I’ve written about Cornelius (Cor) Van Egmond from Oskaloosa several times over the years. He’s one of Osky’s famous (infamous) Dutch characters/cronies. I like characters. I hope I will be remembered as one myself.
Cor passed away Sept. 7; he was 86. In typical Cor fashion, in the later days of his failing health, early one morning he yelled to his son, “Take me to Hospice!” Hospice was not to come to Cor (short for Hard Core, perhaps?), Cor would go to Hospice.
Unlike the manner in which he lived his life, which might be called “rambunctious animation,” Cor passed away quietly in his sleep. All nine (count’m nine) of his children were present.
According to his wishes, he was cremated, and had no funeral. He was to have a farewell party (tot ziens) at the American Legion in Osky. “Good money” was not to be spent on a casket.
At the tot ziens in late December, Cor stories abound. Here are just a few. Note: Cor was a teenage boy in Amsterdam when the Germans invaded Holland, an experience which would forever mold his life. He joined the Dutch Army in 1947 and fought in the Indonesian War. Following the war, he immigrated to the United States. He knew the price of freedom.
When Germany invaded Holland, the Germans went door-to-door confiscating firearms. Cor’s father hid some of their weapons in the barn, and turned the others over to the Germans.
The Germans also confiscated the Van Egmond horses, leaving the Van Egmond’s their tired out stock. In the night, Cor stole the Van Egmond horses back. The Germans pummeled young Cor mercilessly for the infraction.
In the United States, Cor was trained for his life long profession of artificial insemination of cattle. As a practical jokester, Cor loved offering his soiled hand to people to shake.
Cor’s most famous signature story: There was a creek on Cor’s farm that had a nasty bend to it. Cor knew how to use explosives from the war. Cor dynamited the bend in the creek, straightening it out. A sewer line ran close to the creek. A neighbor lady in town was sprayed while sitting on her pot.
A neighbor hired Cor to lay drainage tile in a low spot of the neighbor’s property. Later, the land was sold. The new owner wanted to build a pond in the same spot. Cor told the new neighbor that the pond would never hold water because of the drainage tile.
The new neighbor told Cor that he didn’t know what he was talking about, and to leave them alone. The new neighbor had nice cattails, but no pond.
At 70 years old, Cor decided to cut down the Mulberry tree. He had his grandson help. Cor began to cut the tree trunk with a chainsaw. When the tree started to lean the wrong way, the grandson suggested that they pull it.
Cor climbed the tree, and was about to secure the rope, when the tree fell and twisted into a pile of scrap metal. All the grandson could see was Cor’s feet sticking out from under the tree like the wicked witch from Oz.
The grandson pulled grandpa out from under the tree. Cor was covered with blood. The grandson wanted to call an ambulance. Cor said, “No vay, dat costs money! Ve drive. Can you drive a stick?”
The grandson said no. Cor drove himself to the emergency room, where the E.R people said, “Oh, hi Cor!” He had five broken ribs, and received 15 stitches. But the mulberry tree was down.
Cor was one of these people who had a high tolerance for electricity. He could kill the engine of a car or tractor by simply placing his hand over the spark plugs. One of his favorite tricks was grabbing an electric fence, and then having someone else, like a grandchild, take his other hand. The other person received the shock.
These stories could go on infinitum, and do. However, just two more: Cor was a staunch Republican. Three weeks before his death, he stood in the town square in Osky, campaigning for Mitt Romney while Barack Obama was in town.
My favorite story, because it involves me: Cor had wild Iowa white peaches growing in his fence line. While I was visiting, Cor gave me a sack of peaches. I took them home and ate them. They were delicious.
I saved the seeds, and the next spring, planted them. They grew. Iowa white peaches are small, rough, and not very attractive, but are the sweetest peach you will ever eat.
Sort of like Cor.
Rest in peace, old buddy.