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Founder of Dutch food import business in Western Canada passes at age 88

De Haas published handbooks on church history

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LANGLEY, British Columbia - John de Haas, one of the few remaining founders of still continuing Dutch import retail and wholesale businesses in Canada recently died at age 88. Already a business-owner in Den Haag before immigrating in September 1947, De Haas and his family soon saw opportunities in Canada to supply imported products to fellow Dutch-Canadians. In 1958, they opened Holland Shopping Centre in the New Westminster area where the store through its mail order department - added in the 1980s - still serves customers in many parts of North America. The store now is owned by the Eigenraam and Slump families.

Hollshop Imports Ltd. of Langley which distributes Dutch imported foods and giftware to stores throughout Western Canada is operated by De Haasí eldest son Bastiaan. De Haas Jr. and his wife Alice took over the New Westminster store when his parents wanted to retire. They since sold it to concentrate on the wholesale line.

Although he did not have formal post-elementary education, De Haas gained wide recognition for his decades-long research, on aspects of Reformed Christian church history in the Netherlands, resulting in a series of handbooks covering the period of 1834 to the 1980s. Many church history books in footnotes and bibliographies credit as sources of information the works compiled and written by Dutch-Canadian historian De Haas.

De Haas along with his Dutch drygoods importer and neighbour H. Blom of Blomís Stores Ltd. founded in 1958 a newsbulletin for their customers which grew into the biweekly the Windmill Herald. Blom operated the paper until 1969 when he sold it to its current publishers.

Mr. John De Haas also played an instrumental role in the institution in 1950 of the oldest Canadian Reformed Church (in Coaldale, Alberta). He leaves behind his wife of sixty years, Helen (Geusebroek), nine children, 40 grandchildren and 24 greatgrandchildren.