In times like this, the only thing I know how to do is write…and so today I will share a very personal post:

I first met Antoine when I was 23, eleven years ago. I was fresh off the boat from Canada, and he was fresh to his job as director at a small online start-up. We met with equal enthusiasm, spirit and the sense of possibility. It was an exciting time and I was thrilled to be part of building something we all believed in.

He was my first actual boss and an excellent one. He gave me endless freedom and far too much responsibility. The job allowed me to travel to Belgium, Germany, England and France. He was game for anything: any idea, any plan, any pitch – as long as you came to him with a solid plan and a feasible budget.

His laugh was loud, unique and infectious. He took risks, took chances and persevered. Above all, he was a kind and supportive man who continually empowered and trusted those around him. He let me delve deep into a whole new fascinating world encouraging me to gain new skills and grow. Hours were long and days were chaotic, but in the chaos I gained skills and experiences that lay the foundation for my career.

I left Expatica – after nearly 4 years with a heavy heart, but it was time to move on. I knew that leaving Expatica did not mean leaving the friend I had made, behind. Sure enough we’ve always kept in touch. Antoine was always the first to congratulate me on any successes I had. He was continually keen to offer help and encouragement where he could.

Over the years, we’d meet regularly for coffee and discuss business, work, life and our families. His face always brightened up when speaking about Simone and the boys. Our easy banter was carefree and comforting. We’d tease each other with the familiarity that comes from working long hours together on chaotic projects and seeing each other at your best, and worst. I loved poking fun at his “Dutchness” and he’d rib me on all things Canadian. He’d laugh (loud!) at the “naive Canadian” intern who he met many moons ago.

A few weeks ago we met and discussed the idea of working together on a new project. The thought of working together again – ten years after first meeting – felt right. His enthusiasm was infectious and I looked forwarded to seeing each other more, in the process of creating something new. The last time we saw each other, a few weeks ago over drinks in the sun, we shared endless laughs and made plans to finally go camping – Dutch style – together this summer with our families.

kindnessOn Monday night I was on the radio discussing my new book. The interview was in Dutch and I was worried about how it went. Two seconds after coming out of the radio studio – I got a text –  from Antoine. I hadn’t told anyone about the show, but he had somehow heard – and in his usual supportive fashion was the first to reach out with kind words. Like he always did, for so many.

That text message on Monday evening was my last correspondence with Antoine – and a true reflection of his character : taking the time out of his busy life, to reach out to others with kindness, heart and humour.

Antoine was one of the first people I met in this country, and he felt – and treated me – like family. He always had a smile on his face, and didn’t take life too seriously. He continually challenged himself and others around him to dream big  and be better. He was adventurous, smart and driven.  But at the end of the day, after all his accomplishments, he was one of those special people who strived – above all – to just be a good person. And he truly was.

Antoine, Simone and their two young boys (Quint and Pijke) will all be truly missed.

I am but one person – of the so very many – who is better off for having known Antoine, Simone, Quint and Pijke.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy.



53 Responses

  1. Fee Berry

    So, so sorry for your loss, and all the other losses of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters on that plane. I believe we are eternal and will meet each other again, but that doesn’t help fill the hole in your life which is left when someone you care about is lost in this terrible manner. I am sure that all the good things your friend has done will live on and speak for him and in the hearts of all who knew him.

  2. Bas

    It’s a terrible tragedy and this is heart wrenching to read. I’m literally in tears after reading this. Strength to you and to all who have to bear the pain of having lost a dear one in this terrible incident.

  3. Betty

    Words fail in this case. My thoughts and prayers are with all victims and their family and friends.

  4. Danielle

    Well written, Colleen. You have captured Antoine as he was. We will all need to learn to deal with this tragic loss. It feels the world is an awful lot greyer today. Let’s try to keep his laugh in our ears and smile in our eyes. Thanks for putting this up!

  5. Dave

    The good die young and in such tragic circumstances. I have a tear in my eye reading this and for all who died in this horrific event.

  6. Bertha Nijkamp

    Het is verschrikkelijk, sterkte. Niet te bevatten, zo groot deze ramp.

  7. Frank Langeveld

    Instead of being sad, try to focus on all the great things he provided. Consider yourself lucky to have met him, worked with him and being able to have called him your friend. What took place is a great tragedy, but it is irreversable. Thinking back with fondness and gratitude beats sitting down in sorrow.
    Antoine sounds like a positive guy. Sure he (and his family) will be missed, but by being positive he will be honoured properly.

  8. Lucy Newbery

    I am an elderly English lady and am shocked at this news, I cannot understand how anyone can cause such pain and how they can sleep at night . My thoughts and prayers are for the families and friends in their sad loss,

  9. Monica

    I have tears in my eyes. What a beautiful person you describe. He will always be alive in your heart and in those memories and emotions you shared. Sending comfort your way and condolences to all the families who lost a loved one in this terrible in ident.

  10. Cathy McGill

    So very tragic, so very sad. We read this with heavy hearts. Wishing courage, strength and warm memories. Be good to one another.

  11. Deborah Valentine

    A beautiful, and poignant tribute to an innocent soul ……thank you for sharing who he was Colleen, and my deepest condolences on the loss of a friend and mentor.

  12. Francis

    Oh gosh, I was able to read news about the crash pretty ‘neutral’. Sure, I feel sorry for everyone involved, pray for the families who lost lovedones, but also with the thought that eventhough this hits our nation hard, there are thousands of people killed on a daily base without anyone moarning for them or feeling shocked or outraged…

    But than I read your personal blog and the victims get a face… a character… a story…. And my heart breaks, my eyes water.

    I’m so sorry for your loss… sorry for all those people who lost their dear friend, special colleague, a son, daughter or parent. My heart goes out to everyone involved, sending love and healingvibes.

  13. Soleil

    Er zijn gewoon geen woorden………The world is a better place for having had them in it. R.I.P. Antoine, Simone, their babies, and every other soul on that aircraft. They flew straight to heaven.

  14. Angela

    Soms zijn er geen woorden, stilte is alles wat is. Gezwegen of gesproken, voor altijd gemist.

  15. Sietske van Schaik

    It brings a bit of comfort when a whole family perishes, rather than one parent or child left standing with a huge chunk of their heart missing. There was no long suffering, the plane was there one moment, gone the next. When one has to leave this life behind, it’s probably preferable to die quickly with your loved ones nearby.

    It still leaves us living with grief and questions and disbelief.. but in all that, it’s important to find that little speck of light. I hope the good memories will live on.

  16. Pieter Huisman

    Auw. This puts him really down as one who ‘s missed, a real person, not merely a victim number.. really thanks for sharing, you’ve really touched me. .
    For what it’s worth; chin up, take care and go with love and respect.

  17. bella

    Sounds like he was a wonderful person. My condolences on your loss of a good friend… my prayers for you, him and his family. The Dutch are fine people and I feel their sorrow.

  18. Danny

    Thank you for your lovely tribute. A loss like this can never be explained or justified. Strength!

  19. Rhys Wesley

    This post captures the Antoine everyone knew and loved. He always had a kind word to say, and was always genuinely happy to catch up with old colleagues and share what was going on with life, The world is really a poorer place without him and his family. What a senseless waste.

  20. Patricia

    What a wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing this with us all.

  21. Grijsbaard

    Thank you for the eloquent reduction of the abstract to the human. I suspect that many who follow this list are expats who, like my wife and me, have not only lifetime bonds with the Dutch in general but with Dutch friends in particular. Although our friends are all safe, we grieve with you and with the Dutch.

  22. Jan-Thijs Keijser

    Thanks for the very well written tribute. A very true description of the special person Antoine was. Will miss him.

  23. mandyoldham

    Deep commiserations. It’s so sad and so unfortunate that so many Dutch people lost their lives. It makes me cry reading your article.They did not deserve this.

  24. Renée VeldmanTentori (@reneeveldman)

    Thanks for sharing Colleen, I also had the privilege to work with Antoine and also remember him very much like you. I greatly respected and admired him and it’s good to read about the positive influence he’s had on other lives as well, and that will live on. I remember having lunch with him at a sushi restaurant and debating the benefits and challenges of social media, and also seeing him at the Fairs, always busy but taking time to talk to and be present with each person. My condolences to your family and his and the whole team, he will be greatly missed.

  25. Ingeborg

    Very true, in the end it is the feeling you leave with people when you leave this world. And Antoine has left a lasting impression with so many of us. A genuinely good and friendly guy who deserved and displayed trust and true friendship. May Antoine and Simone and their two boys rest in peace. And may their families and friends find comfort in the many moments of happiness, friendship and love shared wth them. To know that so many hearts have been touched by these special people will hoepfully five a touch of comfort in these sad days.

  26. Anne

    Thank you so much for this story. It gives a kind face to this family. We knew Quint as a friend of our grandsun Figo. Why, why, is also our question. Kind regards, Anne

  27. Paul Marckelbach

    I am truly touched by your words. I can only but confirm your words.For me it is nice and comforting to read your words, since it will truly help me to process all what is happening.

    It is hard to believe and (still) so untrue. Antoine is my brother in law. I was fortunate to have known him,for approx. 20 year I would guess, and also have seen him grow. But the first time I met him, it already seemed that he was ” big”, so what I am trying to say is that, for some reason, no growth was required (I am not really sure how to express this feeling).

    I will too miss him. Together with my dear mother and sister and my two little nephews. Please keep on doing good stuff as you did now by writing your tribute.

    With love from Nuenen,

    Paul Marckelbach-Hellings

    • Stuff Dutch People Like

      Dear Paul,

      Thank you for your message. I have been thinking endlessly about your family -as well as the van Veldhuizen’s. I cannot even imagine what you are going through. I had the pleasure of meeting your parents and knowing your sister as well – and they were all such kind people. Antoine was so proud of his extended family and would often speak of you all.

      I can only hope that words here bring you some comfort and that you know you are not alone. So many people are grieving for the loss of your sister, your mother, your brother-in-law and your nephews. Please take strength in all their words and their love.

      With love,

    • Mariska Roos

      Beste Paul, ik ken je niet maar ik kende je zus als mijn regio-collega. Ik hoorde pas net dat zij met haar gezin en jullie moeder in het vliegtuig zat.
      Net voor ze met vakantie ging vertelde ze dat ze een moeilijke tijd doormaakte en heel veel zin had in deze vakantie.
      Het heeft niet zo mogen zijn dat ze uitgerust terugkwam.
      Ik kan nog niet geloven dat onze afspraak voor na de vakantie niet doorgaat en dat ik niet meer met haar zal werken.
      Ze was zo’n fijne collega waar je er heel veel van wilt hebben: rustig, beschouwend, ter zake kundig en heel erg coöperatief.
      En bovendien een prachtige vrouw.
      Ik kan niet eens beginnen met me voor te stellen hoe het voor jou moet zijn zonder haar, haar gezin en je moeder. Terwijl je ook je vader al moest missen.
      Hier zijn geen woorden voor maar woorden zijn alles wat we je kunnen bieden.
      Heel veel sterkte!
      Mariska Roos
      gemeente Hillegom

    • Benji

      Dear Paul, I don’t know you, but Antoine was a great man for whom I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 6 years now. He was so passionate by life, his family and his work. Truly inspirational by what I’ve discovered during our several meetings. I hope you’ll find the strength to carry the memories of your loved ones. I will never forget how he talked about his family. Take care of yourself and the ones still next to you. Benjamin

    • Danielle

      Beste Paul,
      Wat draag jij een last op jouw schouders. Ik hoop dat de wetenschap dat zo velen jouw verdriet delen je helpt dit te dragen. We denken aan je en voelen met je mee. Je bent een groepje hele bijzondere mensen verloren, maar je bent niet alleen.
      Liefs uit Haarlem,

  28. Antoine | Evolution

    […] friend Colleen, who worked with both of us back in those days, wrote a beautiful tribute here. I just wanted to share this loving message in response to an absolutely senseless act in this […]

  29. Bas

    It is terrible news and no words can describe this loss. Take care and hope all beloved ones have enough strength to overcome this tragedy.

  30. Gaya

    Thank you Colleen, for this tribute. I don’t know Antoine, I don’t know anyone on MH17. But like many Dutch people I am in shock of the fact that so many innocent people got involved in a war-crime and lost their affected. I wish you much strength in the coming period.

  31. Jenny

    Beautifully written. I joined Expatica at 24 and can relate to what you have written. Antoine was a truly wonderful, inspiring and supportive mentor. Jenny

  32. Edda

    So very sorry for every single soul that has gone…. Can’t think about anything else the last days. My deepest sympathy from germany!

  33. Mike

    You have perfectly captured what many are going through and how this event impacts our lives. Even for those not directly involved, like me. Your tribute reflects not only the loss of Antoine, but also the loss of every life on that flight.

    Thank you.

  34. Elizabeth

    A lovely tribute. I’m sorry for your loss, because we all lost. Senseless acts of terrorism affect all of humanity.

  35. Frank Langeveld

    Even if you didn’t have anybody you knew on board flight MH 17 the TV coverage of the home coming of the first 40 victims was emotional. CNN was covering it life as well and their people were also impressed by what was shown. The Dutch had their national day of mourning and showed their compassion with the next of kin and the friends of all the victims.

    On the same day as this broadcast, there was a little anecdote in one of our major evening newspapers. (“Ik” in NRC Handelsblad) A family was no longer in the mood of enjoying their holiday after the tragic event with flight MH 17. They decided to drive home from the South of France. After a long silence the boy asked his father. “Antoine was your best friend, wasn’t he?” “Yes” was the answer. “So who is your best friend now?”

  36. Audrey Natale

    So sorry for the loss of your friend and for all the others who perished in this senseless tragedy. Hugs and prayers to you.

  37. Peter

    I feel sorry for your loss, but also sorry for all the people he ‘touched’ with his remarkable style of doing business, his way.

  38. Bertine Centen

    Dear Colleen,
    I am so very sorry for your loss.
    I was going over the names last weekend, and saw a very familiar name, the surname of a friend and colleague, and I thought – I hoped – “Oh but there are a lot of people in the Netherlands with that surname”. I was horribly wrong, my friends brother and his wife and two kids were on the plane.
    He is just the sweetest man you’ve ever met, with a wicked sense of humor, and an easy-going laid-back attitude. Or at least he was. I haven’t spoken to him yet, his holidays had just started 2 days before, but I cannot imagine the pain he must go through, and how irreparably hurt he must be. I haven’t even mailed him yet. I don’t know what to say. None of us do.
    And how proud I am of this country, these people. Yes, we are those crazy, red-pants-wearing, orange-outfits on King’s Day and during sports events, lunchspread and chocolate sprinkles eating, ridiculously tall people, from that small country below sea level. But yesterday we proved we are a great nation, that honours all those fallen on a battlefield not our own. As you saw, you are not alone in your grief.

  39. Vara Sue Tamminga

    I can see your friendship and this wonderful family and what finally really matters in life. Thank you for sharing all of them with us. May they live in our hearts and memories.

  40. tompitman

    I have just found out about this tragic news. I have been working with Antoine for just a short time, and met him for a coffee in Schipol airport just a few weeks ago. He seemed a lovely, honest, interesting and inspiring man and I am sad that we didn’t have an opportunity to get to know each other better. My thoughts and prayers are with his wider family and friends.

  41. Karyn Donachy

    When this happened I was on vacation home in England.. We are mixed family English/American/Dutch living in the south of Limburg. Dutch are a bit different down here but still… I still see the same. Anyway my daughter goes to a special school for handicap children and her social worker which she had in the school was a pleasant man who contrary to most “Dutchiness” was very kind and open of our differences and even told us our very American “cluttered and homely” was very Gezellig! High praise for me. During my vacation I found out he and his wife were on that flight. I got the same horrible feeling as if it were my own family. He was only 2 year from Pension. A dark cloud hung over that school and us for a long time.

  42. Sara

    I hate when children are victims of any tragedies… They haven’t anything wrong and are so depending on us and yet they must die… I want to cry when I read this post. Why such things happen to good people?


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