Keeping the love alive |

Keeping the love alive

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

In February of 1953, residents in the southwest corner of Holland suddenly found themselves under water in a flood that came without warning when the dikes along the coast were breached.

Those caught in the middle of the rising waters were forced to flee their homes, and the flood claimed the lives of 1,835 people.

John Vermeulen was a 23-year old university student when the dikes broke, and he escaped by boarding a fishing vessel and becoming the boat’s radio operator.

“This was all way before cell phones, and my parents had no idea if I was OK,” said John. “My job was to establish connections with the mainland, and when I was talking over the radio, Gretha’s parents heard me.”

After weeks of waiting, Vermeulen’s parents received word from the other family that their son was safe, and the two families formed a relationship that brought John and Gretha closer together.

“As time passed, we got more and more involved, and then we were married in 1955,” said Gretha. “After that we traveled all over the world with John’s job at Shell Oil.”

The couple can’t help but laugh when they describe themselves as gypsies, having moved from Holland to England to Switzerland to Boulder and then finally to Frisco, after John got a new job with IBM.

With four young boys, adjusting to life in the States was not always easy, but John and Gretha’s focus always remained on the family, which they credited to their European upbringing.

“We’ve been extremely lucky with the kids,” said John. “We have made our mistakes as well, but we always made our children our first priority. Our family life is what has enriched our lives.”

John retired from IBM in 1991, after 31 years with the company. With their children grown, the couple settled in Frisco part time, and became active within the community senior center, where they frequently volunteer.

“We’re happy in this small community, and the senior center has helped us connect with others,” said Gretha. “Although we used to make plans and take trips, we don’t really do that anymore. We’re more content just living from day to day.”

After 53 years of marriage, John and Gretha still look like a couple of teenagers when they share a laugh together, and they admit that the secrets to a successful marriage aren’t as complicated as many would like to believe.

“I think it’s all about seeing the good parts in each other and not getting down on one another,” Gretha said. “You also have to be realistic in your expectations. No one is perfect.”

After 60 years of marriage, Dillon residents Dick and Janny Krynen still compare their initial introduction to a Hollywood movie.

The scene begins in 1940 in Holland, and German troops have just invaded the country, forcing thousands of Jewish residents into hiding.

Janny and her younger brother sought refuge in a home with others eight others in hiding, including Dick, who was in the military at the time.

Years later, Dick returned to thank the Krynens for hiding him, and he couldn’t help but notice the young girl with long blonde hair, the girl that would later become his wife.

“People sometimes don’t believe us because it’s so Hollywood,” said Dick. “It was a very scary. She was hiding, and I was in the military, it was a very different time.”

Although the rest of the country was in turmoil, Dick and Janny’s relationship blossomed, and after an three-year courtship, the couple decided to get married in 1948.

“Back in the old days, you had to get to know the family first before you asked a girl to marry you,” Dick recalled with a laugh. “I guess things are different today.”

Janny and Dick went on to travel the world with Dick’s job in the military, and the two still speak five languages fluently.

In 1951, Dick and Janny moved to the United States, and during a chance drive through Summit County, Janny made a bold move that transformed both of their lives forever.

“(Dick) was asleep in the car and I saw a sign for land for sale,” said Janny. “There was a blue lake, white mountains, green hills… I said: ‘I could live here,’ and I made up my mind then and there to buy the land.”

In 1970, Summit Cove barely resembled what it looks like today, and Dick and Janny were the first ones to build in the neighborhood, constructing a large Eurpoean-style home completely on their own.

Artifacts from around the world cover the walls and shelves in the house, and each piece of memorabilia has a story to go along with it, which Janny and Dick are always more than willing to share.

“Everybody always says it’s like a museum,” Janny said. “We couldn’t be happier with our home. … It’s us.”

Sitting hand in hand, the two playfully teased each other as they shared stories about their lengthy relationship, and Janny instinctually turned to Dick when it came time to reveal their secret to a long-lasting marriage.

“You always have to give the woman credit,” Dick said with a wide smile. “The captain of the ship is the wife in the house. She is the boss, always has been.”

Although Janny and Dick admit that they have both seen their fair share of hardships, they make it a point to only remember the good times and the love that still keeps them together.

“Marriage is a matter of teamwork,” Janny said. “At first it was lust, and then it was love, and now we just need each other.”

Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at

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