(Wytse Abes van der Weit)

by Carolyn Elzinga

William Abe Vander Weit, third child of Abe Wytze Vander Weit and Jeltje Durks Offringa was born in Friesland, the Netherlands on July 23, 1879. (I was also born on July 23. My great-grandfather was eighty-three years old when I was born.)

When William was sixteen years old his brother Jim persuaded him to come to America. After arriving, the two brothers went looking for work. William found work in a blacksmith shop and Jim found work at the Manhattan Shirt Company. That night William and Jim talked about their work and decided to change jobs since Jim knew more about the work of a blacksmith. William became a professional shirt ironer at the Manhattan Shirt Company.

While working at Manhattan Shirt, William would write down three English words and their definitions on the ironing board cover. All day he would study these words. He never ran out of room because every week he would receive a new ironing board cover.

On November 27, 1901 Rev. John A. Westervelt united Charlotte Ranbow and William in marriage. Mrs. Vander Weit was a charter member of the North Fourth Street Ladies Aid, and also a charter member of the Eastern Academy Ladies Circle.

Will and Lottie, as they were known, were blessed with four healthy children. They were Rena, A. William, Elsie and Edna.

In the early 1900’s William’s mother, his brothers, Dirk and George, and his sisters, Martha (Mrs. Paul de Boer) and Nellie (Mrs. Theodore Schwier) emigrated to the United States. William’s father, his brother Murk, and a brother Isaac died in Friesland. (During the 1950’s many of Murk’s children came to the United States.)

In February, 1902 William experienced the Great Paterson fire where the damage was over $10,000,000 and he also saw the flood of the Passaic River the following year.

Leaving the Manhattan Shirt Company he became a grocer, which led to his own business of selling butter, eggs, Good Luck margarine, coffee, tea and candy. During this time he was a resident of Prospect Park having previously lived in Riverside and Paterson.

In 1911, William became a citizen of the United States. Being interested in politics, he served in the municipal government as a councilman and on the Board of Health as a health commissioner in Prospect Park for a number of years during the 1920’s. In 1932 he lost his bid for Tax Collector running against a man who had held this office for twenty years.

William was an advocate of Father Coughlin principles. He was a personal friend of Dr. Townsend, advocate of Social Justice, a forerunner of the Social Security Act, which in part was taken from the Social Justice Plan. This plan when applied would tax everyone by one or two percent on all sales rather than tax the income, giving each eligible recipient amounts more than adequate for decent living, which in turn would bolster the economy. Thus it would bring comfort and security to those who had sacrified themselves all their lives in the pursuit of giving their children proper education.

A member of the Third Christian Reformed Church, now Trinity, my great-grandfather served as a Sunday School teacher and also as Superintendent of the Sunday School for twenty-seven years. He also served on the consistory of the Madison Avenue Christian Reformed Church many years before.

William also served willingly on the Eastern Academy School Board for nine years and was its president for two terms.

After thirty years conducting his own business, William worked for the D & S Processing Company in Clifton, a textile firm. In 1949 he retired at the age of seventy years.

In 1951 my great-grandfather marched in the Fiftieth Anniversary parade of Prospect Park with the former councilmen.

William was courteous, friendly, and had always led a Christian life. His children all attended Christian School and consequently many of his grandchildren also received a Christian education. This year there are eight of his great-grandchildren in our Eastern Christian schools.

My great-grandfather, William Abe Vander Weit went to be with the Lord on August 22, 1964

Prepared by Carolyn Elzinga with information

from various family relatives