|The Vander Gaast family
Severa Maria Alida Sophia Sweerman Vander Gaast was born on November 7, 1929, in Amsterdam, Holland. Vivacious and bright, with thick dark hair and big brown eyes, she had "Joi de vive" all her life and every one of her seven children would inherit those big brown eyes. She was an extraordinary mother, a courageous woman, a lover of life. We honor her because of this.
Severa faced many hardships during her life. As a child growing up in Amsterdam, she and her family survived the Nazi occupation of their country. She remembered the day the Americans liberated Holland.
As an adult, she survived the loss of her parents, her beloved older brother, and four children due to miscarriage. She gave birth to her seventh child less than twenty four hours after the death of her brother. She immigrated with her husband to America in 1955, leaving family, friends, and many memories behind.
As a young adult, Severa went to Paris to work as a nanny. It is there that she met her husband, Henry Vander Gaast, in a movie line. They married on December 29, 1954, in Amsterdam and immigrated to the United States, where Henry's parents had a farm outside Everly, Iowa. Their first child, a daughter, was born there. They moved to Ames, Iowa, where Henry went to school at Iowa State College and Severa worked at the college library. Henry and Severa had 6 more children and Severa stayed home after their second child was born. Because of her great love for children, she began a home daycare center and continued this work until her death in 1990. Severa died from secondary complications of breast cancer after a hard fought seven-year battle.
If her life didn't look exciting to an outsider, it was always exciting and interesting to her. She was an extraordinary mother to us. She passed her great love of life on to us, her children, and taught us to savor the moments and to handle new challenges. Her love of life was contagious. She taught us how to enjoy our lives. When it was time to break away from home, she encouraged us even though we knew she was lonely for us. We were the great loves of her life; and she said we were her greatest accomplishments. She was a fighter till the end of her life; she refused to give up, even in the face of a cancer that was relentless. Her courage was legendary, her humor unstoppable. We miss her deeply.
Henry Vander Gaast-husband
Dr. Nadia Vander Gaast-daughter
Yvette Vander Gaast-daughter
Robert Vander Gaast-son
Michael Vander Gaast-son
Melinda Vander Gaast-daughter
Mariella Vander Gaast-daughter
John Vander Gaast-son
Els Sweerman Pawela-sister
Submitted on 7/1/96