourite charity would be wonderful.