Hans Asselbergs, life-long Citroen enthusiast and webmaster for the Ottawa Citroen Club, passed away suddenly on February 14, 2007. Although I met Hans at the very first Winchester gathering in 2000, and had the pleasure of seeing and chatting with him each year after that, I cannot claim to have known him well. But on February 19, I had the honour to attend his memorial service in the village of Cumberland near Ottawa. St. Andrews United church was filled to capacity, and during the remarkable service, I learned a great deal more about Hans, his passions and his contributions to many communities.
Hans was born at home in Voorburg Holland, Dec. 22 1955, the youngest of seven children. A family story claims that Hans’ father Jos and the physician attending the birth discussed cars while they were waiting for nature to take its course. Hans’s father was a director of the Dutch Auto Club, who later took Hans with him on a visit to the Citroen “Bureau d’etudes”. Clearly, Hans came by his car passion honestly.
His father passed away when Hans was 11, and Hans then emigrated to Canada with his mother. He attended high school in Markam Ontario.
His life took one of its most important turns in 1974 when the 19 year-old met and subsequently married Alida (Lida). Along with Lida, Hans embraced Lida’s five young sons, the oldest of whom was 11 at the time. During the memorial service, each of their sons (John, Tim, Dave, Mark, and Michael) spoke fondly and glowingly of the man who became their Dad, by choice. They told many stories, some funny, some touching, and many that centred on Hans’ ability to turn a $100 car in to “a ride”.
After raising their own family of five, Hans and Lida extended their influence as parents by fostering several more kids, of various ages. It is said that Hans had a real “feel” for being able to balance the need for discipline with the need to provide nurturing guidance.
Lida also spoke at the memorial, and described the enduring love that she and Hans shared for 32 years. She frequently described herself as “blessed”.
In his professional life, Hans taught auto mechanics and body work, was a diagnostic and safety instructor for the CAA, and finally was working in surveillance and security. Beyond his work life, he was a youth counselor and chaplain, and an enthusiastic member of several choirs.
Beginning at a young age, Hans considered Citroens to be the pinnacle of automobile design, and he never lost that belief, despite living in Canada for decades after Citroen left the market. In 2000, Hans found a group of kindred spirits when the Ottawa Club formed. Hans was a loyal supporter of the club, and took on the challenge of giving us an internet presence, to which he lent his own style and passion for several years.
Hans stands out among the Ottawa members for having owned no less than four of the great Citroen models (SM, 2CV, DS, and CX), in a remarkably short time. Each car had a story, and Hans would freely share them around the picnic tables at the Winchester gathering each year. It might be the tale of the shady former owner of his SM, the beyond-terminal rust of his $500 DS, the unfortunate engine failure of his gorgeous CX, or the seemingly-insurmountable Emission Test woes of his 2CV. Each story was recounted and embellished with his storyteller’s gift.
Hans’s big smile, big laugh, and larger than life personality will be greatly missed. We were all blessed to have known this fine man.
(copyright Bob McLeod – 2007)