Seventy years and nearly 8,000 kilometres later, two long, lost friends met up again recently at Penticton Regional Hospital.
Unknowingly, Henry Vandenburgh who is now 87, and 93-year-old Dick Gouwenberg who grew up together in the small seaside city of Den Helder, are neighbours at the hospital. It was actually Dick’s son Nick who made the connection after running into Henry one day in the hallway at PRH.
“I just happened to see him and I figured he was Dutch and we started talking,” recalled Nick who is here visiting from Salmon Arm. “Then, all of a sudden we find out that he’s from the same town in Holland as dad and we couldn’t believe it. That’s pretty amazing, it’s a very small world.”
Shortly afterwards he got the pair together again and since then they have been pretty much inseparable, spending a lot time together reminiscing on the outdoor patio on their floor.
“I was really surprised to see him after that long a time,” said Henry Wednesday. “It was really good to see him again and we talked mostly about people we know.
“We went to the same school, rode the same bus – there was a big group of us children, 12 or more, always together.”
The two men lost touch after coming to Canada in 1950 and both had been living in Summerland before being admitted to the hospital. Dick was also surprised to find someone from the past that close by.
“That’s unbelievable after that long,” he said, looking over at his friend in the wheelchair. “I don’t remember too much, we were quite young then but it is that same little voice. We did go to the same beaches and rode in the same school bus but I was older.”
According to Nick the families of both men have now become friends and it’s not unusual for them to spend time on the patio “chit chatting” with their dads.
And when asked if it really is a small world, Henry’s smile widened and he replied: “It certainly is.”