Seniors & Aging

Retired farmers Bob and Pauline VanWeerdhuizen find value in GOP activisim

Names: Bob VanWeerdhuizen, 78, and Pauline VanWeerdhuizen 75.

Family: The VanWeerdhuizens met during a blind date set up by mutual friends. She worked as an electrical wire assembler; he was in the Army stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. Needless to say the date went well. They now have four children and 15 grandchildren, whose pictures line the hallway in their home southwest of Everson.

“One thing I always like to say is that I’ve had the same address, same phone number and same woman for nearly 54 years,” Bob says.

“Almost 55,” Pauline chimes in.

Hometown: The couple live on a picturesque farm with a 180-degree view of fields and a modest dairy barn behind their house. In 1959 they started with 76 acres, 17 cows and one John Deere tractor given to them by Bob’s grandparents who immigrated from Holland.

“My grandparents came here with nothing,” he says. “They didn’t know the language, didn’t have two dimes to put together, and they were very successful, but they worked hard.”

With the same mindset, the VanWeerdhuizens expanded their farm and made the most of their income from milk production. As soon as their family was a little more established, they became active with the Republican Party.

Politically active: Both are involved with various GOP committees, and they have traveled to Olympia about 15 times over a span of 20 years to lobby state leaders on farm issues. They even attended a protest in Seattle during the ’80s after a milk hormone was created that would allow cows to produce milk for longer periods of time, so farmers wouldn’t have to breed them as often.

“I’m still against it and eventually it did pass,” Bob says. “I’m a nature guy. The Lord created us and created it quite perfectly, as far as I’m concerned. So I didn’t agree with it.”

Through the years they have knocked on hundreds of doors during campaigns, called long lists of phone numbers, and built numerous signs in support of local GOP candidates. Pauline says her favorite part of the election season is calling local people, urging them to vote and informing them about issues.

“I like what people have to say to me about their political beliefs,” she says.

Pauline came from a Democratic family whose father was involved in a union, but as a self-employed farmer she decided the Republican Party had more to offer her family. Bob, who grew up with two Republican parents, says he agrees with the GOP’s conservative values and platform.

Dairy activists: Bob has been a member of Whatcom County Dairy Federation for 30 years, was president for 10 years, and received its “Man of the Year” award several years ago.

The organization interviews candidates about their values and platforms to decide whether they align with the needs of local farmers and thus merit endorsement by the federation. Members also meet with lawmakers when the Legislature is in session to discuss issues.

Pauline was recently awarded the Alumni of the Year plaque and given a lifetime membership in Whatcom County Dairy Women for her dedicated volunteer work. She has been a member since 1961, and her daughter and granddaughters are active, too.

“Being involved keeps you thinking and keeps you young,” Pauline says. “I think (Bob) and I feel the same way on a lot of things, and it shows through. We’re in it together, and our goal was to make the farm workable.”

Active family: Being politically involved was important to the VanWeerdhuizens not only for their farm but also for their kids, Pauline says. Their daughter, Debbie, is president of the Dairy Federation, and her family farms part of their land.

The VanWeerdhuizens have been retired for about 25 years, but they have no plans to retire from their political activism, although they do plan to escape the upcoming legislative session for a trip to Hawaii.

“We try to keep our fingers in the dairy industry and the betterment of it, because our family is on a working farm,” Pauline says.