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Retired banker keeps downtown Lynden colourful and in bloom

Van Rooyen ‘Man of the Year’

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LYNDEN, Washington - Tending to flowers has landed a former banker the 2002 Man of the Year award in the Dutch-American city of Lynden. The downtown merchant’s group hired Tony Van Rooyen in 1990 when he took early retirement, to care for the city’s streetlined greenery which since has expanded with hanging baskets, cement pots, overhead trays and more flower beds. The ‘greenery’ in fact is more of a drape of colour much of the year with Van Rooyen regularly making the rounds with tractor-pulled water barrels. The award has been named after local newspaper editor and publicist, the late Sol. H. Lewis.

Flowers are not the only ones catching Van Rooyen’s attention. The 70-year-old native of Zevenhuizen, a village near Rotterdam, also has been called the roving Chamber of Commerce office who always has a moment to spare for visitors and local shoppers alike. “It’s a part-time job, but it takes me all day,” confesses Van Rooyen.

The former banker’s way with flowers in his own yard have drawn attention too. Van Rooyen several times won awards in Whatcom in Bloom competitions. The city’s participation in the America in Bloom program has increased his work along city streets significantly.

The 2002 Man of the Year wears various hats locally. For the past 15 years he has been on the board of Monumenta Cemetery, a privately-owned non-profit burial facility at the edge of town (in fact, the city’s main access road runs between it and the Lynden Cemetery). Van Rooyen who currently is treasurer of 100-year-old Monumenta, has been pouring over old minutes - till 1936 written in the Dutch language - for interesting details about its history. He also is treasurer of Classis Pacific Northwest of the Christian Reformed Church, a group of 33 churches in the region.

Van Rooyen emigrated in 1949 to the London, Ontario area with his parents. He later went west and looked up others from Zevenhuizen who had settled in Lynden. He married Marie in 1955, emigrated once more, now to the U.S.A., and raised a family in the community which now knows him also as Man of the Year.