Post 1013: passing of a friend…

While I was dealing with my illness, I missed the card that notified me of the death of my Dutch friend Elbert. He’d fought cancer for three years, and succumbed to it on the 18th of January. I learned of his death just today in another friend’s Facebook page. I am staggered.

Elbert was a writer, a poet. He was married to Marianne, who always signed the letters Elbert wrote me, and was, as far as I am concerned, Elbert’s perfect match. I thought they were married when I first met them in the mid 1970s, so close they seemed to be to me. She survives him and is in my thoughts and heart.

He one time had a cat named William Cheerful. It seemed a natural name for some who wrote a book called Calling Lithuania Collect. Elbert was bright, amusing, a master of nuance and pun. His letters were a delight to read because he hid among the words. To read one was to do a brain exercise and enjoy it.

He loved life and he and Marianne traveled all over the world. I don’t know his final total, but he and Marianne were approaching having traveled to 60 countries at one point. Living in Amsterdam, he liked to go out into the country on his bike, pushing for the highest speed he could achieve. He liked sports, especially auto and bike sport, but especially football (soccer) and the World Cup every four years.

Elbert was an exceptional person. I will miss him. A lot.

Elbert Rijnberg Born 11 December 1945 Died 18 January 2016

Born 11 December 1945
Died 18 January 2016

61 thoughts on “Post 1013: passing of a friend…

  1. Pingback: Rick and Lavinia Ross Farm & Music Newsletter for April, May and June 2020 | Salmon Brook Farms

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    • I found out about Elbert accidentally myself. It was quite a shock, though I knew he was fighting cancer for at least three years. He died the day before I went into the hospital for what turned out to be end term kidney failure, then I had a month and a half of rehabilitation before I returned home. I learned about it on Helen Orrin’s Facebook page, then found a letter from Marianne in the huge pile of mail that accumulated during my two-month-plus absence from home. I’m still in contact with Marianne by e-mail. She has plans to visit America in September next year. The details aren’t all known. I think she plans to visit me, among others, but the trip here would be quite a bit out of the way for her. The same, it would be a treat to see her again. If you’d like, I can be reached at .

      • Incidentally, I passed this on to Marianne, and she would be interested in corresponding with you. I have her permission to give you her e-mail address if you contact me again. She verified you were someone she remembers from when you cared for his cats in 1976 and other details of your friendship with him.

    • I suppose the shock is that anyone so close to one’s own age might not be mortal. Thank you, Susan. When I found out from Marianne that she’s found around 2000 poems and pieces of prose Elbert’d written that she was unaware of, it gave me a lot of comfort: Elbert lives on, that was his legacy!

  3. Well Doug, you seem to be our Class Historian. I did not know you knew Elbert too. That is a lovely tribute and includes facts I did not know. I was much saddened to hear of his death (via a FB friend). When I was in Paris in 2013 I first learned he was ill. But our mutual friend in Paris did not pass along any other information. Elbert’s letters!!! How I wish I had had the time to digest them fully, but raising two small children at that time occupied most of my attention. Elbert was one of a kind. I am glad you wrote this lovely tribute. Where did you get the picture?

    • The picture was on the card passed out at his funeral service. Marianne sent it to me, which I greatly appreciate. (Thanks to google translate, I got though the Dutch I couldn’t decipher, though it basically just gave the details of the service.)

      I met Elbert and Marianne when they came to Alliance for a short stay with Ralph at his mother’s and father’s home. That was circa 1976 since I had a VW Rabbit (Golf in Europe) at the time.

      The four of us took a day trip up to South Dakota by the back roads of Nebraska and South Dakota. We had a light lunch at a curve in the road, using the hood of the VW for a table.

      We chose that spot because there was a pasture with cattle in it, and Elbert and Marianne found that interesting.

      Cattle being cattle, when Marianne walked over to the barbed wire fence, the cattle all came over to fence to see what she was doing there.

      At first, I thought it was because she was wearing a sort of furry coat (“Is this a wolf?” thought the cows…!), but that’s just the way cattle are: very curious.

      Curiously enough, too, that was the only time I had with them in person. In 1988, I asked Ralph if he thought they would write back if I wrote them a letter, and, if so, did he have their address. He did, and he sent me their address. That was the start of a nearly three decades long correspondence! And yes, digesting those letters is the appropriate term!

      What a brilliant writer he was! I never read his letters just once, I guarantee. They were rich, full expressions of a mind that created amazing worlds of romance, history, joie de vivre. I hope my letters back gave him as much joy!

      Amazingly, I know I wasn’t the only person he wrote those letters to. There were several people around the world who were so blessed.

      • Yes, his letters were amazing, but not really letters as I knew them up until then. The best I can come up with is that they were like dropping LSD.

        Elbert and Marianne and Bauke and Ralph and Helen came to visit me and my exh in Sharpsburg MD in the summer of 1983 for two weeks. I was six months pregnant with son no. 2, the house was over run with some sort of biting fleas, the Maryland summer heat was more brutal than usual, everyone except me and Bauke and son no. 1 was imbibing morn til very late at night and well… I think I was not the best hostess in the world. Our mutual friend in Paris has a great photo of everyone on the hill of the cemetery in Harper’s Ferry. They are all sprawled happily in the foreground in the bright sunlight smiling into the lens, and I am sitting in the background like a dysfunctional and grumpy buddha in the shade of a huge tree. Anyway, it is a great photo and now it lives in my brain because I lost my copy.

    • Thank you, Nia. Elbert belonged to the world, and was a fascinating person in how he lived in it. Among other things, he enjoyed the annual margarita contest at Cafe Pacifico in Amsterdam. Probably because he judged the margaritas! Ha!

      • Dear Weggie, in today’s world is not easy to find a real friend, and you know today’s world doesn’t look like ours memories’ day… You and he should be lucky, how nice to have memories with a nice friend. Rest in peace your friend. You are welcome, Love, nia

        • Yes, how true, and the art of letter writing is dying out. I even find myself writing more e-mails than letters. When I write a letter, though, I fill it with lots of photos of my kitty boys, Andy and Dougy. Computers do allow one to make a more interesting letter!

  4. Doug, I am saddened by your loss. Your friend sounds like a truly remarkable person. My condolences to his wife Marianne. I know your friend Elbert will live on in your hearts. Elbert will get some flowers in the garden here in his memory.

    • Thank you. Elbert left lots of his writings behind, something Marianne discovered after his death. Though I will miss his letters, I’ve encouraged Marianne to try to bring his unknown writings to his friends, certainly, and to the public if she can. He was brilliant by any measure.

    • I’ve reached an age where I know losses will be more common. You are right, though. Elbert was all the more amazing for his command of English and its nuances. I appreciated his suggestions on Dutch writers to read. There are a few, and they are mostly pretty darn good! They don’t get translated much into English, which is a pity.

    • He was just that! In a random universe, he happened to be in a Paris brasserie drinking beer and talking in Dutch with another person. My friend Ralph heard him talking, asked if he was German (not the best question to ask a Dutchman!), and that was the start of their friendship. I would meet Elbert and Marianne later, in circa 1976, when they came to Alliance to visit Ralph at his parent’s home.

    • Very true. I’ve been blessed with many friends of Elbert’s caliber, though each one has been a joy for various and other reasons. I hope I’ve blessed these friends as much as they’ve blessed me.

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