Paterson News, 1960.
By Tom Paris
HAWTHORNE - Sixty years! That's longer than many people live. Until last Wednesday, that's how long it had been since brothers Joe and John Sytsma had seen each other. Joe was an adventurous 18-year-older when he left brother John in their native Holland to come to the United States. Wednesday, at a Hoboken pier, the brothers were reunited. They embraced and wept unashamedly. Now in their late 70s, they recalled each other only as fuzzy-cheeked teenagers.
Joe has lived in Hawthorne for the past 39 years. In his home at 78 Westervelt Ave. he told how impossible it is to describe how it felt to see a brother after 60 years. All the time he was talking, he kept his arm around 77 year old John, who is one year his junior. John, a sparkling-eyed, red-faced little man, smiled constantly and seemed to be trying to catch a word as Joe interpreted for him. John was a 17-year old baker helper in Sneek, a typical small Dutch town, when Joe left in 1900. Eleven years later he opened his own shop in neighbouring Ylst. He was happy baking and selling his products. He married and raised two sons. He hoped to follow brother Joe to the U.S. but business and family obligations made that impossible. Two years ago he retired.
John wants to see everything. An obviously energetic man, he plans to make the most of his one-year absence from home. In store is a trip to West Point, a VIP tour of New York City and visits to the Jersey Shore and other resort points. In about three months, John is going to Denver, Colo., to visit the youngest Sytsma brother, 76-year-old Andrew. He saw him four years ago when Andrew visited Holland. Then he will be off to Alberta, Canada, to see son Peter who visited him in Holland 10 years ago. Finally, next April he will fly back home. Asked if he would go by jet, he said he didn't know too much about them but certainly wasn't afraid to try. He said it in Dutch, but in a tone that didn't need translation. Is he going to relax and enjoy a life of leisure when he gets back home? "Oh no, I don't enjoy leisure at all. I will work in my son Richard's antique shop" was the reply.
As one might expect, Uncle John is quite a celebrity in the Sytsma household. Nieces Jessie, Emma and Alice are feeding him his favorite foods. Rice is the favorite. Nephews Edward and Howard are delighted with their new found "Dutch Uncle". Brother Joe, an active member of the Prospect Park Bethel Christian Reformed Church, is anxious to introduce him to his many countrymen in this area. Joe is a widower.
Just a few days ago, 60 years was a lifetime away for John and Joe Sytsma. But now as they sit and talk of their childhood and what has happened since, those days in Holland seem like only yesterday.
Note: Joe (Joseph), John and Andrew Sytsma = Jochum, Jan and Andries Sytsma are sons of Diedert Siedzes Sytsma & Jetske Leenderts Dijkstra.