Sophie Yeker passed away peacefully at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital on Monday afternoon, June 18, 2012, surrounded by her loving family. She was 83. In the previous week she had connected with many friends in the community. On Thursday, she planted her vegetable garden. On Friday, she suffered a stroke. We were given a few precious days to say good-bye to our beloved mother, wife, grandmother, friend, sister.
Sijke Sijtske Sophie van der Meulen (“Tup”) was born in Gorredijk, Friesland on February 6, 1929, to Sjoerd and Egberta Anna van der Meulen. She grew up as one of three siblings: her older brother Pim and younger sister Dineke, both of The Netherlands, survive her. Sophie graduated from highschool in Assen in 1947. She then spent a year attending the Folk Highschool in Denmark, where she became fluent in Danish. She pursued further education at the School of Social Work in Amsterdam from 1948 to 1951. In 1952, she became engaged to her first husband, Hans Hofstede, and she emigrated to Canada. In 1953, Hans and Sophie married in Toronto and came west to the Bulkley Valley. Two children were born in Smithers: Michael and Barbara. In 1958, the family returned to Holland and Margaret was born. Hans passed away tragically in 1959. In 1963, Sophie returned to Canada and married Paul Yeker, Barbara’s godfather and Hans’ close friend. The wedding took place in Winnipeg where Sophie’s brother and his family lived. Sophie and the three children then joined Paul on his Ekman Road farm. In the following years three more children were born: Andrew, Ursula, and Maria.
Sophie was an energetic woman. Her life in the Bulkley Valley was filled to the brim with the tasks of farm life, as well as with the hobbies and friendships that were her pleasure. She raised her children, cooked, baked, gardened, harvested, picked berries, churned butter, made cheese and yoghourt, and even rendered bear fat and made soap. She sewed and knitted. In summer she filled our home with big bouquets of wild flowers, and with flowers from her amazing garden. In winter she caught up on her reading: her diverse and ever-extending library included books in four languages. She was a faithful letter writer and kept close contact all her life with friends and relatives in Holland, Switzerland and elsewhere. She welcomed the many visitors from overseas who came to the farm, and she and Paul were able to make several trips back to Europe. In the latter part of her life, Sophie loved being Oma to her seven grandchildren, and took great joy in their lives. Sophie’s Christian faith was central to her life, and she was active in both the United Church and The Christian Community.
Sophie leaves behind her grieving family. She will be greatly missed by her husband Paul of 49 years, sons Michael (Joanne) and Andrew, daughters Barbara (Peter) Ambery, Margaret (Bill) Chudyk, Ursula, and Maria (Mike) Harvey, and her grandchildren Colin, Caitlin, Michael, Christopher, Daniel, Stephanie and Naomi. Her sudden passing is mourned too by her brother Pim (Anita), sister Dineke (Jan) Wolters, brother-in-law Paul (Berna) Hofstede in Holland, sister-in-law Fanny Strübin and brother-in-law Hans (Ruth) Jeker in Switzerland, as well as numerous nieces and nephews and their families and many loving friends.
As were Mom’s wishes, her body was cremated and her ashes will be scattered on the farm fields, as well as in the North Sea. A Memorial service to celebrate Sophie’s life will be held at the United Church in Smithers on July 21, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Sophie’s name to Broadway Place Emergency Shelter. Cheques may be made out to Smithers Community Services Association with “Broadway Place donation” noted in the memo, and mailed to Box 3759, or donations made in person at 3815 Railway Avenue.
Sophie’s family would like to thank the staff at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital, the Smithers Ambulance Service, and the Telkwa First Responders, for the wonderful care Sophie received in her last days. Special thanks to Dr. Barbara Kotze, Dr. Biz Bastian, and nursing staff. It meant so much to us for Mother to have such compassionate people taking care of her. We also thank Mom’s wide community of friends for all your loving support.
The Yeker family