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Meindert Zylstra -- Chatfield

November 7, 2017 GMT

Meindert Zylstra, age 92, passed away peacefully on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, at Chosen Valley Care Center where he had resided for 15 months.

Meindert Zylstra was born in Suawoude, province of Friesland, the Netherlands, to Harmen and Wiepkje Zylstra on March 24, 1925. As a boy, he helped his father farming and milking their cows, pole vaulted across canals, and tipped over outhouses. During the German occupation of the Netherlands (World War II), starting at age 17, he and his brother worked on dairy farms near Freckenhorst, Germany, to avoid fighting in the German army. After WW II, Meindert served three years for the Dutch army in Indonesia to guard oil fields from takeover by communist Japanese, rising to the level of lieutenant-star.

A momentous day came on April 4, 1952, when Meindert, along with his parents, five siblings, and their families, immigrated to the United States, a land where he hoped to be able to purchase his own property. They arrived in the Racine area where Meindert worked as a farm hand and took English lessons from Geneva King. English was his fifth language, preceded by Frisian (his native language), Dutch, German and Malaysian.

Meindert married Wilma Clement from Stewartville on March 14, 1953, at Pleasant Grove Church of Christ. U.S. citizenship was granted May 14, 1957. In 1964, Meindert realized his dream of purchasing his own farm southwest of Chatfield, where he and Wilma lived for 52 years.

His extraordinary early years and his speaking talent inspired patriotic speeches that he gave at various events in the region. When given a Dutch flag by one of his children, he refused to fly it, firmly stating that, “I am an American.”

Meindert loved physical labor, growing crops and caring for farm animals. He often brought newborn pigs or lambs into the house to be warmed up in a box on the open oven door. Farm kittens and dogs and ponies were also known to gain access. Meindert was a leader in the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ for many years. He was one of the 16 charter members of the Chatfield Brass Band where he played trumpet. In later years, singing in the Chatfield Lutheran Church choir gave him joy. Winter activities included puzzling with his family or dancing at the Crystal Ballroom. He always made time for a two-week camping vacation or a fishing trip with family.

Meindert is survived by three children, Phyllis (Paul) Comstock of Stillwater, Minn., Ronnie (Barbara) Zylstra of Stewartville, and Sylvia (Brent) Klomps of Chatfield; grandchildren, Gary Zylstra, Jennifer (Joshua) Datta, Victoria Klomps, Stephanie Zylstra, Joseph Klomps, Carolyn (Seth) Lilly; sisters, Lucille Koster and Tena (Peter) Wolterstorff; brothers, Romke (Wilma), Haye, and Bernard (Jean) Zylstra.

Meindert was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Wilma; son, Gene; daughter, Elaine; brother, Peter Zylstra.

A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ, rural Stewartville, with the Rev. Lance Lorenz officiating. Burial will be at Woodlawn Cemetery, Stewartville. A time of visitation for family and friends will be from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, at Griffin-Gray Funeral Home, Stewartville, and one hour prior to the service Wednesday at the church.

The family suggests memorials to Chatfield Brass Band or Pleasant Grove Church of Christ.