Monday, August 19, 2002 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

VAN GURP, Alexander
VAN GURP, Alexander - 78, Halifax, died peacefully in his sleep with family around him, August 17, 2002. Born in 1924, in The Hague, The Netherlands, he was one of 15 children. In his early years he worked in a radio lab where he designed a new model of a radio, now a collectors item. He immigrated to Canada in 1953 with his wife, Margaretha and children, Maria, Hetty, Gerald, with Susan, Carolyn and John, being born in Halifax. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Margaretha; seven brothers and sisters in The Netherlands; his six children; nine grandchildren. He spent two of the war years in a forced labour camp in Germany and was interred in a camp for political prisoners. He was active with the Dutch Association of Slave Labourers, he founded a website for survivors of forced labour camps and spent much of his time translating documents and maintaining the site. Through this work he found information for the families of deceased forced labourers. In Canada he established VanGurp Electronics, taught electronics at Halifax Regional Vocational School and served as principal at the Community College. Since his retirement he has taken great joy in the peace and solitude of his cottage at Russell Lake, where the natural beauty inspired him to perfect the craft of bird carving. Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held 3 p.m. Friday, August 23, in Atlantic Funeral Home Chapel, 6552 Bayers Rd., Halifax. A reception will follow the service in the family reception centre. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Save the Children Canada, 1-800-668-5036 ext. 292

Ceremony on August 31, 2002 at Russell Lake


On April 11, 1924 Alexander van Gurp was born at Scheveningen, The Netherlands.
On August 17, 2002 Alexander van Gurp gave his spirit back to his Creator.

Today we are together to commend his remains to the earth at a place where he spent so many happy hours.

Quotations from the cottage-book

January 1991


It's getting dark, the sun is slowly setting.
A quiet peace descends upon the land.
Even the birds have all but ceased their chatt'ring.
The trees are black, no wind for them to bend.

The lake is still and slowly disappearing.
The trees will blend in total darkness
then and up above, beyond all human hearing,
a million lights for me, a single man.

A melancholy mood, a sense of perfect peace
comes o'r me when in this enchanted land.
Thoughts disappear, my mind is so at ease.
It makes me feel this peace will never end.


July 1991 This evening it was very quiet as it usually is after the birds and mammals have retired, for whatever reason they have to do so. And when I soak this in, I'm very happy and peaceful.

February 1994 Lately I have been trying to decide why I am so content and relaxed here at Russell Lake, even when the weather is not very nice and I think the answer came to me one evening recently when I was sitting on the sofa at home in Halifax, looking at my surroundings. It suddenly struck me that almost evrything around me was dead: the fire place, the walls, the ceiling, the ornaments, attractive as they were. I then fancied myself in the cottage, looking out through the sliding doors. Everything I saw was showing signs of living. I realized that I am a living organism in the company of other organisms. It makes no more sense to distinguish between nature and oneself than between, for instance, nature and birds or trees, we and they are altogether one.

May 1996 Lots of birds and their songs. I can just imagine how Adam and Eve must have felt in the Garden of Eden.

June 1997 I'm looking out in the flower garden with the orange azalea and purple ajuga in full bloom and birds frolicking in the birds bath. The sound of the wind in the trees and the chirping of the many birds are the only outside sounds. Not a human within miles; no lawn mowers, no cars. Vivaldi's "summer" of the Four Seasons is playing softly in the background. Nothing but tranquility. The sunlit greens of the trees, ferns and grass appear to be almost luminous. There is a light haze over the lake. Oh, perfect peace!

May 1998 Russell Lake Sunset Chalet How sweet it is!! No cellar, no whzzz-whzzz or grrrr-grrrr of cars and lawn mowers. Just the sweet sounds of bird songs nothing else, or total quiet.

January 2002 During 2001 I have been here 132 days which is 36% of the year, almost all of it from May to November: 4 more months and the fun starts again. What will 2002 bring?

From the 103rd Psalm

As a father has compassion on his children
So the Lord has compassion on us
For He knows how we are formed,
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord's love is with us and his righteousness with our children's children.

We all select a stone and place it on the heap of stones which is a monument to the memory of Alexander van Gurp


In the ancient Greek world, religion sprung from people's interaction with their environment and was a way of understanding or coming to grips with the actions and cycles of the natural world. Gods lived on misty mountain tops and controlled the oceans and the skies. The most sacred spots were also the areas of greatest beauty and inspiration. Even today visiting these sites send chills up your spine and generates a strong sense of awe and reverence.

The Christian religion of our father's youth and family has close connections to the beliefs of the ancient Greeks. Common threads can be found between the ancient and more modern religion and a number of books of the New Testament were written in Greek communities amid the temples and religious practices of the Greeks. The ancient people believed that everyone went to the underworld when they died.

To reach the underworld they had to pay a boatman one coin to be ferried cross the mythical river Styx. Africans held similar beliefs and many of the old sprirituals, based on ancient beliefs, refer to rivers or waters to cross to reach the promised land. The Greeks also believed that exceptionally good or heroic people were reserved a place in the Elysian Fields, a golden, blissful place of rest in the underworld. Of course, not everyone made it to the Elysian Fields after their first life. If you were sent back to earth and made it to the fields three times, you earned the right to rest in the Island of the Blessed and never had to leave. Today we are ferrying our father's body across the waters of the Lake Russell to reach the promised land of eternal peace and serenity, to remain undisturbed as long as the land, God or gods allows islands to stand and lakes to be filled. Whatever our religious beliefs may be or not be, may we all live with the hope that eternal peace is possible, whether it exists in the form of a place in heaven next to God, a spot reserved in the Elysian Fields or a tranquil island in Lake Russell.

Travel well, Dad, and Godspeed.


The ashes are taken in the canoe and are deposited on an island in Russell Lake