Valerie en ik

Valerie en ik - Henk de Jong
"Valerie en ik" by Henk de Jong

This book is a memoir, testimony that true love conquers all.

It came about this year, based on many afternoons with Henk De Jong, who reminisced and told me the story of his life and marriage. Engaged as ‘listening ear’ and co-author, I can look back on the rewarding process that resulted in this book. Michael Stretton, of Marine Litho Book Publishers in Port Elizabeth, ensured that it presents beautifully.

At Easter, in his home in Beachview, I met Henk De Jong. He was heartbroken over the unexpected death of his wife. Deeply distressed, he began to diarise memories of their long life together.

Henk was born in Amsterdam. As a young sailor, he joined the crew of the whaling ship, the Willem Barendsz. This ship, on its voyage to the whaling grounds, always docked in Cape Town. There, Henk met Valerie. It  was love at first sight. It was also a love forbidden under apartheid. All of Valerie‘s family was classified as ‘coloured’, except for one of her  brothers who had a lighter skin and was classified as ‘white’. As an 18-year-old, Henk had no knowledge of the South African racial system of apartheid but realised quickly that Valerie had to escape her country if they wanted a life together.

As I listened to Henk’s hope to publish their memoirs in honour of  his wife, I promised to help him make this dream come true. Luckily, with Henk’s mother tongue being Dutch and mine Flemish, we had no language obstacles in understanding each other!

We look back on many hours of working together, taking notes and shaping the story. For me, as professional biographical coach, this process was very insightful. I was captivated by the determination of this couple in tackling their challenges. But it was also good, in this era marked by a pandemic, to be reminded of the challenges of past decades. And to witness that true love is true gold.