Horsham's Bill Deleeuw celebrates six decades in Australia this month

A WONDERFUL LIFE: Bill Deleeuw has been in Australia 60 years this month. He moved here as a young man from the Netherlands. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

A WONDERFUL LIFE: Bill Deleeuw has been in Australia 60 years this month. He moved here as a young man from the Netherlands. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

HORSHAM’S Bill Deleeuw celebrates 60 years in Australia this month.

Mr Deleeuw is midway through writing his life story and reflected on the six decades in the country since leaving his native Netherlands.

“Originally I was going to Canada,” he said.

“But my uncle lived in Apollo Bay and said he might have some work for me so I hopped on a boat and came out.”

Mr Deleeuw had been working in the bulb fields in the Netherlands and had completed a diploma in growing bulbs.

“Holland is half the size of Tasmania and at that time its population was about the same as Australia’s so there wasn’t a great deal of work to be had,” he said.

When he arrived on our shores, Mr Deleeuw knew just three English phrases; ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘thank you’.

“Luckily I met a young lady who was a school teacher and offered to teach me the language,” he said.

Mr Deleeuw spent five years at Apollo Bay.

He joined the surf club and met his first wife. 

A change of career saw Mr Deleeuw and his young family move to Gippsland where he worked cutting pulp wood.

“We’d cut the bad trees out and leave the good ones,” he said.

“The money was good. I paid off a house in the four years I worked in the forests.”

But another move would soon be on the a cards.

“My first wife didn’t like Gippsland. She was a Nhill girl and wanted to be closer to home,” Mr Deleeuw said.

“We ended up in Rupanyup and I got job working as a hay baler with Jack Emmett at Emmetts Motors.

“I spent 28 years working as a contract hay baler.”

Mr Deleeuw became involved in the Rupanyup football club, first as a player – “I wasn’t very good” – and later as a boundary umpire, trainer and committee member.

“My four sons all played for the club at some stage as well,” he said.

He joined his local Lions club (he is a currently member of the City of Horsham club) and has been involved with the organisation for 50 years. 

Mr Deleeuw spent the last two decades of his working career in insurance.

“I needed more money than what I was making as a contractor and one day I got to talking to Wes Richardson. He talked me into joining insurance mob TNG,” he said.

“After a while my son Graeme started working with me. We ended up working together for 22 years until I retired at 70.”

“I loved working in insurance. I made friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life working in that business.”

Mr Deleeuw has spent a significant portion of his retirement writing his memoirs, which he hopes to present to his grandchildren.

“It’s got quite a bit in there about my father who was a Dutch naval man in the Second World War,” he said.

“My father went away in a submarine near the start of the war and we didn’t see him for another five and a half years.”

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