Martina Cornelia Steele
It is with a sad heart that I write that my mother, Martina Cornelia Steele (Daamen) passed away on August 8 after suffering a massive stroke on August 5. She leaves behind me, her daughter, Catherine Steele and my partner, James Shannon, as well as nine brothers and sisters - Theresa, Cornelius (Koos), Martin, Henry, Joe, Annie, Corrie, Gerrit, and Christina - and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
She was predeceased in 2014 by my dad and her dear husband of 56 years, Ralph Steele, her beloved parents Anthony and Henrica Daamen, siblings Ricky (Henrica), Theodore (Theo), Netta; brother in laws, John Bosse, Tony Van Doren, Alvin Brown, Harry Arts; and nephews Harry Van Doren and Hank Daamen.
My mom was born at home on the family farmhouse on January 1, 1932 in Zeeland, North Brabant in the Netherlands, not far from the border with Germany. Years later when we visited she would point out the local shop where her father went to celebrate the news of her birth. The beginning of the war in 1939 would bring her childhood to an early end living instead with hunger, wartime aircraft, seeking shelter with her siblings from attacks, and in one instance accompanying her father to the "black market" in Amsterdam with butter sewn into the lining of her coat to get money to buy food to feed the family.
In 1947 at the age of 15, she immigrated to Canada with her parents and 12 siblings traveling two weeks by sea on the immigrant ship the Tabinta. They settled in a farmhouse in Hardwood Ridge, near Minto arranged by a kind Dutch priest, Father Dobblesteyn. My mother’s family later passed on that kindness by inviting another Dutch immigrant family, the Scholten’s, to stay with them when they first arrived.
Shortly after arrival and speaking no English, she and her two older sisters went to Fredericton where she lived with families working as a cook, cleaner, housekeeper, and nanny. She taught herself English through the comics and children’s books. The money she earned she gave back to support her parents and siblings.
It was in Fredericton that she met and married the love of her life, my father, Ralph Steele. They married at St Dunstan’s church and were regular attendees until age and illness made it too difficult. She became part of his family in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. We became a family when I arrived in 1966.
In their 56 years of marriage my parents were rarely apart. They worked so very hard to earn a living their whole lives. When they retired they traveled with me across Canada and visited Switzerland, the Netherlands, France and Germany. My mother’s heart was broken when my father passed away in 2014 after his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. While she made some friends at her new home at Governor hall at Shannex like Stella and Isabella, she grew increasingly lonely without his company and life was losing its spark.
My mother was quiet, brave and determined. My dad and I were the center of her world. Her family was her life, she was fiercely loyal to them no matter what, and she was proud of her heritage as a Dutch Canadian. She looked after others and loved easily. "Tante Mart" or "Aunt Martha" as she was called, was a favorite to many of my cousins and subsequently their children. People found her to be interesting and kind with a smile and a sense of humor.
I am heartbroken but I am blessed and grateful to have had her as my mother for 52 years. My memories of love outweigh the sad. She and my dad are with me always.
A celebration of her life will take place at St Dunstan’s church on August 13, 2018 at 12:05 pm. There will be no visitation. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Special thanks to all the staff of Shannex Fredericton, the emergency room staff, Dr. Graeme Young and the nurses on the 3rd floor Southwest at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital, Dr. Colpitts, Dr. Srinivasan and Dr. Khaleduzzaman.