In the evening of Dec. 30, 2008, Henry (Hank) DeJong left his earthly home — 86 years and two days after he was born and seven months and ten days after the death of Ruth, his dear wife of 65 years.
Hank was born in Hanford on Dec. 28, 1922, to his Dutch immigrant parents, Gerrit and Apolonia DeJong. He was one of eight children, only two of whom now survive. Reared on a Grade B dairy farm in Salida, Hank learned his strong work ethic early when he began milking cows at the age of seven. While he learned to work hard, he never developed a fondness for dairying. He committed to never owning a cow after he was married — and he never did.
In 1944, he was inducted into the US Army where he served proudly in the European theater with the 104th Infantry Division known as the Timberwolves. After helping to liberate prisoners, including Dutch soldiers, from German concentration camps and witnessing first-hand man’s inhumanity to man, Hank was awarded the Purple Heart for serious injuries when run over by a trailer after being knocked from a troop carrier by piano wire hung across a street intersection by the enemy.
In spite of early prognoses that he would not live, then never walk again, and certainly never farm or have additional children, Hank returned to Ripon, became a successful almond farmer, community, church and Christian school leader, and had four more children.
Committed to the philosophy that one should always leave a place in a better condition than one finds it, whether a campsite or an organization, Hank served his farming community as a 45 year active member of the Blue Diamond Almond Cooperative and as one of the founders and early board member of the California Almond Hulls Cooperative. Hank also served as chairperson of the San Joaquin County Irrigation District advisory board. Always a spokesperson and advocate for California farmers, he was recognized by his peers when he was among the first farmers inducted into the Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1987.
Hank also served his community as a Commander of American Legion Post 190. As a consummate patriot, he worked for many years coordinating and implementing the design and construction of the Ripon Veterans Memorial Wall to recognize the contributions of these soldiers to their country. He also spearheaded the Avenue of Flags at the Ripon Cemetery.
Hank served the Ripon Christian Schools as a board member for a total of nearly three decades and his church as an elder or deacon for a total of nearly twenty years. Attempting to share his joy and comfort in his relationship with the Lord, he spent many of his last years as an active Gideon, distributing over fifty-six hundred Bibles to students and prisoners so that they too might see God’s grace in their lives.
Even while struggling with the ravages of lung cancer and continuing to his deathbed at home, Hank thanked God for having been so blessed. In addition to his devoted wife, Ruth, he claimed among his dearest blessings his five children, twelve grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren including: Robert L. and Mary Jo DeJong, Steven H. and Fran DeJong, Terrence (Terry) M. and Bonnie DeJong, Cheryl D. (Cherie) and Jack Andriese, and Daniel J. and Judy DeJong. He also leaves behind his grandchildren for whom he prayed daily: Kristen (Gregg) VandenBosch, Melissa (Shane) Schaap, Marc (Jennifer) DeJong, Matthew and Joel (Rhonda) De Jong, Todd (Laura) DeJong, Eric (Sherry) DeJong, Michelle (Charles) Commeret; Mark (Tanya) Andriese; Amy (Aaron) Tazelaar; Nathan DeJong and Natalie (Jeremy) Grace.
Hank and his children also include among his blessings his compassionate and caring caregivers: Barbara Segaar, Saundra Beckham, Mary West, and Tomi West who cared for Hank and Ruth 24/7 for the last year and a half of their lives. Thank you, dear ladies.
Henry’s life will be celebrated by his family and friends at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church on Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 at 11 a.m. Reverend Randy Brannon will officiate. The family will receive visitors at the Ripon Memorial Chapel on Thursday, Jan. 8, from 4 to 7 p.m.
The family requests that those choosing to make memorials designate the Gideons or the Immanuel Christian Reformed Church Building Fund.
O grave, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? To God be the glory!
Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009