Hendrik's Story

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STATEN ISLAND - Hendrik "Henk" Voorspuy, 94, of Staten Island, who served with the allies in the Dutch Merchant Marine throughout World War II, built a log cabin by hand, died Feb. 23, 2013, of pneumonia in Eger Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, Staten Island, following admission for short term rehabilitation. He was a navigator, immigrant, rock hound and sunflower man.
He was born on a family run cattle breeding farm in Groot Ammers, The Netherlands. His family then moved to Gorinchem, where they ran a small hotel.
He graduated from the Royal Dutch Naval College in Amsterdam and started his shipping career with the Holland America Line. Before the War, he was a navigation officer on the company's flagship liner "Nieuw Amsterdam," sailing on transatlantic crossings and Caribbean cruises. During the War he made numerous North Atlantic convoy crossings from New York to England. In 1942 his freighter, the "Breedyk," was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in the South Atlantic, after which he spent eight days in a lifeboat before being rescued by a British destroyer. After being picked up by the destroyer he was taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone. He was on the second commercial vessel to enter Rotterdam Harbor after the liberation of the Netherlands by the Allies in 1945.
He met his future wife, Lathrope of Atlanta, in Greenwich Village, at a popular tavern of the time. They married in 1945 and he immigrated to the United States in 1946. For a period they operated an antique store in Greenwich Village, The Best Cellar. This venture was not a commercial success; however they made many lifelong friends at their store as they invited their customers in for some Southern hospitality topped off with a Dutch treat. The couple then settled in what is now the Soho district. He then commenced a career in the import and export trade and later moved into international banking, principally working for the Bank of New York, from which he retired in 1989. During the 1950s, he and his wife built a log cabin by hand in rural Morris County, New Jersey. They felled standing chestnut trees, which had been killed by the Great Chestnut Blight, to build their cabin. Their daughter, Cindy, was born in the late 50s.
Mr. Voorspuy and his family moved to Staten Island in 1970, settling in a large Victorian home in New Brighton. He was one of the founders of the Staten Island Geological Society in 1971, and enjoyed collecting rocks and minerals from around the region. He was a lifelong stamp collector, and made costume jewelry with his wife from the stones he collected and polished. The family's house was always full of cats and dogs. He had a way with animals. In his later years he took to planting sunflowers and trees saplings in the communities near his home in Staten Island.
During their retirement years, Mr. Voorspuy and his wife divided their year between Staten Island and their vacation home in Charlotteville in Schoharie County. Henk enjoyed planting trees on their land. He harvested apples from old trees and dried the apples on the wood stove. Together they passed their time there walking and driving through the hills, reading, watching the fire in their woodstove on chilly fall days and visiting with the many friends they made in the area.
At the time of his death, Mr. Voorspuy was survived by his daughter, Cindy Voorspuy and her partner, Daniel Kusrow; and his sisters, Gerry Metzler, Jopie Greidanus and Artie Voorspuy of the Netherlands. As of Sept. 1, 2017, his only surviving sibling is Artie Voorspuy.
He was predeceased by his wife; brother, Koos Voorspuy; and sister, Corry Voorspuy of the Netherlands and sister, Rieny Ulbaek Hansen of Denmark.
His ashes will be buried at 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, in the Charlotteville Cemetery, Baptist Church Road, County Route 64. Following the graveside ceremony light refreshments will be served at the historic Charlotteville Schoolhouse at Bindery Lane and Charlotte Valley Road. All who knew him or his family are welcome. He was cremated in February 2013.
Published on September 21, 2017
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