Emo woman marks 50th year in Canada

In her 93 years, Tina Visser of Emo has seen her share of ups and downs.
But after reminiscing about her family’s move from the Netherlands to Canada 50 years earlier, and the life they led here in Rainy River District, she is still amazed at the opportunities they encountered here.
“I have a dearly loving family,” Visser said. “God has led us through the years and is still leading us.”
Born in Friesland, the Netherlands, in 1913, she married Lourens Visser in 1938. Together the couple owned a cigar factory and had five boys—Richard, John, Syd, Sam, and Meine.
When another cigar factory opened in their town of Drachten, they had difficulty keeping their own factory going and made the decision to immigrate to Canada.
“I remember we came by plane, but in those days most travelled by boat,” Visser recalled, noting they flew from Amsterdam to Ireland to Newfoundland and then to Toronto.
The family, including the boys who ranged in age from five-12, first settled in Brampton, Ont., where Lourens got a job as a watchman in a greenhouse.
But they kept in contact with relatives they had in Winnipeg, who convinced them to head to Manitoba. They bought a car and drove from Toronto to Winnipeg.
There, Lourens got a job painting houses.
“He liked painting,” Tina Visser recalled. “He liked to see that what he was doing improved things.”
In 1959, the Vissers were advised to move to Emo, being told there were other Dutch immigrants and farmers in that area.
“We bought a small farm on River Road, including one cow,” Visser remarked, though stressing she was not a farmer—and isn’t to this day.
The couple, who both loved to read, improved their English by reading the books their sons brought home from school.
The family also lived in Devlin for a while, then moved to the farm on the highway just east of Emo—where Tina Visser still lives today.
“It was an old house but we managed,” she said. “Lourens made a living as a painter in Fort Frances and improved our own house.”
Lourens Visser also loved gymnastics. One day, one of the boys came home from high school and said they were trying to do gymnastics, but the teachers didn’t know a thing about it.
He went and showed them a thing or two in his paint-spattered clothing.
Soon, Lourens was teaching gymnastics at schools throughout the district, including the local high school.
“They had meets with Dryden and Kenora, but, of course, Fort Frances won all the prizes,” Tina Visser noted, adding she certainly was proud of her husband.
He also formed the Visserettes Gymnastics Club, which she still supports today.
Meanwhile, Tina Visser spent her time at home as a wife and mother.
“The boys told me they were happy to have me there when they got home from school and that always stayed with me,” she noted. “We weren’t rich, but we were a loving family and we managed.”
Visser also liked figures and numbers, and became actively involved in the Rainy River District Women’s Institute.
She indicated she had never been asked to join the Women’s Institute in the other communities she had lived in. But in Emo, she was “greeted with a clean house and baking on the table,” and was invited to meetings right away.
“It helped to learn the language and to meet parents of the kids my boys went to school with,” she explained.
Visser became involved with the group in 1960 and still is an associate member. In fact, she continued to do some of the bookkeeping up until she was 90 years old.
She was secretary/treasurer of the branch, then the district, and then for the entire Northwestern Ontario region. Around 1965, she spent three years as a provincial board director and twice a year attended meetings in Toronto or Guelph.
“I’ll always remember the Canadian tanks rolling in to bring us freedom,” Visser said through tears. “I am so thankful and pleased that we could give something back to Canada and do some good here.”
Lourens passed away in 1999 while the boys each fulfilled their own dreams, with son, Sam, also passing away in 2005.
“The boys did so well,” Visser enthused, though still teary-eyed. “But now I have all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too.
“I’m very happy we came to Canada,” she added.