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Life of active volunteerism earns twice-widowed mother royal title

Labourer's daughter Queen of Brampton

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

BRAMPTON, Ontario - 'Tante Geertje wordt gekroond tot koningin,' an excited family member exclaimed recently. This honour was bestowed on a twice widowed, elderly resident of Brampton's Holland Christian Homes (HCH) for her voluntarism in the community. Mrs. Grace Hunnersen Mulder was voted Senior's Queen of Brampton by Peel County's Elder-Help.

The crowning ceremony took place at Brampton's City Hall and subsequently was celebrated at HCH, Canada's largest Dutch Canadian seniors' home and care facility, Mulder's home for the last twenty years. Elder-Help Peel organized the event as part of the International Year of Older Persons activities, funded by Ontario Seniors' Secretariat, a government agency.

Mulder's voluntarism at age 86 is especially remarkable since she with nine children, four stepchildren and numerous grand and great-grandchildren already has an extended family of her own. She still finds plenty of time - especially during the week when she otherwise often would be alone - to help others in the HCH complex of about 900 people, in her church and the community.

Born in Nieuw Amsterdam into the well known Southern Drenthe Slomp clan, she and her first husband Rudolf Hunnersen for eleven years operated a Fish and Chips fastfood outlet in Guelph, one of many in the Toronto-Hamilton-Guelph region that at one time were owned by Dutch immigrants most of whom originally had an Enschede connection. Widowed in her retirement years, she then married Jan Mulder but since has been widowed for a second time.

The new Queen and her family left Enschede in 1953 for Canada and first settled in Brampton, near Toronto. Her daughter Trudy Hunnersen Adema nominated her for the honour. Having a royalty status, does not come without obligations. Mrs. Hunnersen Mulder also was expected to participate in Brampton's Santa Claus parade. Deflecting all the attention she recently received, Mulder commented that in her view her parents - who laboured in Drenthe's peat bogs - were the real royals in the family.