The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

February 7, 2014

The life journey of Whiteside County native, John R. Huizenga

Went on to work on Manhattan Project

FULTON, Ill. —  Dr. John R. Huizenga summarized his life in his memoir, "Fifty Decades of Scientific Research,” with this quote, “a life well lived.”

His obituary appeared in the New York Times last week when he died at the age of 92 in San Diego, Calif. An inquiry from the Clinton Herald regarding Dr. Huizenga’s obituary appearing in the Times and his connection to Fulton, listed as his birthplace, prompted a challenging and rewarding research experience.

John’s local connection was more diverse than just Fulton. He was born on a farm in Newton Township (Fulton address) and was baptized at the First Christian Reformed Church along with his four siblings: two brothers, Marvin and Everett, and two sisters, Gertrude and Kathryn. Looking at a photo of the Byers School on Elston Road , one becomes intrigued about this young 10-year old school boy living in rural Fulton, who , about 15 years later, is recruited to work on the Manhattan Project (Hiroshima bomb creation). He attended Byers School; first through eighth grades. Retracing his steps around Whiteside County, it is noted that John’s parents, Henry (Harry) and Josie (Brands) Huizenga were married in 1916. They rented a farm at Benson Road in 1917 and lived there until 1937. John commented to his children, later in life, how much he enjoyed learning in the one-room schoolhouse setting as he could learn, not only his lessons, but those of the other grades. He attended Erie High School for two years and then dropped out of school and worked on the farm, newly rented on Illinois 78, south of Morrison known at the White/Tichler farm. He told his father that he did not want to be a farmer, a disappointment to Harry, as the trade had been the livelihood for generations of the Huizinga family in the Netherlands and in America. John enrolled in Morrison High School and graduated in 1940 — president of his class. His daughter, Linda, commented that their father held two teachers in high regard: Mabel Borman (she was also principal when he graduated) and Perry Buikema. The family moved to a farm at 17384 Crosby Road north of Morrison in 1948, but by that time, John R. Huizenga had graduated from Calvin College in 1944, received his Ph.D from the University of Illinois and was employed at Argonne Laboratory and had completed his work on the Manhattan Project. John also credited Professor John DeVries at Calvin College as an influential mentor into the field of scientific research.

Fulton relatives include first cousins: Marvin Huizenga and his family and Clarence Huizenga and his family. Marcia (Turney) Carter, who lives in Albany, Ill., is a maternal first cousin. Two other cousins are living in Morrison Dorothy Bush and Anna Ellis.

John married Dorothy (Dolly) Koeze and they were married in 1946. She died in 1999. Four children born to them and surviving are Linda, Jann, Robert and Joel.

John was an active member of the Christian Reformed Church when he worked at Argonne Laboratory and the family lived in Western Springs, Ill. He played a role in the founding of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., in the 1930s.

John’s sister, Kathryn Disselkoen, of Wyoming, Mich., 90 years of age, recalls many childhood memories growing up on the Fulton farm and attending church at First Christian Reformed Church. Dad often served as an elder and then he would sit in a designated place up front in the church. Cousins, Marv and Clarence and Kathryn reminisce about playing together after church on Sunday mornings as the adults had their ‘koffie and koek.’ She remembers attending Byers School with the Vander Vinnes, Klimstras, Eges and Ammons. Her sister, Gertrude Drew, lives in Colorado. His brothers, Marvin and Everett are deceased.

Dorothy (Ege) Stone guided me around her childhood neighborhood. Their family farmer adjoined the Huizenga farm at 5529 Benson Road. John’s younger brother, Everett, a successful patent attorney, was named after her father, Everett Ege.

The son of a first generation Dutch immigrant, who made significant contributions in the field of scientific research, has made Whiteside County proud of their native son.

Sources: Fulton (Martin House) Museum Resource Room; Rebecca Huizenga, grandniece of John R.Huizenga; Kathryn Disselkoen, sister; Linda Huizenga, daughter, Dorothy Stone; and numerous friends and relatives all willing to recall a ‘very smart and nice man.’

 

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