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“From far away”



Reading the biography of Michael Pauluzen Van der Voort (1615-1690), among the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam, I’ve learned that the name (and its many variants) probably comes from the Voort River in the Netherlands, but also that (reading between the lines) it more generically refers to someone from far away. Odd.

Odd because I chose a name that means something similar for another character created for a different part of the story. Urrutia (oo–ROO–shuh) is a surname from the Basque Country of northern Spain and far, far southwestern France. I’ve been fascinated by the Basques for decades and chose their city of Donostiako (San Sebastian in Spanish) as the fishing port where Anson Tennant was brought when he nearly went down with the Lusitania. Graxi Urrutia was the nurse who cared for him in the convent hospital where he recovered—physically, because he still suffered from amnesia until the first shots of the Spanish Civil War were fired. For Picasso fans, you’ll recall “Guernika”, his editorial statement about the war. Guernika is a Basque village.

Oh, by the way, Urrutia means “not from these parts”.

Ultimately, Anson (though he didn’t know his name) married Graxi and they spawned three children: Aitor (Hector), Mikel, and Alize. That story has been told in part before and will, no doubt be told again, since Anson did return home and live the last twenty years of his life commuting between Agincourt and his wife’s family in Euskal Herria. Adds another dimension to being “bi-coastal” doesn’t it? But I digress.

When Piet Vandervort arrived in Agincourt (date yet to be determined) he was certainly “from far away”. But his story causes me to rethink my defaults: patterns that I choose, not because they are prevalent in my own life, but because I wish they had been. Dr Bob will tell you that The Project, as we call it, has enabled me to work through a wide variety of issues from childhood, several of them focused on continuity (or its absence).

Take a local institution like Adams’ Restaurant, for example. Maud Adams (Mrs Benjamin Franklin Adams) had become a widow in 1889 and, lacking any financial resources, was supported by friends in the establishment of a restaurant. The image of Adams Restaurant was so vivid, and the profile of Mrs Adams strong, that the establishment survives today. The Same can be said for Anton Kraus and his foundry: his great-granddaughter Tony Benedetti is CEO of the successor firm today. There are other examples of similar continuity, but I suspect that they would be more rare in real life.


So, now there is Vandervort’s Bakery and Piet Vandervort, whose family may not wish to have been successive owners of the place. It may be that the strong reputation of Piet’s product lives on but the business has passed to others. And that story, perhaps opens doors for a different, more difficult narrative than is my default.

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