Cornelius (Neil) Johannes Jonker, born July 30, 1948, passed away early in the morning on Saturday December 12, 2020, peacefully at home with his family.
In passing, Neil leaves to mourn his wife of 49 years, Leidie, his children Shelley (Mike), Dave (Liz), John (Tammy), Neil (Marleen), Kristy (Cam), Paul (Lisa) and Holly; as well as his loving grandchildren. He also leaves sisters Cecile, Joanna, Lena and Toni, and brothers Peter and Harry. Neil was predeceased by brothers John and Jack; and grandson Christian.
Dad was born in Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands in 1948. He was the youngest of a large family who emigrated to Canada in May of 1951. All his life Dad was never able to sit still. Prior to emigrating to Canada dad had his first big adventure when he was hit by a milk truck, resulting in a broken leg and cast that made him very popular on the boat to Canada. Once the family arrived in Canada they spent some time in St. Eustache before moving to North Kildonan. Dad married Mom in 1971. They bought 60 acres in Springfield Manitoba and promptly started having children.
At the same time Dad started his career at MTS, where he enjoyed many years as a cable splicer before being promoted to Foreman, which he held until he retired in 1997. Dad was prepared to enjoy a long and relaxing retirement but before too long, he remembered that he didn’t like being bored or sitting still. Dad ended up working for his son David, building homes, before eventually starting a new position at Amalgamated Drywall Services, where he worked until last fall when he fell ill.
Our dad was a dad to everyone. The seven of us, all the foster kids that passed through, and every one of our friends who came through the door called him Dad as well. Dad was even officially registered as “Dad Jonker” in the football league! It was a title he embraced. Dad treated all us kids as well as our friends with the same love. Dad also played sponge hockey with the family team for years, and then played football in a rec league with his boys until he was 71 years old. Dad was always easy to spot on the field in his jeans and work shirt with his jersey pulled over top. His face would have a huge smile and his loud voice would be heard above the noise. Often while playing any sport you would hear him giggle and he always had an encouraging comment or funny phrase. Even when attending Bomber Games it was always more about being together than it was about winning. And you could guarantee that each outing had a McDonald’s stop or slurpee drink before heading home.
When the kids were young, Dad coached baseball and soccer, and led a Beaver troop. He drove us to all of our sports and activities and took us out every Halloween to trick or treat until the trunk was full of candy filled pillowcases. Dad insisted that we could call him out of bed if we ever needed a designated driver – he never wanted any of us to take an unsafe ride; and several of us took him up on it over the years, usually from some establishment on the other side of town. Dad would also be the one to drive any one of us to the airport in the middle of the night, excited for us for our next adventure, and even pick us up on our return.
Despite his tendency to stay happily busy, Dad loved nothing more than spending time with his family. When visitors arrived at the farm, he would put the cookie jar in the middle of the table so everyone could help themselves. Dad would stop everything to visit. He was a social genius that way. You always felt welcome as he would ask about your week and what was new and exciting. If you were lucky enough, you would get to the farm on a weekend in the morning and get treated to his specialty – bacon and eggs. There was always enough and often the morning meal would stretch for a few hours as people would casually come and go. Being a social genius would extend away from the farm too. Dad would always meet someone he knew when he was out. In fact, he would often spend twenty minutes talking to someone, then when asked who that was, he would admit he didn’t actually know them! He was friendly with everyone and made friends wherever he went.
Dad showed us by example how to live. He loved to help people, which he called, “going on an adventure.” Dad would never ask for help but would also never turn down the opportunity to help someone else. We would often hear “Do you want to go on an adventure?” which could result in anything from towing someone out of a ditch, re-shingling a roof, plumbing jobs, random construction builds, electrical fixes, 40-foot tree removal, or moving buildings. “Can’t” was not in his vocabulary. Dad managed to share some interesting phrases with us over the years: “pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er,” “well we’re burning daylight,” “we will take it as it comes,” “walrighty then,” “take the purse off your arm,” or “like a sock in a chicken’s lip”. One of the most popular to us accident-prone kids was “walk it off” for any injury from a stubbed toe to a broken leg. If it was bleeding, dad would fix it with his fancy first aid kit consisting of… electrical tape.
Another lesson Dad taught us was to never throw anything away, and to fix it ourselves. Everything had value, and he would pass something on to whoever could use it. We could always, and still do, make do with what we had.
Dad battled through his illness for the last year with grace and bravery. He never missed an opportunity to help out on a roof, under a car or picking up material for the next project. Dad never complained about his diagnosis but was thankful for being able to still be out and about with his family and friends.
We want to thank all the caregivers at Cancer Care Manitoba, both at HSC and in Selkirk, the Selkirk hospital (Dad said often that it was like a 5-star hotel), Dr. Clark and her team from the Palliative Care Program, and all of the relatives, friends and neighbours who checked in regularly and made sure everything was looked after. Every one of you helped make the past year more bearable.
Please share your favourite memory of Neil in the comments so we can all enjoy them together.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to donate to Cancer Care Manitoba, Habitat for Humanity, or Siloam Mission in Dad’s name. No service will be held at this time.
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Cornelius Jonker Saturday December 12th 2020..
Death notice for the town of: Oakbank, Province: Manitoba