During the harsh winters of the Second World War two Dutch boys helped their families survive by stealing potatoes very early in the morning from a field where German soldiers had planted mines.
One of them was Jan (John) van Gemerden, who died in Whanganui on October 7.
He didn't stay long at school but quickly learned how to paint and decorate, and how to work extremely hard. He managed to keep his spirits up through the hard times, and emigrate to New Zealand to make a better life.
His funeral on October 11 was a big one, and daughter Karen Poole remembers her dad as a devoted husband, father and grandfather. There could be 20 people around the family table for a Christmas meal.
"John always made sure that all he knew had someone to be with on Christmas day."
He liked to joke and banter, and was active in Rotary, the IHC, on PTA committees, in a sports club and with Birthright. He liked to help others - especially old people.
They pilfered and ransacked and kept their families alive
He was a perfectionist painter decorator, who owned his own business. He took his family for caravan holidays and to church, grew a vegetable garden and fruit trees and he loved sailing.
Jan Leendert van Gemerden was born on May 31 in the town of Monster, in Holland. He was one of six children with a violent alcoholic father. World War II began when he was six and by the age of 10 he and his friend Pieter were sneaking out in the very early mornings to dig potatoes before the German occupiers were awake.
Those were desperate times, and they boys had to run for their lives through the minefield, with potatoes stowed in their clothing.
"They pilfered and ransacked and kept their families alive," son-in-law Alwyn Poole said.
After the war Holland was still a harsh place. In 1952 John and his older brother emigrated - they thought to Australia. Instead they were told to get off the ship in Wellington and get on a train. Two migrants were told to get out at each stop, and theirs was Whanganui.
Jan - using the English name John - worked as a painter decorator and soon started his own business, J L van Germerden Decorating. He was a perfectionist, and mainly worked on his own.
"He had lots of return customers, who would wait years for him until he had the time free," Karen said.
He met English woman Linley (Lyn) Madder, and they married in 1959. They had four children, Carolyn, Marty, Kelvin and Karen. John made sure their childhood was completely different from his.
He built the family a dream home in rural Springvale, took them on holidays in a caravan and acted as father figure for his children's friends as well.
He never talked about his early life or Holland or the war. But it came back to haunt him in later life, and he took early retirement in his fifties. Nevertheless, he was a devoted grandfather.
"He let the grandchildren dictate what happened each day. He built huts, make go karts, kicked the football, cleaned up our homes and more."
He and Lyn made two trips back to England and Holland. On another, to Holland with Karen, he revisited the places where he grew up and told stories of his childhood.
He died in Kowhainui Hospital, aged 85. By Laurel Stowell, with help from Karen and Alwyn Poole