A unique and colorful character, John Van Hemert was known for his tenacity, optimism, and exuberance. His passion was meeting people in all situations and spreading the gospel. “He had no problem,” said one of his daughters, “holding up the line in a store if the cashier was receptive to hearing about the Lord.” Van Hemert, 85, died May 26, just 87 days after receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Born in the Netherlands, Van Hemert was 11 years old when he immigrated with his family to Canada in 1947. He eventually graduated from Calvin College (now University) and Seminary, was ordained in 1965, and over the next 35 years served eight congregations in Canada and the U.S: Edson (Alta.) CRC; Willoughby Church, Langley, B.C.; Pine Grove Community Church, Pinellas Park, Fla; Faith Community, Boynton Beach, Fla. (twice); Sunlight Ministries, Port St. Lucie, Fla; Stephenville (Texas) CRC; First CRC, Vancouver, B.C.; Good News Community, Kent, Wash. He retired in 2002, but five years later began a second ministry career, serving for the next 20 years as chaplain among seafarers on cargo ships, cruise ships, and oil tankers in the ports of Bellingham, Wash., and Palm Beach, Fla.
An avid walker and jogger, Van Hemert loved old cars, traveling, meeting people of different cultures, praying, singing, storytelling, picking flowers from the side of the road, and growing vegetables.
Predeceased by daughter Joy, he is survived by Jean, with whom he was married for almost 63 years; four children and their spouses; 11 grandchildren and their spouses; and two great-grandsons.