On May 4, 2015, the Dutch Memorial Day, a young boy named Collin poured dirt collected from the Methow Valley onto the ground beneath a simple white cross engraved with the name “Van Klinken.”
Methow Valley native Robert Van Klinken is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Holland. The young private was killed in Holland on Sept. 20, 1944. He was a member of Company E (Easy Company) of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and he died four months and two weeks after dropping from the sky at Normandy on D-Day.
Some years later, another Methow Valley soldier serving in Europe happened upon Van Klinken’s grave. Lt. Chuck Borg wrote to his mom about his visit to the cemetery and the grave. It was as Borg had thought: Van Klinken had been his mother’s neighbor. They had both grown up on farms near Poorman Creek in Twisp. She confirmed, too, Chuck Borg’s recollection that when he was 6 years old, he and his mother had visited the Van Klinkens’ home soon after news of the soldier’s death reached the valley.
Borg has committed himself to remembering Pvt. Van Klinken’s service to his company. In a recent email to Methow Valley News editor Don Nelson, he tells about a Dutch couple, Peter and Imelda Schroeyen, who have adopted the grave to tend it. In 2014, the couple visited Chuck and Nancy Borg in Wenatchee. The Borgs brought them up to the valley to see the school Van Klinken had attended in the 1930s. They collected a vial of dirt from the grounds of the school, now the Methow Valley Community Center, and took it back with them to Holland.
Robert Van Klinken is also memorialized in the HBO series “Band of Brothers,” based on the Stephen Ambrose book. In the film version, Van Klinken (played by Ezra Gooden) is welcomed by the Dutch people. He is shown giving a D-ration bar to a little boy who had never tasted chocolate.
Easy Company is chronicled in film and book from the time it was formed in 1942 until its disbanding in 1945. According to the Ambrose account, Pvt. Robert Van Klinken was killed “when he tried to run forward with a bazooka” as his company withdrew after a fierce battle to Eindhoven, Holland, after dark.
Some of this information comes from a story I wrote for the Aug. 20, 2003, Methow Valley News, about Borg’s efforts on behalf of Van Klinken.
The annual Twisp Art Walk will take place on Memorial Day weekend this year. As part of the event on Glover Street, Confluence Women Poets will share their poetry and invite you to share yours (or a poem by your favorite poet) at Confluence Gallery on Saturday (May 23) at
4 p.m. The poetry reading will give you a time to rest your feet as you hear from some very talented poets.
Besides the Saturday events on Glover Street, the Methow Valley Community Center hosts two annual favorites:
• Twisp Library Friends’ annual Memorial Day Book Sale will be held in the gym from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Valley patrons of the Twisp and Winthrop libraries have once again donated generously to the sale. Books for teens and children’s books will be featured at special tables. Another table will be devoted to popular nonfiction, and several tables to “very special” books offered at bargain prices.
• Also in the gym on Saturday, Cascadia’s Music Days will feature the Pipestone Orchestra playing works by Dvorak, Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler, at 7 p.m. And true to Cascadia’s mission of nurturing young musicians, the Pipestone Youth Orchestra will also play that evening. Christine Cherrington Merit Award winner Odessa Owens, an 11-year-old violinist from Omak and a former student of Pam Hunt, will perform the first movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor with the Pipestone Orchestra.