Willy Bosman (née Willemina van Kessel) was born in Geldermalsen, Holland, on May 7, 1931. Willy’s childhood was profoundly impacted by World War II. The dangers, shortages and hardship experienced during five years of Nazi occupation helped Willy develop a strong survival instinct, and a deep appreciation for the basic necessities of everyday life. After the war Willy studied fashion design and couture sewing, becoming an exceptionally gifted seamstress and designer. Everything she sewed was flawlessly put together, and she was the kind of person who could sew almost anything, so long as she had a picture to work from.
In her early twenties Willy met her future husband, Gerry (Gerald) Bosman. The couple originally planned to live in Holland but this changed in 1952 when Gerry’s parents and 7 siblings immigrated to Canada. As the oldest son, Gerry decided to immigrate with his family so that he could continue to support them. Willy eventually decided to immigrate as well, joining Gerry in Lethbridge, Alberta. Willy described travelling to Lethbridge from Holland as a great adventure. At that time the only option was to first sail across the Atlantic to New York city and then take a train. Willy was very much taken with the beauty of the Canadian landscape until the train crossed over into Manitoba. She had never seen anything like the vast prairie grasslands of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and she initially wondered what kind of place she was going to. Eventually though, she came to love the wide-open sunny skies of Alberta, and the ever-present view of the Rocky Mountains.
After marrying in 1953, Willy and Gerry settled in Calgary, Alberta. There wasn’t much need for a couture seamstress or fashion designer in Calgary at that time, but Willy was adaptable and went to work for a local company that made uniforms. She stopped working when her children, Elizabeth and Kenneth, were born. During the 1970’s when they were older, Willy returned to work, this time in the drapery business. She initially worked for others, but after a few years she started her own business making custom draperies and window valances. Her superb skills as a seamstress and designer ensured that she was in high demand and her business was very successful.
During this time Willy also supported Gerry during the 7 years he struggled with recurrent cancer, eventually passing away in 1986. This was a very difficult time for Willy, particularly during the last year when Gerry, who had become very weak and depleted, was not able to work or do much. After Gerry’s death Willy continued running her business, learned how to drive and volunteered her time driving people to and from cancer treatments. When Willy retired in 1998, she moved to Mississauga, Ontario, to be near her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Bosman and Eyal Reingold. A granddaughter, Maya, was born in 2000.
Although Willy lived most of her life in Canada, she was very attached to her parents and siblings, and she made an effort to visit Holland when she could. Willy was the second oldest of 5 siblings, and it was very painful for her to lose all of her brothers and sisters during her lifetime, Jan in 2008, Door in 2011, Metje in 2012 and Hans in 2019.
After she retired, Willy’s health started to decline and she moved to King Gardens Retirement Home, where she received the support she needed to remain as active and independent as possible. No longer capable of sewing or knitting the way she used to, Willy took up new activities. She eagerly attended craft groups, and some of the ornaments and ceramics she made will always be treasured family possessions. She attended exercise classes and became an avid reader, receiving a steady supply of books courtesy of the staff and volunteers of the Reader’s Den in Mississauga’s Central Library.
Willy was still very interested in reading and following the news when she had a heart attack and sustained multiple fractures towards the end of March, 2020. The stress caused by the severity of her injuries was too much for her body to overcome, and she passed away one week later on March 31, 2020, just 37 days shy of her 89th birthday. During her last week the staff at Trillium Health Partners Mississauga provided Willy with excellent and compassionate care that preserved her dignity. She passed away peacefully with her daughter Elizabeth by her side.
Cremation services were arranged by Skinner and Middlebrook Funeral Home in Mississauga, Ontario. A remembrance ceremony will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers consider making a donation to your favorite charity in Willy’s memory.