AUBREY BEAUCHAMP, Capistrano Beach
In the mid ’70s, my parents lived in San Clemente. One day, they met Fred Swegles. He detected an accent and learned they were WWII survivors from Holland. A long conversation followed.
Fred learned, among many other details, that my dad’s brother had been a director of a large fleet of Dutch luxury passenger liners. Its flagship was the SS Oranje. During the war, the Germans used it as a troop ship, but afterward, it was restored to its former glory and Dutch pride. I remember visiting this floating palace with my uncle once during a visit to family in Holland.
After this initial interview, Fred and my parents remained friends, and Fred wrote their story in the Sun-Post.
At the time, I was a nurse at San Clemente Hospital. One day, I had an elderly male patient with cancer. He was Dutch, and we struck up a conversation. I asked him what he did before his retirement. He said he worked on ships.
I envisioned this old man in his ill-fitting hospital gown somewhere on a large freighter or fishing boat. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he had been the captain of the SS Oranje.
His Dutch wife had died, and he had married an American lady. Later, still in the hospital, I met her. She asked me to please come and visit them at their home, as the captain missed his Dutch roots.
I gladly complied and visited their comfortable home in Shorecliffs. Shortly thereafter, the captain passed away.
I never saw his wife again, but heard she was involved in the San Clemente senior center. Many years later, when she also passed away, the center was named after her. Her name was Dorothy Visser.
Who knew that Dorothy’s husband, Captain Visser, was the captain of a large Dutch luxury liner, owned by a company where my uncle was one of the directors and that this uncle had a brother who lived in San Clemente and that, one day, this brother would meet Fred Swegles?