This obituary originally appeared in the Ventura County Star on Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Hilbert Bolland (February 19, 1922 – October 26, 2012)
Hilbert Bolland of Ventura, California died peacefully on October 26, 2012 at the age of ninety. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 10 at 11:00 a.m. at Unity Church of Ventura, 740 E. Main St., Ventura, California. He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law Hans and Ida Bolland, his wife of sixty six years Amy Bolland, their three sons and daughters-in-law Eric and Patty Bolland, John and Lourana Bolland and Peter and Lori Bolland, along with eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Named after his grandfather, Hilbert Bolland was born on February 19, 1922 on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. His father had taken a position as a school teacher with the government of the Dutch East Indies. His oldest sister was born in Holland, but Hilbert and the rest of his siblings were born there, growing up in the shadows of volcanoes, running barefoot through rainforests full of elephants, tigers and orangutan.
After Hilbert graduated from high school at the age of seventeen in 1939, the family took the long sea voyage back home to Holland as they had done every six years for their father’s customary six month leave of absence. As they sailed away, they didn’t know they would never see their tropical home again. A few weeks after their arrival in Holland, Germany invaded Poland. Soon after, England and France declared war on Germany. The nightmare of WWII would engulf everyone’s lives. The peaceful islands of Indonesia became a distant memory.
Life became even more challenging in May, 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland. The next five years of Nazi occupation brought horror that would haunt Hilbert the rest of his life. But it was also a time of tremendous personal and professional growth. Despite the challenges of wartime occupation, Hilbert completed three years of typographical school setting the stage for his lifetime profession in printing.
In 1943, as life in Holland grew increasingly dire, Hilbert was taken by the Nazis to Germany to work as a slave laborer in a print shop. Despite the unimaginable terror of war, Hilbert often spoke of the kindness he received at the hands of the everyday Germans who lived and worked alongside him. It deeply shaped him to realize that even in the midst of chaos and madness there was a spiritual core of goodness in everyone.
When the war ended in 1945 Hilbert returned to Holland. Soon, in September 1946, he and his young sweetheart Amy Van Niel were married in the Rosicrucian Temple in Haarlem, Amy’s hometown. Unaccustomed to the cold northern climate after a long childhood in the tropics and eager for an adventure in the new world, Hilbert convinced Amy to leave war-torn Europe. The newlyweds sailed for America in 1950 with their two year old son Eric and another one on the way. Their second son John was born in their new home town of West Paterson, New Jersey. Hilbert found work doing what he loved as a typesetter at the New York Daily News. Eight years later their third son Peter was born.
In 1962 Hilbert and Amy bought a trailer and a Chevy station wagon and moved their young family across the country to California. They were aiming for the San Francisco Bay area, but after a swing through Los Angeles they stopped in Ventura, a quiet town just south of Santa Barbara. Pulling over to rest at Plaza Park downtown, Amy noticed the newspaper building right across the street – the Ventura Star-Free Press (now known as the Ventura County Star). “Why don’t you walk over and see if they need a typesetter,” she said. Hilbert came back a half hour later. “I start on Monday.”
Soon they bought a house on Clemson Street. Hilbert planted two palm trees in the front yard to remind him of his childhood home in Indonesia. He lived in that house nearly fifty years – most of his life.
Hilbert was a peaceful, contemplative and spiritual man with an ear for music, an eye for beauty and a deep love of the natural world. He took great pleasure in being a family man and was steadfast and constant in his love for Amy and the three boys. He greatly enjoyed his daily cup of tea with Amy every afternoon, as well as the nightly ritual of gathering the family around the dinner table for the evening meal. Hilbert also took the family on countless camping trips and day trips exploring the America he had loved since he was a little boy in Indonesia where he had seen his first travelogues about the far-off mysterious land of grand canyons and sky high mountains. His lifelong love of film led him to shoot and edit hundreds of hours of home movies. He also wrote long letters home to his loved ones in Holland and enjoyed gardening and the quiet life.
Hilbert and Amy greatly enjoyed their decades of service as volunteers at the Ventura County Fair and took particular pleasure in their roles as docents at the Dudley House Historical Museum. A lifelong learner and a natural born teacher, Hilbert often spoke to civic groups about the experiences he recounts in his self-published autobiography The Nightingale Sings Forever. Hilbert loved Ventura very much, and gave so much back to the city he called home.
We are honored to call him our husband, our brother, our father, our grandfather, our great-grandfather and our friend. We will carry with us his quiet, endless love throughout the rest of the days of our lives.
The Bolland family would like to extend a special and heartfelt thank you to the entire staff of Glenwood Care Center where Hilbert was lovingly cared for during his lengthy stay, and the Rose Room Hospice staff for their compassionate end of life care during his final months. We are deeply and eternally grateful for their constancy and kindness.