(Lammert Jans Steen)
by Scott Talsma
Lambert Steen was born in Wanswert, a small village in the Province of Friesland, Netherlands on April 15, 1877. He was the son of John and Sarah Sytsma Steen. He had one brother, Sietze and two sisters, Janitje and Abeltje. His father died at a very young age. Lambert attended public schools in Holland. Upon leaving school he became a salesman of cotton and woolen goods to help his widowed mother support the family. He often told his children how he jumped the ditches with the aid of a large pole, falling in more than once.
Lambert came to the United States with his mother in 1896, settling in Paterson, New Jersey. He worked at Boonstra’s Farm in Totowa, cutting down trees. He liked working there because the language barrier, which he thought would be very difficult, seemed to be relatively easy when a fellow worker spoke to him. Later he learned that the language was not English, but a dialect from a province near his home in the Netherlands.
The silk business was thriving in Paterson at this time. Paterson was known as “The Silk Manufacturing Center” of the country. It was at Eastside Silk Dyeing and Printing Company that he found a meager job. But he was ambitious, interested and curious. He often experimented at home with colors. Two years later he became associated with Cramer and King Company earning $1 a day. Because of his ambition and extra work he was promoted to foreman. Later he became a supervisor of this large silk and dyeing company.
He was a Sunday School teacher, deacon and elder in Second Christian Reformed Church. Lambert felt strongly about the need for Christian education. Consequently he was one of the supporters of the new Christian school on North Fourth Street which was dedicated on October 24, 1908. He served as School Board President from 1914- 1926. For a total of twenty-five years, when not president, he served as a member of the board.
Lambert was a staunch Republican. He was a councilman in Prospect Park when the borough was in its first real planning stage.
Reading was an important part of Lambert’s life. Because of his readings, for a long time he had a strong desire to enter the ministry. Going to college and supporting a wife and children were impossible. He decided he could serve the Lord equally as well as an influential Christian citizen and father.
Lambert used his time and money to show God his gratitude for the blessings he had received. Many people were the recipients of his kindness and generosity. A poor person was never turned away without being first given Christian counselling and financial help.
Being a business man, Lambert saw the possibility of the Christian Reformed community organizing its own bank. One sunny summer day he and his friends began organize what is now known as the Prospect Park National Bank.
Lambert had many joys in his life, but he also experienced many sorrows. One of his greatest sorrows was the death of his son Peter, who was in the ministry for only six years. His faith in God and the strength of his wife helped him accept this great trial with serenity.
During the Great Depression he, with many others, lost his job. Because of his great ambitions, he and another young man discussed the idea of starting a new business, the manufacturing of a specialty “fabric and design” which was gradually becoming popular. Manufacturing this “flock material” was not an easy task. The girls recall going to church in new dresses of this material. Upon leaving the church, they discovered all the “flocking” had stuck to the pews. Starting this business would mean mortgaging everything he owned. His wife, a faithful optimist, said, “Remember we still have our hands”.
In 1933 the D & S Processing Company was founded. In a short time it became very successful. He helped fellow Christians by employing them and always listening to their problems. He never noticed skin color or accent.
Other of Lambert’s accomplishments were President of the Northside Mission Board, First Vice-President of North Side Building and Loan Association and a member of the Advicory Board of Hamilton Trust Company.
At the age of eighty Lambert Steen went to be with his Maker. He was a strong, faithful child of God whose greatest joy came from God. God had blessed him with ten Christian children. He would say, “Could anyone ask for more?
Prepared with the help of my grandmother, Mrs. Sadie Talsma
and my great-aunt Mrs. Eleanor Vermeulen.