Geert Coopers…a special dongin – dongen

Gert Coopers passed away on Tuesday, November 1, at the age of 91. Geert was not a Dongen originally, but he has meant a lot to the Dongen community since his arrival in Dongen in the 1950s. He was the initiator of the Dongense Summer Games and the celebration of the Central Carnival in Dongen.

With Geert Coopers, Dungen loses an amazing still. In the illustrious 200% DONGEN Spring 2018, an article by Nicolle Christiaanse paid close attention to Geert Coopers and his importance to our village. In memory of Geert, we are republishing this interview here

jairat coopers spring 2018 interview

Geert Coopers was born in Limburg. But the woman he’s been married to for nearly sixty years is the real Dongense: Thérèse Vermeeren. “The Dungeons don’t know her as Therese,” Gert says. For them she is Therese Vermeer of the Hoge Ham cigar and liquor store. The shop is closed, but sometimes we are greeted on the street with “Vermeeren”. Never with “Koppers”.

Geert becomes a priest
In the spring of 1931, a third child was born in the family of the headmaster in the northern village of Heine, Limburg. After a son and a daughter, the father and mother gave birth to a second son. They called him Geert. Years later, an afterthought emerged: a little brother. “That was a nice guy,” Gert says. “A really nice guy. But when he was eleven he was hit by a car. Then suddenly I became the youngest again.”

Coopers children went to school with their father. The eldest son went to MTS and became an electrician. The daughter attended a girls’ high school and married teacher Karl Swinkels. Later, Karl became a famous writer. Son Geert’s career was determined early on; became a priest. At the age of six he went to boarding school with the Fathers of Sacred Hearts in Saint-Odenrud. “This was a good time,” Gert says. I had a lot of friends there and we played great. Especially a lot of football.

Life in the monastery followed a strict schedule. The day started early. As soon as the whistle sounds, the boys jump next to their beds. They arrived together, peace be upon you, Mary. “According to the parents, that woke you up,” Geert says with a smile. Then wash up, get dressed, and go to church. Then have breakfast in the dining hall and then go to school. In the afternoon, there was still enough time to play. “After the evening prayer, when everyone was in bed, a priest told a story.” Geert stared into the distance for a moment. He remembers it as if it was yesterday. Every day again. Those stories were about life. I learned a lot from that.’

the girls
“There was a war and we had to leave the monastery because the Germans wanted to get in,” Gert says. The “journey years,” as Geert calls them, were unpleasant times filled with fear and sadness. Across various locations in North Brabant and Limburg, parents and children ended up in Semplefeld. Geert’s parents had been driven from their home by the Germans. They live temporarily with relatives in Well. It was not a punishment for children, nephews and nieces can play well together. But later in the war, both Well. Geert remembers it well: “The train was full of children and sobbing women. My father stood up and shouted, ‘Everyone watch out. If the train goes to the left, you’ll be fine. If he goes to the right, it is wrong.” The bowmen sat down to pray the loudest: to the left, to the left.

The train went to the left and stopped in Groningen, not in Germany. Geert had a great summer. “At Grootegast, we played a lot of games like jumping out of a ditch with the girls,” Gert says. “No one was wearing a swimsuit, so we jumped right in.” After the war, Geert returned to the parents, but he did not get used to them anymore. During the summer vacation he spent at home, he decided not to return.

pilot
Geert was at home. He had no certificates, only a certificate that he had completed five years of high school. His father’s friend was sitting at the table. He asked what Geert does for work. “Nothing for a while,” replied Father Coopers. “He just got back from boarding school. He has to do military service and then we don’t know yet. Then he comes and works with me. He was mayor and he still had a lot of work to do at the town hall. That’s how it happened. Geert got a diploma Mulo-B in one year and became a civil servant.

But first Geert entered the service. He signed for three years and trained as a pilot at Woensdrecht. In the middle of training, he sustained a severe fall in the head from the back. At first he didn’t seem to mind. Captain Geert took a fighter jet on a training flight. High in the air, Geert had the shock of his life! He saw two planes heading straight for him. It was only one! Geert suffered permanent eye damage from the fall. If he looks at something for a long time, he will see weakness. “I’m no longer allowed to fly,” Gert says. “That was hard, hard.” Geert was moved and had to start over. After another three years of service, his civil life began. The civil servant’s salary was too low to get on a plane now and then. He was very sorry.

Summer Games in Dongen
Geert worked in a number of different municipalities until he finally applied in Dongen. There were three applicants. All three are set because there is a lot of work to do. At the end of the introductory meeting, Mayor Koijman asked Gert if he had any questions. The original Limburger had two: Do ​​you participate in the carnival and do you have summer games? Carnival was celebrated. Every cafe and every club had its own party. Summer Games, they did not know it in Dongen.

The mayor later returned to this. Ask about the summer games. Geert explained it and got permission to organize something like this for the Dongen youth. “At the time, there was really nothing young people could do,” Gert says. Geert reached out to Mr. Janssen from HBS. Together they organized games for children who were not allowed or could not go on holiday. On the first Wednesday afternoon, the young man was called using a car equipped with a public address system. He wasn’t that busy. After the matches it was reported that it was again the following Wednesday. It continued like this throughout the holiday and got busier each time. “It was a huge success,” Gert says. Later, Wednesday afternoon was converted into a continuous week.

carnival
In 1958, the youth group asked who changed the organization of the carnival. He wanted to do it, but for the whole Dungeon. He explains: “I went to visit Mayor Koeijmann with Jan Becks. We asked him for support and he immediately cooperated. Geert used the experience he gained in Limburg. He became the first prince of all Dongen. In the good customs of Limburg, he took his name and was called Prince Geert Jan den Erst.

The year Dongense Carnival began in 1959 with a children’s parade. This was a smart move, because children attracted the elderly. The parents helped build the wagons and during the procession, the whole family stood beside them. “The first year was great,” Gert says. “The other years, too, but that first year was very special.”

wedding official
Geert’s wife, Therese, acquired the cigar shop and liquor store from her parents. The family lived near the store for the first few years. It was always open. Triss and Geert took turns eating. When one eats, the other helps customers. Because of their three children, they had a girl in the house day and night, and twenty years later Geert and Therese built a beautiful house in Crispijnhof. Geert still misses the chicken he had there. Later in life, they returned to Hoge Ham, to an apartment overlooking De Cammeleur. “It was built sixty meters ahead too!” Geert’s remarks strongly.

Geert talks excitedly about his work as a wedding receptionist. For the ceremony, he went to the bride’s house and went to visit the groom’s family. He made sure that he found out exactly who he married, what he was allowed to tell about them, and, above all, what not. “The latter was sometimes more important than the former,” Geert explains. After signing the marriage certificate, Geert gave a lecture in which both the bride and groom had their turn. He did this by heart. I rarely use the pamphlet containing his notes. Those looking for a wedding specifically requested Geert Coopers for the ceremony. Appreciate his interest and stories. He remarried two of the spouses Geert married once fifty years later. They wanted to relive the big day again. Geert is proud of it: “That was a great thing to do.”

stop working
Geert moved to another department and became a sports official. In 1990, after a prolonged illness, he had just returned to his office when he was called to the mayor’s office. There was also his family doctor, cardiologist, and pulmonologist. “As I was clumsy, I still asked: What are these gentlemen doing here?” Gert says. Doctors rejected him and came to tell the mayor. The mayor immediately sent Khairat home. He left with tears in his eyes. At the farewell party, he got word: ‘It may be a little strange, but I’ll start with my brother-in-law, who was a pilot. He was also a member of the flying club in Rijen and I was sometimes allowed to go with him. He flew over Dongen and I sat next to him. I looked down and saw a very small sandwich on the table. That’s what I’m behind now. Those present understood how I felt.

This was followed by a difficult period. Geert was sick. He had a severe asthma attack and heart problems, but he didn’t show it. When he was running errands for his wife, he was commented: “He can’t work, but he can.” These comments were so hurtful that Geert paused. Slowly he picked it up again. He went out on a Tuesday or Thursday morning because he noticed that it was very quiet then. It also often disappears at night. So avoid gossip.

Dongenaar is a good person
Presently, Geert is in good health. His heart and his upbringing are fine. Wijs notes: “Although it wasn’t fun at the time, this is due to downtime. Less stress and more comfort. You are the best medicine for you. Geert and his wife are active in life. They play cards, play bowling, go on vacation regularly and have many social contacts. Geert often visits places and if there is something to do in Dongen, he is usually there. There is a computer in the study and Gert also has a laptop. He communicates by e-mail and uses the Internet frequently. He insists that “the phone to make calls.” “Mostly to be called, actually.” Geert uses the phone only to ask if someone is home. Then he goes there to discuss the rest. If his destination is between the Laurentius Church and the shopping center, Geert is on foot. Elsewhere in Dongen take the car. He still drives himself, provided he stays in the immediate vicinity. If he had to go away from home, he would be taken. Geert loves to live in Dongen. He always has and still does. Of course, as elsewhere, there are a few whining and imperfections. But in general, Gert de Dongenar believes that the people of Dungen are “good people” and that the people of Dungen are “good people”.

Text: Nicolle Christiaanse © 2018

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