Bastiaan VandenBerg; Life Insurance Salesman


Longtime Oxnard resident Bastiaan (Barry) VandenBerg died early Monday of pancreatic cancer, a few hours into his 70th birthday.

“Against all odds, he made it to today,” said his daughter, Nan Duffly of Belmont, Mass. “He told people that he was going to be here until he was 70.”

VandenBerg was a Dutch immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1956, working briefly in the lumber industry in Oregon before coming to Oxnard to take a job at a frozen-food factory. In the early 1960s, he owned and operated a pet store in downtown Oxnard, then became a life insurance salesman, which remained his profession until his retirement.


As an 18-year-old in German-occupied Holland, VandenBerg joined the Dutch resistance, helping run messages and mounting small acts of sabotage. Working underground, not even his parents or his best friend knew that he was involved in the movement, said his wife, Kiong Tien (Tina). In 1982, the Dutch government acknowledged his World War II efforts with a medal.

After the war, VandenBerg joined the Dutch Royal Marines. While stationed in Indonesia, he met his wife at a ballroom dancing class--a friend of hers was putting on classes for the soldiers and asked Tina to help by dancing with the students, one of whom turned out to be the young Dutch marine.

The couple spent a few years in the Netherlands before moving to the United States. They tried living in Roseburg, Ore., where Tina said they made many friends, but Barry found few work opportunities. He was trained as an engineer, but was unloading wet plywood in a lumber mill.

A Dutch acquaintance suggested that he go work for a friend in Oxnard, and Barry took the couple’s last $80, hopped on a bus and came to Ventura County to see if he could find a job, his wife said. With steady work lined up at Oxnard Frozen Foods, he went back to pick up his family.

“It was amazing how much help we found along the way,” Tina recalled.

Someone in Roseburg gave them an old car, other families pitched in with clothes and food, and the VandenBergs and their four children drove to Oxnard, she said. The kindness of the people they met, first in Oregon, then in California, made an impression on VandenBerg.

“As soon as we had some more money, he always felt that he had an obligation to pass it on, to pass on the help that we had got,” his wife said.


Duffly remembered one time in particular: As a teen-ager, she had the ancient car that had been given to the family in Oregon. One day, the local newspaper reported about a family from the South that was passing through Oxnard when their car broke down, leaving them stranded.

“That night, my car disappeared,” Duffly said. “The next day, the paper had a story saying there had been an anonymous donation. From the description, I knew it was my car.”

In addition to his wife and daughter, VandenBerg is survived by four children--Johan of Concord, Calif., Marlieke of Carmichael, Calif., David of San Diego and Mark of Vicksburg, Miss., and 14 grandchildren.

Visitation is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. today at the Ted Mayr Funeral Home in Ventura. A memorial service will be held at the mortuary at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

In lieu of flowers, donations in VandenBerg’s name may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, 3160 Geneva St., Los Angeles 90020.