Remembering Frits Fabius

- Miff Crommelin

Frits Fabius at Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, 2005

When Frits Fabius (age 63) came all the way from Paris, France to visit me in Mission, B.C. on October 12, 2005, I showed him a small framed photograph of my grandfather, Marinus. I had seen the picture hanging in my Dad's study for many years but I couldn't recognize the setting in which my grandfather was seated when the picture was taken. I judged the picture to have been snapped in the early 1950's - a couple of years after 1952 when we had emigrated to Canada from Holland, and a few years before my grandfather died in 1958.

I had been introduced to Frits Fabius only a year or two earlier through a series of connections made over the internet regarding our mutual interest in family genealogy, but this was the first time I had occasion to meet him in person. As soon as I showed him my grandfather's picture, however, he recognized the setting immediately. My grandfather was seated in his mother's living room in Bergen-op-Zoom! Frits explained that my grandfather (a widower, and living alone) was a house guest for several months at his mother's home in 1954. He recognized the familiar furnishings, bookcase and the clock in the background. (The maiden name of Frits' mother was also Crommelin.)

Marinus Crommelin, 1954

Amazed, I removed the photo from the frame in order to record this new information about the picture only to discover that the photo was, in fact, a postcard with a message written on the back. Yes, the message happened to be addressed to me personally and it conveyed my grandfather's greetings on the occasion of my 6th birthday!

Since I have difficulty reading Dutch, Frits - in whose house the picture was taken in 1954 and whom I had met only recently, having come all the way from Paris, France - read my grandfather's birthday wishes to me some 50 years after I was intended to receive it! And to think that I would never have extracted the photo from the frame if Frits hadn't been there! The perfect timing of this incident once again impressed upon me God's gentle humour and hand of providence.

Dear Milfred,
Hearty congratulations on your sixth birthday. What a big boy you have become. Can you still speak Dutch, or only English now?

I was beginning to worry that you might forget what I looked like so I had this snapshot taken a short time ago on 14/2/1954 when I was residing at Groot Molenbeek [Frits' mother's house in Bergen-op-Zoom]. I'm told that it's a good likeness of me.

You too must send me a snapshop of yourself soon. I suspect you will have changed quite a bit over the two years since you have been gone.

Hearty greetings from

After Frits had gone, I checked the date of the above card with some old letters of my grandfather and found the very letter dated March 30, 1954 that was associated with this picture. It describes in detail his visit to Frits Fabius' mother in Bergen-op-Zoom!

Frits Fabius sitting on the steps during an excursion
of Crommelin family members in St. Quentin, France - Oct. 4-6, 2002

An interesting footnote regarding Frits (Frederik) Fabius-Crommelin is the fortuitous way in which we first contacted each other. As I recall, it had something to do with an internet search I was conducting in 2002 to gather names of people who might be interested in attending an upcoming family reunion in Europe. While I found many names in the U.S.A. and Holland, there were only a few from the rest of Europe, and only one from France. I believed the French connection would be useful since the reunion was to take place in St. Quentin, France, and any French-speaking member would obviously be invaluable as an interpreter.

I forwarded the list of names to Maryse Trannois, our organizer in St. Quentin (who speaks very little English), and she immediately called the phone number I had given her. As it turned out, the phone number was that of Frits Fabius' country home in Brittany which he rarely visits because he lived and worked in Paris. However, the day that Maryse phoned this number he happened to be 'home' in Brittany and thus he was able to learn about the existence of a Crommelin Foundation and upcoming reunion. Since then he has attended all family functions and, being an avid traveller, he has forged lasting friendships with distant relations in Canada, U.S.A. and Holland (from where he emigrated to France at an early age.)

Another fortunate thing is that he had hyphenated his name to 'Fabius-Crommelin'. This change made it possible for me to bring his name up on my internet Google search. Yes, as expected, Frits was regularly called upon to interpret between all the foreign family members who assembled together at family reunions!

He was a good friend who often encouraged me, and I will miss him.