1895-1978 — Sonora, California
Hendrik Willem Merema was born on 21 November 1895 in Hardegarijp, a small village in Friesland, The Netherlands. He was the youngest son of Jurrien Bartelds Merema and Meintje Hendriks Walda.
"Henny", as he was called by his family, had one brother, called Barteld, and three sisters: Hendrika, Anna Martje and Evalina Maria Margaretha. Another brother, also called Barteld, died when he was only 10 months old.
In 1913, when he was 18 years old, he left home after a big argument with his father. Henny didn't want to become a teacher, like his brother and two of his sisters, but instead preferred to find employment as an electrician. After leaving home, he first moved to Borculo (in the province of Gelderland) and then to Amsterdam, where he got a job as an electrician with "Groeneveld, Ruempol & Co.".
He must have had quite an adventurous nature though, because on 16 March 1915 Henny and his friend Evert Vinkes (a bookkeeper) were sailing from Rotterdam, on the S.S. Rotterdam, to New York, where they arrived on the 25 March of that year. Henny was 19 and Evert was 25 years old at the time. According to the ship manifest, their final destination was Chicago, Illinois, where a sister of Evert's and her husband, a mr. J. Schenkel, was living.
Henny now called himself Henry, and via postcards sent to his youngest sister Evelina in The Netherlands, we can trace his whereabouts from Chicago ( Illinois) in 1915, to Inwood (Iowa) in 1916, Mt. Shasta (California) in 1917 and Ogden (Utah) in 1918. I could find no record of him in the 1920 census, but in 1924 his eldest sister Hendrika made a will, in which she mentions that her brother was a salesman in Colville, Washington.
On 10 April 1930 Henry applied to become a citizen of the United States (see newspaper article: Sierra Hermit Asks Citizenship Papers). A few weeks later, on 29 April 1930 he is recorded in the census as being a caretaker at Relief Dam and living in Township Two, Stanislaus National Forest (see copy of the 1930 census). Living near him is Irwin Burgess (see the story about the Nightingale rescue).
On 30 April 1932 he married Estelle Juanita Freitas in Reno, Nevada, even though they were both living in California. Henry was 17 years older than Estelle, which could be the reason they got married in Nevada: maybe Estelle's parents weren't too happy with the age difference.
Estelle was born in California on 28 April 1912. She was a daughter of Antone Joseph Freitas and Mary B. Brista.
Henry was working as a lineman and caretaker for the Pacific, Gas and Electric company. A job that would take him all over California, living at different power houses, like Relief Dam, Stanislaus, Dobbins and Spalding.
Henry and Estelle didn't have any children.
They loved going on holiday with their caravan, especially to the National Parks. But they also travelled (by cruise ship or plane) to the Carribean, Venezuela, Martinique, the Virgin Islands, Alaska, and the Bahamas, among others . Henry's hobbies included photography and gardening. Before he retired from the Pacific, Gas and Electric company, whom he worked for for 31 years, he build his own house at Shaws Flat, Jamestown, Sonora. It had beautiful pine-panelled walls and lots of Native American art.
Henry kept in contact by letter with his mother and his brother Barteld until they died. No correspondence between his two eldest sisters survived, but he also kept in touch with Evelyn, and later her son and his family, until he passed away on 15 June 1978.
He never went back to The Netherlands to see his family again ...
Estelle survived him by 8 years, passing away on 31 August 1986.
Both Henry and Estelle were cremated, and a memorial plaque can be found at Shaws Flat Cemetery, Shaws Flat, Tuolumne County, California (see the link for the Find A Grave website).