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Mobile store owner Gerry Blom plays crucial role in community

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

A successful event such as the Dutch Immigration Commemoration at Pier 21 requires much coordination and planning. The official event was put on by the Netherlands Consulate General of Montreal (Consul Fred de Bruin with honorary consul, Hon. Peter McCreath of Halifax) but the supporting cast of Gerry Blom and his committee played a crucial role, a fact that was acknowledged publicly to much cheering and standing ovations.

Blomsís Pier 21 Dutch Immigration Committee turned a Monday morning celebration into one complete with a reception and banquet as well as a four-day Dutch Braderie or fair at a local Legion Hall. The Saturday evening event was sold out, the Monday ceremony had standing room only. Some out-of-town visitors repeatedly visited the small fair.

A key member of the Maritimes Dutch community, Blom since 1976 has been part of a range of initiatives which gave it focus while generating cohesion. A Dutch mobile store entrepreneur since 1975, he put on his first Maritimes Dutch Day the following year. Many such events have been held since. In recent years the Dutch Day usually takes place at the Dutch Inn near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, a central location with a significant concentration of Dutch Canadians.

The mobile store owner also was heavily involved in two notable Fredericton, New Brunswick Dutch Liberation commemorative events, one in 1995 and the other in 2000, both with co-chair Tom Joordens. Another high-profile initiative focussed on Canadian veterans who had liberated the Netherlands. About 400 elderly New Brunswick residents received the Thank You Canada medals. The Dutch Canadian Society of PEI joined the effort and distributed about 500 medals while the Consulate General at Montreal took care of Nova Scotia where about 2,400 veterans received a Dutch decoration.

The Pier 21 committee consisted of Guido Kerpel, Harry Soontiens, Rich Scheffers, Hon. Peter McCreath, all of Halifax, Consul Fred de Bruin of Montreal, and Gerry Blom, Chairman, of Fredericton. They were assisted by local volunteers: Werner and Lori VanderVelden, Leo and Rina Senz, Peter Melkert and Peter Burgers.