The Welland Tribune
Joop Gerritsma remembered for his humour and hard work
WELLAND — Johannes “Joop” Gerritsma was a member of The Tribune family for 30 years — known for his smile, humour and devotion to journalism.
On Saturday, Mr. Gerritsma died at the age of 68.
Back in December 31, 2003, he officially retired as a reporter with The Tribune after working for the daily for 30 years and 33 years as a reporter.
“I always knew him as a hardworking journalist who was devoted to his job and serving his community,” said managing editor Angus Scott, “and whenever we lose someone from The Tribune family, it’s always sad, a personal loss.”
In the busy newsroom, Mr. Gerritsma was always toiling away on the latest scoop. His son Peter Gerritsma said he “was a good man, very inquisitive, which probably made him good at his job. He was a good with people as a general policy.”
Former managing editor George Duma, who worked with Mr. Gerritsma for many years, said he had a “boyish enthusiasm about him that was charming. It spread throughout the newsroom. He also had a child-like curiosity – he wanted to know things – and those were two of the characteristics that made him such a good reporter.”
Duma said people in the community “loved him” as a reporter because he was trustworthy, always had a smile on his face and had a positive approach to a job that can sometimes be stressful. “Because of that, they opened up to him.”
“One of the things I most admired about Joop was the fact English was his second language. Journalism is a tough enough profession as it is. But for someone to come to Canada from the Netherlands, learn the language, and then work as a journalist in his second language – I always found that astonishing. I really respected him for that,” he said.
“Newsrooms are like families. We sometimes laugh together, we sometimes mourn together and we sometimes get angry at one another, just like brothers and sisters do. But one thing we always do is love each other and stick up for each other. I feel like I’ve lost a member of the family and it just feels so empty. I know it sounds like a cliché but Welland really is a poorer community without Joop in it.”
Stan Frost, a retired production manager at The Tribune, said he will always remember Mr. Gerritsma who always made sure to walk about the building, stopping in every department to say hello, tell a joke or a story. Even after he retired, Mr. Gerritsma would often stop in and visit or submit letters to the editor.
“He loved The Tribune and he loved his family,” said Frost. “He loved to write, even after he retired he always wrote letters to the editor. It was hard for him to leave (for retirement). He kept telling me I should retire so I could enjoy life. I hope he enjoyed it as much as he could.”
Frost remembers well all the times Mr. Gerritsma, who had a strong Dutch accent, would come into the noisy press room with a story to tell.
“He used to come down and tell me a 20-minute joke,” said Frost. “I loved the man … he always had a story to tell. He was one of those good people, the kind you just don’t see anymore.”
Aside from his many years with The Tribune family, Mr. Gerritsma was also involved with the Welland Historical Museum, where he served as secretary of the board for about five years.
“He was a hard working volunteer who enjoyed marking answers at our trivia nights and selling half-and-half tickets when the museum sponsored the Friday Cruise Night at Seaway Mall,” said board chair Wayne Campbell, who is also a Tribune reporter.
John Mastroianni, who was the board chair of the museum while Mr. Gerritsma was a member, said as secretary one could always see you couldn’t take the reporter out of the retired journalist. He not only took notes for the minutes but also worked with museum staff on the newsletter, The Bridge.
“His minutes of the meeting … always had ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ and always very accurate,” said Mastroianni. “I enjoyed his sense of humour, it was always fun to listen to him with his Dutch accent. At the museum, he wanted to see the history of Welland, not just the history of history.”
The museum’s board and staff will miss him, said Campbell, “and we send our deepest sympathy to his family.”
“I also worked with Joop at The Tribune and with the rest of the newspaper staff will have fond memories of the experience and his style.”
Mr. Gerritsma was also an aircraft buff who would track the history of small airlines around the world and did some freelance work for airplane magazines. After he retired from The Tribune, he also wrote a book, 50 Jarr Fokker Friendship, in Dutch.
Mr. Gerritsma was the beloved husband of Juliana, and loving father of Peter, Brenda (Murray Anderson) and David (Erin Hoh). Dear brother of Annalies Welleman. He will be lovingly remembered by family and friends here and in Holland.
The family will receive their friends at J.J. Patterson & Sons Funeral Residence, 19 Young Street, Welland, on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. A celebration of his life will be held at noon. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or Kidney Foundation.