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Obituaries

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Margaret Stoehr spacee

Wilhelm Bernard Roeloffzen
May 20, 1925 – May 9, 2015

On May 20, 2015, Tiburon residents came together to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Wilhelm (Bill) Roeloffzen of Tiburon. The memorial service (held on his 90th birthday) was also attended by many of his beloved four -footed friends. After retiring from KLM airlines in 1988, Bill moved to Tiburon to be near his son and daughter. During his retirement he walked dogs for busy residents in Marin, some for as many as 15 years. Wilhelm Roeloffzen passed away May 9, 2015 after a brief illness. His family called him Wil but his family of dog owners knew him as Bill.
Wilhelm Bernard Roeloffzen was born May 20, 1925 in Enscheda, Holland. When he was 15 the German occupation of the Netherlands began and for five years Wil and his family housed and protected five Jewish families. Wil's parents passed a young boy, Max, off as their own, risking their lives and sharing what little food they had. On July 4, 1999 Wil received an award for his family organized by the Israeli diplomatic delegation of Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations for his family's courage. The seeds of his compassion and love for animals and those less fortunate were planted during this difficult time.


Wil had an extraordinary capacity for languages. He learned to speak English during the war at a time when few Dutch people spoke other languages. This opened the door for a position as interpreter for the Allied forces. His translation skills were put to use anywhere from the Court system to helping to communicate with farmers and translate for the Allied pilots who were shot down in their fields. He became fluent in French, Spanish and German in addition to English.


His exceptional language skills led him in his 20's to a career with KLM Airlines that spanned the globe for the next 40 years. He began in the corporate offices in Amsterdam, but his adventurous spirit soon took him overseas. Around this time he met and married his wife, Bettina, who also worked at KLM. They soon found themselves on a plane bound for a new home in Indonesia. The next 35 years took Wil and Bettina and their two children to live in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Iran, Greece and Sri Lanka.


In 1979, while stationed in Iran, the hostage crisis occurred. Sixty American hostages were held for the next 444 days. Wil and his family were urged by KLM to leave and as the political environment became more dangerous, especially the bombing of the Tehran airport, the family fled by bus to Turkey.


Wilhelm Roeloffzen is survived by his wife, Bettina, his son Marc (Kimberley) of Tiburon and his daughter Edmee (Jerry) of Seattle. His brother Henk and his wife Dini traveled from Richmond, Indiana to attend the service.


We said good bye to a great man on May 20, 2015 and his beloved dogs said good-bye to each other after many years together. John Sanford of Tiburon said "Bill had a modest, friendly manner that concealed a brilliant mind. He was loved by people and adored by dogs. He returned their affection with legendary loyalty." The dogs showed their loyalty as they sat quietly while we remembered our loving Bill.

(Published June 3, 2015)

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