OOTES firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-07-17 published
Mother, wife, grandmother, scavenger, waitress, cabaret performer, pioneer, domestic worker. Born April 6, 1914, in Schagen, North Holland, The Netherlands. Died July 9 in Toronto of natural causes, aged 93.
By Patti OOTES, Page L6
Dina was the youngest of four daughters and, as she often said, they were very poor - they didn't know just how poor. Her dad was a horse trader who made deals for food.
At 14, Dina worked as a maid and saved her money so she could travel alone to Paris at 16 for a vacation. In 1935, she married Johan (Jo) Abraham OOTES. Because they didn't have much money, they lived among the Roma (Gypsies) in a horse-drawn caravan. Jo worked with his father constructing streets of bricks while Dina worked as a waitress in cafés and acted in a cabaret theatre group.
Despite many hardships during the Second World War, Jo and Dina had two children, Kees (Case) and Jaap (Jake). While pregnant, Dina would walk through the German-occupied streets of town wearing a cape to cover her body.
The winters were cold and the lack of food and heating fuel was felt every day by the Dutch. Dina walked miles to the countryside to buy what she could from sympathetic farmers, and fooled the Germans by smuggling contraband food past their noses under her cape.
In 1952, Dina and Jo decided to come to Canada to provide a better life for their boys. For a time, they lived in a one-room log cabin with an oil drum made into a wood stove and a "two-seater" outhouse toilet. Jo worked at the Dominion Magnesium mine and the boys attended a one-room schoolhouse.
Dina was lonely living in the "bush" and decided to walk the five kilometres to the townsite housing for mine managers and knock on doors to obtain work cleaning houses.
The wives of the managers liked Dina, and sent her home after work with comics and magazines. The boys learned much of their English from those comic books and at school, while Dina and Jo attended weekly English classes at the local high school. Once they had learned English, they never spoke Dutch at home.
The family moved to Renfrew, Ontario, where Dina worked in sales at the Stedmans store. She spent a summer in Southern Ontario working on a tobacco farm, and was a volunteer at the hospital store. Jo died in 1990 and Dina lived in Renfrew until 2002, when she moved to Toronto.
Dina was very proud that Case and Jake did so well in Canada: Case is a Toronto city councillor and Jake was an Member of Legislative Assembly in the Northwest Territories. After all, she and Jo had emigrated to Canada to provide a greater opportunity for their sons.
Dina was a "hoot" to all who knew and loved her.
Patti OOTES is Dina's daughter-in-law.
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