On 10-11 and 12 August the Board of the Cnossen Knossen Foundation organized a reunion for all North American Cnossens. The reason was of course the publication of the new Cnossen Knossen family book. The board had the idea that it would be appropriate, just as in Bolsward with the Dutch book, to give a similar presentation of the new family book in English at a reunion in America. The organizers were Jim Cnossen (AAB 220.127.116.11), our US Ambassador and his wife Cheryl. They have made it a very special weekend and put a lot of energy into it.
A total of 120 family members had registered for the reunion, including 12 from the Netherlands. In the KLM plane on the outward journey the crew was quickly informed of the several Dutch Cnossen’s on the run. Very interested they asked about the plans in America. They were eager to hear the story about the new family book and the upcoming reunion. As a farewell we got a postcard as a souvenir.
The reunion participants origined from different branches: AAB, FCA, FCN and FJD. Even a Crossen was present.The B branch would also be represented, but unfortunately their flight was cancelled and they could not be there (Paul Cnossen BBB 10.1.1.5.3). The family members came from all over North America, including Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Ohio, and of course Michigan. Jim had reserved a beautiful hotel in the center of Holland for those from far away; the Haworth conference center hotel, part of Hope College. During breakfast on Friday morning, the Cnossens present recognized each other immediately, even though they had never seen each other before and were introduced and the first conversations started. There would be a lot of follow-up in the course of the weekend.
By five o’clock in the afternoon we drove to the Dunton park for a dinner cruise aboard the ‘Holland Princess’, an old radar boat.
After a cozy buffet, Karaoke gear was set up and various family members performed. Johan Cnossen (AAB 18.104.22.168) opened with ‘It Heitelân’. The young ones also enthusiastically participated. For example, Iris (AAB 22.214.171.124.1.1) sang together with Inèz (AAB 126.96.36.199.3.1), among others, ‘Country road take me home’. Also beautiful was the performance of Jim and Rick Geertsma (AAB 188.8.131.52/6) with Amazing Graze. The complete Geertsma clan also performed. Cheryl, Jim Cnossens wife, sang a duet with the husband of Judy Cnossen (FCA 184.108.40.206) Nick Gasboro. Nick has Italian roots and a voice like Pavarotti. He also sang ‘I will always love you’ for his wife, because they were married that day for 27 years.
The original plan was to see the sun sink in Lake Michigan, but we had to miss this romantic moment because the wind force was too high for the tour boat. Lake Michigan is bigger than the North Sea and when it blows there are high waves. We therefore sailed to the Red House lighthouse and then turned around.
Saturday morning was dominated by the history of Holland Mi. Holland is founded by a group of Dutchmen, who left for America in the mid of the 19th century under the direction of Rev van Raalte. The reason for departure was the top-down control of the Reformed Church set up under the leadership of King William I after the French period, followed by the Separation. The intention was originally to go to the midwest (Wisconsin, Iowa) but ds van Raalte first looked around in Michigan and found in Holland an environment very similar to the Netherlands, with dunes on a large lake (Lake Michigan).
After a tour we arrived at ‘Windmill Island’, where we could visit the mill that was imported from the Netherlands. We had to wait because we were too early. Alie (AAB 220.127.116.11) bore the poem ‘Two frogs’ to kill time in the bus. The miller (female) told very inspiring about het mill and her profession.
At two o’clock we left for the reunion grounds in the Tunnel park on Lake Michigan. Jim had arranged a nice location with a roof against the bright sun. As befits the Cnossens, there was a lot of talk. Some of them knew each other from a previous reunion, but most of them were strangers in the beginning. That changed quickly. With a drink in hand there was an extensively introduction and at the end everyone was really family of each other. Jim had prepared a table with Cnossen articles, including of course the new book, which was sold well. A hired photographer took group photos
After the buffet it was time for the official part with speeches from Jim (AAB 18.104.22.168), board president Jelle (AAB 22.214.171.124) and general adjunct Jelle (AAB 126.96.36.199).
The speeches about the history of our family through the centuries by the president, from Jim (AAB 188.8.131.52) about the emigration and that from Jelle (AAB 184.108.40.206) about his journey on the motorbike to Denmark and the discovery of Cnossen landmarks were greatly appreciated witness the attentive attention of the listeners. The president presented an English presentation copy of the new family book to Cornelis Lubberts (AAB 220.127.116.11), being the oldest descendant (84) of Cornelis Pieters (AAB 5.7), who is the first emigrant forefather of those present. He appreciated that, but unfortunately he had to leave the reunion a little earlier because of his health.
After the official part, there was long time talking.
On Sunday we went to church together. Originally the intention was to go to the old Pillar church, but that church was just being rebuilt and that’s why we had to go to the Chapel of Hope College, a bit further. That was also a beautiful classic church.
It turned out to be a great service with, in contrast to what we see in the Netherlands, many young people. Afterwards we got a cup of coffee and a member of the church told us something about the history of the Pillar church. This history has everything to do with the arrival of the first Dutch in Holland in the middle of the 19th century under the direction of ds van Raalte.
The start time was difficult in Holland. In addition to a lot of illness and difficulty in overcoming the wild nature and building houses (and of course a church), many friction and business problems arose. Van Raalte’s strict appearance as mayor, preacher, doctor, etc., ultimately ensured that the business came on track and remained. In this way he convinced his fellow citizens that it was desirable to join the Reformed Church in 1850, which had already been founded by Dutch emigrants in the seventeenth century. The Separates in the Netherlands, however, were suspicious of this connection because of the views in that church. But many in Holland, Michigan and the surrounding area did not feel at home there, which is why seven years later the Christian Reformed Church arose. That denomination, tighter in the doctrine than the ‘old’ Reformed Church, did get a closer connection with the Dutch Secessionists. In1851 a Christian academy was founded in Holland, which is still known as Hope College. Van Raalte received the recognition he deserved: in New York he received an honorary doctorate for his spiritual leadership. But in Holland his life did not get any easier. Mutual friction in Holland, but also a deteriorating understanding between him and fellow citizens took their toll. In 1867 he deposited the pastor’s shelf. He did, however, regularly preach in Holland and surroundings. He also received an offer to hold a professorship at Hope College, but he refused, partly due to his poor health.
Van Raalte, despite the many things he had achieved, was disappointed by the many problems he had encountered and withdrew more and more.
For Sunday afternoon, Jim and Cheryl had organized a farewell reception for guests from outside the state of Michigan. In their garden they had set up a tent roof with chairs and tables.
Cheryl and Jim live in a prime location on a dune at the borer of Lake Michigan. The neighbor had put his collection of classic cars on the driveway for the occasion. There were more than 10 beautifully restored classics from Ugly Duck to great Americans. The weather was beautiful and the atmosphere could not be better. After a drink and some talking, an extensive buffet was prepared and who wanted could go swimming. For the buffet, Jelle (AAB 18.104.22.168) offered to Jim and Cheryl a present from the Netherlands and Johan (AAB 22.214.171.124) opened the buffet with a version of the ‘Our Father’ in Hebrew. The highlight of the afternoon was the dessert: a beautiful prepared Cnossen-Knossen cake. It was difficult to leave again at the end of the afternoon.
‘It koe net better’(Frisian for ‘ This was the best possible’)