PIQUA — Following Piqua’s annual Memorial Day parade on Monday, the keynote speaker for the subsequent ceremony remembered World War II veterans as liberators, recalling his family’s life in the German-occupied Netherlands in the 1940s before immigrating to the U.S. and serving during the Vietnam War era.
“If it wasn’t for the veterans, I would not be here today,” Kornelis “Al” Mulder said.
Mulder was born in 1941 in the Netherlands during the German occupation of the country. His family immigrated to the U.S. in 1956 and were sponsored by the Church of the Brethren in Piqua.
Mulder talked about how a local doctor recruited his father to be part of the Dutch resistance during the 1940s. German troops gave his father the choice between going to a labor camp in Germany or cutting the soldiers’ hair at his barber shop. While many of their Dutch neighbors considered Mulder’s father a traitor for choosing to cut the Germans’ hair during this time, Mulder’s father and family hid a Jewish family in their home during that time to prevent them from being taken to a concentration camp.
“It was a scary time,” Mulder said, adding that the Germans threatened to kill entire families if anyone was found hiding people who were Jewish. Despite that threat, Mulder’s family shared their food rations with three Jewish people on the run and hiding from the Gestapo. Mulder said that those three people were a young woman and her parents who had gotten separated and later reunited in Mulder’s family home.
Mulder recalled how his father also hid a radio in his barber shop, listening at night to the BBC broadcast and learning about how the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
“The Dutch people never forgot what they did,” Mulder said.
Mulder said his family leaned on their faith, with his father professing that their needs would be supplied by God when the food rations were tight. Mulder said that his family home was also searched at one point, but the Gestapo agents did not find the Jewish family living with them.
Their town was liberated by Allied forces in April 1945, and Mulder added that one of those servicemen was his future father-in-law.
Following the end of World War II, Mulder said his father’s business suffered financial difficulties and they went into government housing. His family then immigrated to the U.S. in 1956, moving to Piqua after being sponsored by the Church of the Brethren.
Mulder said his father went to work for Hartzell’s, and his brother Jan then got a job at the Piqua Daily Call. Mulder graduated from Piqua High School in 1959, became an American citizen in 1962, married his wife Judy in 1963, and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War Era, receiving his draft notice in 1965.
Mulder’s brother Sam also joined the Air Force after graduating from Piqua High School in the 1960’s, and Sam went on to serve 25 years in the Air Force.
Mulder said his brother Jan then decided to serve by joining the Piqua Police Department in May 1966. Jan later passed away while on duty after being fatally shot in August 1970. Jan had a wife and four children at the time he passed away.
Mulder said that, after Jan’s death, when his father was asked if he regretted coming to the U.S., his father would say, “I’m not sorry one bit.” His father leaned on his faith in God once again, saying, “We were meant to be here.”
In 1982, Mulder’s parents were honored with a Righteous Medal, honoring them as one of the Righteous Among the Nations from the Israeli government for hiding the Jewish family from Nazis during World War II.
“I can’t thank Piqua enough,” Mulder said. While he currently lives in Troy, Mulder added, “My heart’s in Piqua.”
Also during Piqua’s Memorial Day ceremony, Al Fledderman of Piqua received the Flag Award for his service to the community.
The Memorial Day parade’s grand marshal was Piqua Chief of Police Bruce Jamison, who is retiring later this summer.
Jamison was born in western Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Dayton, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in Criminal Justice in 1983. He began his career with the Piqua Police Department in 1986 as a police officer. During this career, he has served as police officer, juvenile officer, detective, evidence room custodian, hostage negotiator, administrative lieutenant, watch commander, and bureau commander. He has served as the chief of police since 2008.
Jamison and his wife Karen have raised three adult daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys opportunities to serve the church, spending time in nature, and developing web-based solutions to challenges faced by non-profit organizations.
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