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Cover Story July 23rd, 2009

  Untitled Document

This is Nashville!

Dear Sir, madame,

My name is Charles Versteegh and I'm from the Netherlands (Holland). I've reason to believe that the girl in this text, (found on your website) Marchella Versteegh, is my half sister.

My father, Frits Versteegh, left Holland about 30 years ago, and I never heard something of him. By the internet I found the next names; Frits Versteegh married with Darlene Karnes and having a daughter Marchella Versteegh. Frits Versteegh is the contact person of a Deli Plus Restaurant in Escondido. I have also found telephone numbers but what I'm looking for is some e-mail addresses from one of those names and perhaps you can help me in some way.

Beste Regards

Charles Versteegh

He then cited a story we had run several years earlier! He had casually come across the name while exploring our website (yes, we do have international readers of The Paper!)

This is the text from your website:

Date december 22 / 2005

Winners in the Poster contest for Kindergartners through Third Grade were Jolyon Maxillom, 1st place; Amy Pawlowski, 2nd place; and David Charos and Michaela Dea tied for 3rd place. In the Essay contest from the Fifth Grade were Tommy Pelletier, 1st place; Marchella Versteegh, 2nd place; and Andrew Stevens, 3rd place. Winners of the Essay contest for Seventh Grade included Jacquelyn O'Neill, 1st place; Matthew Aeling, 2nd place; and Matthew Nguyen and Mark Martinez tied for 3rd place.

The mere fact that this man had come across a small story we had run in the Social Butterfly column some four years earlier intrigued me. We had covered thanks to long time friend, Vivian Doering, who told us of the school event. I told Charles Versteegh I would try to help. I had several good friends from Holland, Paul Van Elderen and Arie de Jong. Arie de Jong, in particular, was not only most helpful but showed a remarkable knowledge of the family (even though he had never met them), just by their names. He told me he suspected they were citizens of Holland but probably of Indonesian extraction. Turns out he was right on the money (as Arie normally is).

I followed up this conversation with my own email answer to Mr. Versteegh on January 22nd:

Mr. Versteegh:
So good to hear from you. It happens that I have two very good Dutch friends, Paul Van Elderen and Arie de Jong. I did some checking and found some preliminary information:

1. Frits Versteegh sold the Deli Plus Restaurant in 2004 to a Vietnamese couple. They have since sold it to another couple. They had no contact information for Frits.

2. I called Paul Van Elderen, a very successful local real estate person. He did not know the name.

3. Called Arie de Jong and left word on his voice mail. He will call back. No word yet.

4. As luck would have it, my associate publisher and fiance' has a Sorority Sister named Heidi Versteeg (no "h" but that's not unusual. Often, folks who emigrate will modify their name somewhat.) I'm not sure if that is her maiden name or married name but left word on her voice mail.

That's all I know at this point. Will advise when and if I learn additional information.


lyle e davis
The Paper

On January 22nd, Mr. Versteegh responds:

Dear mr. Davis,

It's so good to hear from you i'm very glad that you will help me and i also have some extra information found on the following website: http://huizevredenoord.com/

The text is all in dutch and is about a meeting with indo's (people with a indonesian background) in a house called " vredenoord" wich is located in Valley Center California 14 miles from Escondido. The letter was signed with all of the names i'm looking for, but still no E-mail adresses. I hope this information wil help you futher on to help me.

I also will send you a picture of my father in his younger years. (he was in the army at that time) i'll hope to hear from you soon, and if there is anything i can do for you please ask me.

Thanks in advance and my best regards,
Charles Versteegh

On January 26th, another email from Mr Versteegh:

Mr. Davis,

Thanks so far, I'm very glad you're helping me out. I also found on the internet, that the women wich my father married , Miss Darlene Karnes-Versteegh is the director of the St Mary Preschool in Escondido. (adress: 130E 13th avenue) The biggest problem is that I don't know if my father told his wife that he has 3 children in Holland (I also have 2 brothers). When i search in the telephonebook I find 2 x Frits Versteegh 1 in Valley Center and 1 in Escondido I think it's the same person. The one thing I want to know is of my father will have contact with his familiy here in Holland.

Best regards, Charles Versteegh.

I responded on the same date:
Mr. Versteegh:

Very interesting. I spoke with Arie de Jong, one of the two Dutchmen I mentioned to you, and he said he thought it highly probably that the Versteegh family had Indonesian ties. Looks like he was quite accurate.
I will continue to try and make contact for you and will advise if and when successful.


lyle e davis
The Paper

On January 27th, Mr. Versteegh wrote:

Thank you very much for the all the help, but how did Darlene react when you called her? I'm very glad you found him and my new step-mother. I'm reading your e-mail early this morning (5.30 hour) with tears in my eyes. Tonight I'm going to write a big e-mail to my father but first I'm going to work and tell everybody that we found him, but first I call my brothers and asked what they think of it, they didn't know I was doing this. And when you want to make a nice story of this for "The Paper " I will be very glad to help you.

I put on my detective’s hat and soon managed to track down Darlene Versteegh. She appeared to be fairly knowledgeable about the situation and said Mr. Versteegh’s father had tried to contact him several times, unsuccessfully, and Mr. Versteegh’s mom apparently had blocked contact.

Later in the day, she related the story to Mr. Versteegh’s dad while they were having supper. It was then Mr. Versteegh’s dad called me at home and we had a very pleasant chat.

On January 28th I was able to answer Mr. Versteegh:

I had a very interesting visit with your father tonight. While I didn't learn all of the story I learned some of it.

I learned that your father was born in Java, and that when he was two years old, the Japanese captured your grandfather and took him away in a sidecar of a motorcycle. I told your dad your grandfather was very lucky the Japanese did not execute him. He agreed, but felt that your grandfather's knowledge of agriculture may have kept him alive as it was useful to the Japanese.

After the war was over the revolution came to Indonesia, and your grandfather was kept in prison. I assume that was just because of a strong anti-Dutch feeling at the time. Meanwhile, your grandmother, thinking your grandfather was dead, understandably got on with her life and found a new interest, an Indonesian officer I believe your dad said. They had two children together. When it was learned that your grandfather was, indeed, alive and was coming home, the other gentleman left the area and they did not meet. Your dad said the Indonesian officer was a very nice man and was well liked by the family. Your grandfather was very understanding, seeing how your grandmother had assumed he had died in the war. They resumed their life together and apparently lived reasonably happy until he died one week before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Your dad remembers your grandfather coming home. A pedicab (he used another Dutch term for it) brought him home and he was playing in the front yard. Your grandfather asked, "is your mother home," and he, your dad, answered "yes. she's inside." He went inside and about five minutes later re-emerged and announced to him that he was your dad's father. Your dad had not recognized him since he was only two years old when he was taken away.

Sometime later, your dad and mom divorced and, I take it, it was not a pleasant divorce and there were numerous disputes. He believes your mother had kept you and your siblings apart, out of spite.

I did learn that apparently your dad was rather hurt and upset that you and your brothers had not made an effort to find him as your grandmother knew all along where he was and you could, according to him, have easily asked her for his location and made contact. I don't know the details of that. That is family business.

As you may already know, your dad was in Holland last November as his mother had died. It's a shame you could not have gotten together then.

I hope you all make contact and iron out any differences that may have developed over 30 years. It makes for a fascinating story but we shall await developments and see if things work out. I may well call your dad again and visit more. He is a most interesting fellow and has a fascinating background.

Meanwhile, as always, if I may be of help, let me know.

All my best,

(Do make an effort to patch things up with your dad and clear up any misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Family should always be number one in our lives).

I told him that no one seemed particularly upset. Surprised, perhaps. But I think more pleasantly surprised.

On February 7th, curious, I sent an email to Mr. Versteegh:

So what has happened? Will the family reunite?

If so, we may have an opportunity for a tv show here in America. It's even possible the host might fly you and your family to America to appear on the show.

Let me know how things are going.

lyle e davis
The Paper

On February 8th I heard back from Mr. Versteegh:

Everything is going well at this moment, I already received 2 e-mails from my dad and also a picture of his family. The last week we didn’t have contact because I was in Spain for one week, joining my mother she was staying there for 5 weeks. I also told my mother that I found my father with your help and the internet. She was very happy for me and says he’s still your father and always will be. She’s right about that. She was very surprised that we have a half sister. I also spoke to both of my brothers and they also want to contact our father but they need some more time, but they were also very surprised about having a half sister, but everybody is happy and all together we are very pleased we found him. I also send him some pictures but now I know he hasn’t high speed internet so I talked with my oldest brother about this and said he will make a website where we can share the pictures also for my father so he only has to visit the website and then he can look at our pictures.

The reason that I was looking for him was because of a television program on the Dutch TV, In this program called “ Spoorloos” they are looking for missing family all over the world and there was a girl who also found her dad in the USA but the man was dying, she was sitting for three days at his bed and then he died they never spoke a word together. So I didn’t want that happened to me, and that’s why I started the search. So at this moment we are e-mailing each other and we have a lot to tell…. we must catch up 30 years. And what kind of TV show you are talking about ?

Best regards,

Charles Versteegh

We answered him the same day:

There is a national program here known as "The Dr. Phil Show." He is very popular. My fiance, Evelyn, seldom misses his show. He is on at 3pm, Monday through Friday.

As luck would have it, they are now seeking "reunions." Family reunions. I think they would be very interested in your story and may well fly you and your brothers to Los Angeles, California to tape the show, as well as arrange for your father and family to join you on the telecast.

If you'd like, I shall contact your dad and find out his interest. If he is interested, and you are interested, I will contact "The Dr. Phil Show," and see what happens.

Let me know.
Glad things seem to be working out for you. (And wouldn't it be wonderful if you all got a free trip to America?)


Another email, same date, from Mr. Versteegh:

We also knew Dr. Phil here in Holland, that's the one who started at OPHRA WINFREY and now has his own Tv Show, i'm only interested if my father is ! it would be nice. (i also send this e-mail to my brothers, so they can think about it)

Best regards, Charles

On February 10th:

Hi Mr. Davis,

Did you already contact my dad concerning the TV Show ? The newspaper which you are working for is that a daily newspaper? only for the district Escondido? or is it much bigger ? And where (which town ) do you live ?

Best regards,

Charles Versteegh

I answered on February 10th:

Yes, I contacted your dad about "The Doctor Phil Show" and have emailed the show with the background information. Have not heard back from them but it's only been a couple of days.

I own a weekly newspaper that comes out every Thursday. We distribute 24,000 copies every week. We cover what is known as North San Diego County with deliveries to the cities of Rancho Bernardo, Escondido, San Marcos, Lake San Marcos, San Elijo Hills, Vista, Carlsbad and Oceanside. These names will mean nothing to you but your father will recognize them as generally upscale neighborhoods.

We live in Escondido. My fiance’ has a son and daughter in law with eight children who live near Valley Center. The kids all go to Valley Center High School and/or Elementary School. I am divorced and also have two grown sons.

Was not sure if that beautiful woman standing next to you was your wife or your daughter. A lovely lady! You look a great deal like your father did when he was in uniform. Both very handsome men.

Will keep you posted if/when I hear from Dr. Phil and/or your father.

I'm here if you, or your dad and his family, need me for anything.

All the best.


He answered, also on February 10th:

Hi Lyle,

No the girl on the picture is not my daughter but she is my girl friend, Corina, for more then 20 years, I must thank you for the compliment.

The picture was taken last week at on old castle cold "Santa Barbara" in Alicante (Spain) with a nice view. So your fiance’ is already a grandma with eight grandchildren !! that's a very big family does her son has a drivers license for a bus ?

Hear you soon,

In May of this year, we heard again from Charles:

Dear Lyle,


Frits Versteegh at right, with his daughter, Marchella.

How are you ? it’s been a while since you heard something from me, everything is going very well at this moment. We had some days off, so we can do the things we like to do. Tomorrow we are going to visit Amsterdam and yesterday we were at a Jazz festival in Breda. I also made some trips with my motorbike. At this moment me and my father are e-mailing each other once in the 2 / 3 weeks, and in April he called me, it was very nice to hear his voice after so many years. Most of the time when he sends me an e-mail he also send me some pictures of the family / the house and the dog. So now I can see how everybody looks like and how he’s living there in the far west. So the contact we have Is very good, I also received a DVD of him which was made by Darlene (I think). My oldest brother has also contact with my father, they are also e-mailing each other and sending pictures by e-mail.

We now have only to work five weeks and then we are having holiday, June 22 we are going to Pineda de Mar (Spain) nearby Barcelona by car. We are staying there for twelve days. We have rented a mobile home near the beach. In the village there’s also a train station so we can take the train to Barcelona so we don’t have to do that by car (it’s very difficult to find a parking place In Barcelona). We have been there once but only for one day but It looked very nice so that’s the reason why we are going back this time. We had planned this trip last year but I became very sick one week before departure. It took me one week hospital and one month at home.

How is it with your girl friend and her eight !!! grandchildren ? My father told me that you spoke to Darlene some weeks ago, it’s nice to hear that you still have contact. How is the economy in the USA? Here in Holland we also have “ credit crisis” and many jobs are lost. I hope I can keep my job “we have to deal with a tough time” so I can make some plans for later this year. Are you still interested in doing a story about how the Internet, your website, and a small story way back in December of 2005 managed to reunite a family after 30 years ? (you wrote that to me January 28) off course I will help you. I’m still very happy that I found my father after so many years and that he’s happy with his family and that I’m having a sister. I just looked at your website ( The Paper ) and there was the cover story of Arie de Jong one of the persons you named in your first e-mail to me. He is one of your Dutch friends, a very nice story but do you know where he lived in Holland ? I also found in the archive (January 2005) an article of Paul Van Elderen the other Dutchman, he lived in Hoofddorp I also have family there, its nearby Amsterdam.
Thanks again for helping me finding my father,

Best regards, Charles Versteegh

And so we now have a family reunited, via email at least. We’ve had a few more chats with our local contact, Frits Versteegh, who lives in Valley Center.

We learned that Fritz met Darlene on a dance floor in Northern California. A Russian ballerina was teaching ballroom dancing and they met.


Left to right standing, Frits’s brother-in-law Bill Vogel, his wife, Rika and Frits.
On the couch Chella, Darlene Versteegh and her mother, Ruth Karnes.

In 1979 they moved to North San Diego County. He opened the deli in the 90’s, then sold it to a Vietnamese family. He has had a contractor’s license for some time and did a lot of contract remodeling work, specializing in decking. Darlene still works at St. Mary’s. Their daughter attends St. Joseph’s Academy in San Marcos and is in the 9th grade.

The Versteegh name is well known in Holland as they would journey back and forth to Indonesia as they were heavily involved in the lumber trade. Over the years, Frits, in addition to his native Dutch language, has learned English (with very little, if any accent), Malaysian and some French.

He would love to go back to the South Pacific and revisit the beautiful islands. There are 12,000 of them so it might take awhile to visit them all. He and Charles are still hoping to have a real family reunion, in person, but that, too, may take a bit of time. In the meantime, Frits and his family are hosting a reunion for his Dutch family and friends in Valley Center on August 1st. Evelyn and I have been invited and we plan on attending. Thus far, Dr. Phil has not called. It would be great if he did because if his show would fly Charles and his brothers to America and back for the reunion, that would lift a big financial burden from the family and make for a storybook ending to this quest to reunite a Dutch family.

As we said in our opening paragraph to this story . . .

This newspaper business is an interesting one. All kinds of stories come your way . . . some of which are absolutely fascinating.
This is just one of them. And now you, as a reader, are part of it.

Late Breaking News: We’ve just learned, almost at the last minute before going to press, that Charles Versteegh will be coming to America on October 2nd of this year, to celebrate Frits’s 70th birthday, and thus making the family reunion complete.





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