Albert “Ab” Gerhardus ZYLSTRA
Peacefully, on September 30, Mr. Albert Zylstra of Edmonton, passed away at the age of 91 years.
Albert is lovingly remembered by his wife of 69 years Wilhelmina “Willy”, their four children: Wilma (Case) Van Herk of Morinville, Marian (Allan) Brennan of Edmonton, Albert (Laurie) Zylstra of St. Albert, Bert (Gayel) Zylstra of Sturgeon County, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Cremation has taken place, and a memorial service will be held to honour Albert’s life on Friday, October 13, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at Emmanuel Community Church, 6505-140 Avenue.
Albert Gerhardus Zylstra was born in 1932 in the town of Kampen, The Netherlands. He was fourth of eight children born to Paul and Marie Zylstra. As a boy, Albert loved to explore along the waters of the Ijssel River. Albert was always interested in inventing things and would find “junk” along the shores that he could make into things that he could play with.
In 1947, Albert’s family started to make plans to immigrate to Canada. Because he thought that he would be leaving Holland shortly, he didn’t apply himself to his schooling as he would normally do. As a result, he was held back and ended up in the same class as Willy School. He right away knew that Willy was the girl for him and started to try to get to know her.
In 1949, Albert’s family did move to Canada, leaving his sweetheart behind. The family settled in the St. Albert area. He, his father, Paul, and two of his sisters all worked on local farms. As well, the family had a property they rented to be able to farm themselves. Albert loved the country life and told many stories of working with sheep for a local farmer.
In 1953, Albert decided that he still wanted to get his girl so he went back to Kampen to find Willy and to see if they could have a future together. Willy was open to the idea, but Willy’s parents and grandmother were rather stern about the idea of their 19-year-old daughter leaving with this young man from the wilds of another country. He stayed in Kampen, living with his sister, for an additional 6 weeks so that he could demonstrate to his future in-laws that he was an honorable man.
In 1954, Willy travelled alone to Canada, arriving in Montreal on June 19. Always a dependable man of his word, Albert was there waiting for her on the dock. After living with Albert’s family for a few weeks, they were married on July 17.
Albert and Willy set up their own home and in 1955, their first daughter Wilma was born. While Willy was away on a visit to Holland with Wilma in April, 1957, Albert bought their first house in Beverly (east side of Edmonton). It was a fixer-upper, but that was fine because together they took on the repairs and upgrades to the house.
In 1958, their second daughter, Marian, was born, and in 1959 their first son, Albert joined the family. Six years later, in 1965, their second son, Bert gave Albert and Willy “a rich man’s family” of two boys and two girls. The family learned how to turn every dime and live carefully because Albert worked in construction and when the jobs ended or the weather was not good, he would be without work.
In 1960, Albert was encouraged by his employer to get training in a trade. He went to SAIT (in Calgary) during the week to attend school while Willy stayed home with the 3 kids. It was a necessary time of separation for them that neither of them liked. After that time in school, Albert and Willy would never again go anywhere without the other.
In 1962 Albert and Willy purchased a new home in the Belvedere area of Edmonton where they would live until 2015. The family was faithful members of Emmanuel Community Church where Albert served as a deacon and also put his skills to work helping with building maintenance. The homes of each of the Zylstra kids have many items that Albert created. Albert loved to be busy and after a day of work, he would go off to his garage to work on something. There was a strict curfew of 9:00 pm to quit working so that Albert and Willy would enjoy some quiet time together.
Albert’s passions were first and foremost his love for Willy and his family. He was a man of faith and a hard worker who liked a challenge for his inventive spirit. He loved an adventure and to try new things. In 1977 Albert and Willy purchased 49 acres of property from a farmer near Bashaw, Alberta, and it became a place for Albert to express his passions. He took up beekeeping, driving tractor, building all kinds of inventions, and just loving being in the country.
Albert was diagnosed with a form of Parkinsons in 2012. The condition caused a gradual stiffening in Albert’s joints making it difficult for him to move and do the things he loved. In 2015, Albert and Willy moved into Emmanuel Home where they enjoyed a more carefree life.
In June of 2023, Albert was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was in hospital for 10 weeks, and every day Willy would go to be with him for at least 5 hours per day. He was able to return home in late August so he could be with Willy for the last part of his life. The care and support that Albert and Willy received from the staff of Emmanuel Home was second to none. Albert passed away on Saturday, September 30.
Albert and Willy have four children: Wilma (Case) Van Herk; Marian (Allan) Brennan; Albert (Laurie) Zylstra; and Bert (Gayel) Zylstra. They have 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
We are grateful for all that God has brought our family through. We know that Albert is in heaven and that because of the love of Jesus, we will see him again in time.