A child of Amsterdam, Holland, Frederik Hendrik Ludwig Maria Sluyter, who became known as Fritz, was born August 28, 1936 to Christiaan Frederik Sluyter of Amsterdam, Holland, and Anna Maria Reiter of Bad Tolz, Germany. At his confirmation in the Catholic Church, his name was expanded to Frederick Hendrik Ludwig Maria Franciscus Sluyter, quite a mouthful.
At four years of age, in May of 1940, Dad remembered awakening to the sound of German soldiers goose stepping on the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam, accompanied by the drone of German warplanes filling the skies as his homeland was invaded by Hitler’s armies. Over the course of the next five years, Dad and his family suffered the abuses of having a German mother and German blood running through their veins. Though thoroughly Dutch in culture and raising, he recalled their neighbors dropping stones from the higher floors and the roof of the tenement building where they resided in an attempt to kill him and his older sister, Sonja. He remembered his mother having to fight hand-to-hand combat in order to get her children to their top floor apartment. In a series of firesides Dad conducted in the latter part of his life, he related the following:
“After the Nazis invaded Holland, food was less than meager, freedom less so and years of starvation, bombings, dogfights overhead, illness and the senseless slaughter of people, both Dutch and Jew, permeated every aspect of our lives. Being a young boy, and knowing that boys will be boys, we used to run out after every dogfight and see who could get the biggest and best collection of shrapnel and then we would take them to our apartments and hoard them carefully. I don’t know what ever happened to that collection.”
They survived the best they could until the last year of World War II, when they received word from Germany that Dad’s grandmother was dying. If they wanted to see her alive, they had to leave right away. It took over a month for them to get permission from the Nazis to leave Holland to travel to Germany. In the meantime, Dad suffered a bout of cerebral meningitis and underwent brain surgery. Within days of leaving the hospital, they left for Germany. On the train ride across Holland, their train was bombed. His mother threw the children out of the train and they rolled down the embankment into a thicket of blackberries where they ended up badly scratched and bleeding. However, they survived, unlike many of their fellow travelers. Dad always mentioned how odd it was to be on a train, cheering the Allies on although it was their bombs raining down on their train. Even then Dad loved the Americans.
By the time they arrived in Bad Tolz, Germany, Dad’s grandmother had recovered, so their papers were no longer valid. Dad, his mother and his sister were now in Germany illegally, and if caught, would be arrested and transported to a concentration camp. They hid out in their grandfather’s attic until, after a huge fight with Oma (Dad's Mom,) he reported them to Hitler's SS. Dad’s sister, Sonja, was sent away to a private girl’s school near the Swiss border while Oma and Dad were on the run for the next four months through Germany, dodging the SS and Nazi troops, the Allies bombs and German citizens in general, with Oma often having to carry her nine-year-old, still recovering from brain surgery, son.
Dad remembered weeks of going with little or no food, of Oma trading his extra clothes for a loaf of hard, stale bread, of hiding out in bombed cars, buildings, barns and fields through the unusually cold, brutal winter of 1945. He recalled,
“We had been without food for a couple of weeks when we came upon a farm with a huge barn. Because we were walking in the middle of a blizzard, my mother knocked on the door of the farmhouse and asked for shelter. A kindly farmer and his wife invited us in. The wife had just put dinner on the table and it was beef stew. We ate and ate, and then were violently ill. Our bodies had been without food for so long, we were sick for days. Before long, the farmer asked us to move on because they would be arrested for hiding fugitives. And so, Mother and I began walking through an exceedingly war torn Germany, attempting to reach the Swiss border and safety.”
They finally made their way to the Swiss border and the school where Dad’s sister was living. They arrived just hours ahead of the Mongol hordes, which were part of the Russian army, who were sweeping across Germany literally raping, pillaging and destroying everything in their paths. The girls in the school were ushered across the border, but Dad and Oma still did not have proper paperwork and they had to go back to the village to rectify that problem. Dad told me of hearing the Mongol troops arriving as they raced out of the city and across the border just ahead of a certain and exceptionally gruesome death.
The Swiss Red Cross took the little family in and slowly introduced them to food. Dad said it was sheer heaven to sleep in a bed with a blanket and pillow, shower in warm water and to be able to eat real food again. It took quite awhile before they were able to eat anything more than broth because they’d gone hungry for so long. Dad said it was wonderful to be clean and warm, with food in his stomach while the Red Cross slowly nurtured them back to health. Unfortunately, they only had four weeks of this tender care. The war ended shortly thereafter in May of 1945. The Allies had won, Germany was defeated. And although Europeans across the continent were celebrating in the streets, pubs and their homes, there were dark days ahead for Dad and his family.
The Swiss quickly ordered everyone to be repatriated into their countries. Dad, Oma and Sonja were put on a train that wound its way slowly to Holland. As soon as they crossed the Dutch border, they were separated from their mother and put into a dark, dank, cold room. Within hours, each of them, Dad, Oma and Sonja, were put in different concentration camps. The Dutch, along with every other European country, took anyone with a drop of German blood and put them in concentration camps, subjecting the adults to all the horrors to which the Germans had subjected their victims, reeducating the children to be proper little Dutch citizens — and so, although Dad and Sonja were half Dutch, completely raised Dutch and Oma was married to a Dutchman, they were imprisoned.
Dad and Sonja were imprisoned for a shorter length of time than Oma, who was imprisoned for 27 months, and were released to the Sluyter grandparents. Sonja was very Dutch looking, but Dad was not, so they would not allow Dad to come live with them. An upstairs neighbor took Dad in, who was all of eight years old, and cared for him until Oma was released from the concentration camp and could take care of her children.
As can well be imagined, times were tough for the little Sluyter family. But they persevered. Being Catholic, Dad became an altar boy and also began singing in the choir. Their choir director, who also happened to be the organist, would lead the boys by bobbing his head. He played an old pump organ which used a peddle and bellows in order to produce the sound. Dad found a knot hole in the organ from which the knot could be removed, and of course, that’s precisely what he did. He pried the knot out with the tip of his pocket knife and it instantly released all the pressure, rendering the organ silent. I remember Dad laughing as he told us about the choirmaster’s face turning red as he would pump furiously, trying to get the sound before realizing what Dad or one of the other boys had done.The choir master would jump up from the organ and chase the boys, who ran as fast as they could to escape the beating they were sure to get. Dad was only caught once. He was beaten so soundly, he learned his lesson and never did it again.
There was also a bell tower, which was very, very tall. Dad was allowed to climb up and ring the bell, but was told to be very careful and not pull the rope too hard because it would tip the bell over, rendering it mute. Well, as you can imagine, that is precisely what Dad did and then had to run because the custodian was furious and would beat him if he caught him. When the bell was tipped over, the custodian was the one who had to climb up to the very top and tip the bell back over so it could ring, which was not easy, and certainly, a very dangerous task.
Dad was as mischievous as any boy of any time, in any place, of any age. As he grew older, he became a boy scout and generally lived the life of an average Dutch teenage boy. He loved listening and dancing to the Big Band music coming from America.
When the sister missionaries first met Oma, she invited them for hot tea as they were tracting in the nasty Dutch weather. She wasn’t interested in their message, but politely listened as they warmed up in her tiny apartment. Given the passage of time, Oma not only listened to their message, but accepted it. It was the beginning of the Reiter/Sluyter family’s life-long love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dad didn’t want to join the Church because if he did, he would no longer be able to be a boy scout. His troop was a Catholic troop and if he left the Catholic church, he knew he would no longer be able to be a member of that troop. The Scout master had been the father he didn’t have, since his own father was in a concentration camp. So more than leaving the Catholic church and troop, the emotional wrench of leaving the only father he’d truly ever known, was truly heartrending.
During the terrible storm of 1953, Dad was camping with the other Scouts who were desperately trying to stay alive. With the rain coming down in icy, torrential sheets and the wind tearing through the camp ripping at the tents and the boys, Dad began to pray. He promised the Lord he would investigate the Church if he came out of the storm alive.
Needless to say, Dad investigated the Church, learned for himself that it was true and had such integrity that he joined the church, knowing it would cost him the troop and the man who had become his surrogate father. He knew he had to be faithful to the testimony he’d been given. Dad was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on June 12, 1953.
Holland is where Dad became an expert sailor and delighted in sailing the windy lakes and canals of Amsterdam. He also achieved expert status in skating, learning the skill on wooden skates with steel runners. These two passions remained his favorite hobbies until late in life, and they are passions he passed on to his sons.
Dad met his first wife, Marianne Wilbrink, recently from Indonesia, in Amsterdam, when she was transferred there during her mission. She was going to be released in September of 1957. Dad and Oma had been planning to emigrate to America, and delayed their flight so that he and Marianne could be sealed in the Swiss Temple on October 19th of 1957. Wow, they didn’t waste much time there!
They emigrated to America on October 30 1957, and landed in Los Angeles on Octber 31st. They were picked up by Wim Lambrechtsen and his wife, Jop, who had sponsored them, and their American adventure began. Dad shortened his name to Fritz Hendrik Sluyter and always said if he’d known how much trouble the “u” was going to cause, he would have dropped that as well.
Dad quickly found work at a milk company, although he could not speak English. As a gifted linguist, a month had not passed before he mastered the English language and then nothing slowed him down. He left the milk company and went to work for the Olympic Plastics Company. They needed a stock clerk and, although he had no idea what a stock clerk was, he assured them he could do the job.
Dad and Marianne welcomed their twin daughters, Eirin and Karin, on July 16, 1958. Deeply in love with his little girls, Dad thought he’d died and gone to heaven when they were born. Two years later, on November 30th, their son Torben Charles Sluyter joined their little family and Dad was happier still.
Dad began college, studying business, worked hard and came home to his beautiful family every night.
A son of America, Dad fiercely loved this nation with all its opportunities and freedoms. He became a citizen of this country he loved so much on November 22, 1962. From the day he stepped on American soil he became a fierce defender of the Constitution, this nation and all the freedoms and privileges afforded the American people. Now a citizen of the greatest nation on earth, Dad spent the rest of his life helping others to understand where he had come from and why America was so great.
On January 7, 1964, son Boyd Sven Sluyter came into the family. Dad was ecstatic, two beautiful little girls, two handsome boys . . . he was very, very happy.
On a vacation to Colorado, Dad and Marianne made the decision to purchase the Central Mercantile grocery store in Dolores, CO. The neighborhood streets of California were becoming far too dangerous for their children and they decided to move to where they would be able to raise their family safely. They packed up, left California, and moved to a small property north of Dolores. Dad loved being a grocery store owner, and was always more concerned for his customers than himself. He was the ultimate grocer, dedicating the hours of 8 to 7, Monday through Saturday, to provide the best grocery store Dolores had ever seen.
Being a teenager, I was always glad to see the clock strike 7:00 p.m. and I was anxious to lock the door. But Dad would let customers in as late as 8:00 as we went through the steps of closing the store every night. Every night it was the same, every night I worked I’d roll my eyes and obey my Papa Fritz. Now, as an adult, I can see that my father had a great work ethic, in fact one of the best I have seen in any person during my professional life. My father taught me to work and work hard, enhancing what my mother had already taught me, and she was no slouch, believe me.
Dad and Marianne were divorced in May of 1980.
Dad and Mom had worked together as nothing more than friends for years. When the day came that they were both single, it wasn’t long before they looked at one another with new eyes. On November 8, 1980, Muriel Harris Case and Dad were married in Cortez, Colorado, and Papa Fritz became Dad and our family was complete. Dad and Mom were sealed for all time and eternity on May 1, 1984 in the Provo Temple in Provo, Utah.
In 1981, Dad adopted Mom’s three daughters and, later, her three grandchildren who had come into her care and custody. Crystal, Heather, Stephen, Shannon, Cheryl and I, all became his legal daughters and son. He embraced us with all the love and care he could give us and became the father of our hearts, as he did to our two oldest brothers, Jay and Cash. Mom and Dad now had twelve children.
I didn’t tell my parents until a couple of years ago about my first year at Ricks College. Being a mischievous sort myself, when asked how many siblings I had, I would immediately reply twelve, and then add with a grin, “We’re so glad Mom and Dad finally got married last year.” I used to bust into laughter at the looks on people’s faces when I said that, then I straightened it out. Mom and Dad were not as amused as I was when I finally told them twenty some odd years later. They did laugh though.
Except for Cheryl, we all grew up and went away to work or to college. We married and started our own families. In the meantime, Mom and Dad still ran Central Mercantile. They remained in that circumstance until they decided to sell and make their side business full time. A year later, fire consumed the store they’d owned for so long and made them grateful they’d moved on when they had. Always a consummate salesman, not only because of his skill but also his inherent honesty, Dad turned his A.L. Williams business into a success and worked at that for several years.
During this time, Dad came into possession of a small boat that he loved to take out on McPhee Reservoir and sail. At those times, Dad felt the wind on his face and the sun on his head once again and much like his time in the temple, drew closer to our Father in Heaven. He also still took time to sit and watch hockey games on the t.v., making Mom giggle as he’d get so excited about Wayne Gretzky’s fantastic plays. He liked to take Mom up to Telluride for the Chamber Music Festival, since they both loved classical music.
Dad and Mom continued to raise and care for their daughter Cheryl. Dad and Cheryl had a special bond and although Cheryl’s particular health and mental problems made it challenging at times, Dad always said it was the unconditional love Cheryl poured out upon them that made it all worthwhile.
Dad purchased Lindy’s Carpet Cleaning business, branched into carpet selling and worked hard at that for many years. My Dad never met a challenge he didn’t like and couldn’t conquer. He never said, “Woe is me.” And just kept pushing forward, making a success of whatever he chose to do.
I recall Dad coming to visit us in Utah one time. Alvin and I are devout BYU Football fans and rarely, if ever, miss a game. Dad happened to be visiting when Alvin and I sat down to watch one of the games. Dad was nibbling on one of his goat cheese sandwiches, that mother made for him on a daily basis for 26 years, and staring at the television very puzzled. He asked questions, we explained, and I grew so excited at sharing this sport I loved so much with my father who only made time for hockey, when making time for sports at all. At the end of the game I turned to him and said, “Now see, wasn’t that a fun game to watch?” He replied, “Well, it sure took them a long time to get the ball down the field. It’s kind of a slow game.” I laughed and shook my head, clearly the speed and excitement of hockey took precedence over football, and always would in my Dad’s mind.
Dad is a man of character, strength, integrity, honesty and overwhelming love. He was a friend to all in need, a mentor to those craving guidance, a devoted son, brother and husband, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was the best father any child could ever have and, indeed, we, as his children, have been blessed in thousands of ways because he was and is our father.
In his later years, Dad began traveling, speaking at schools and churches across the west, about his experiences during WWII, the restricted freedoms afterward and still existing in Europe. He then shared of his introduction to the gospel, his emigration to America and his absolute, undying love for this nation. He told the children and adults of the freedoms, rights, privileges and responsibilities of being an American. He taught and testified of freedom, of choice, of responsibility and always concluded his presentations or firesides with singing The Star Spangled Banner. My father was American through and through, the fiercest patriot of this nation I have ever met.
A few years ago, Dad was headed into the Junior High in Cortez to speak to Mr. Isgard’s class. He always went and spoke during Holocaust week. During this particular time, Dad ran into a mother in the parking lot and they struck up a conversation as they walked inside. When the mother found out why he was there she said, “Why Mr. Sluyter, you taught me about the holocaust when I was in junior high.” This touched my father’s heart deeply and thrilled him that he was now teaching the second generation.
I was privileged to travel to many of these firesides and schools with my father. These times were very precious to me and I was able to hear my father speak of his life many, many times. While I have been unable to share most of it with you, for like Joseph Smith, he lived many lifetimes in the one he was allotted, I have shared what I felt to be the most inspiring. Dad never shared these experiences as the “Woe is Me” type, but shared them in order to help Americans realize the great freedoms we enjoy. He always said “Liberty is not a gift from America, but a God-given right to humanity.”
A man of God, Fritz spent his adult life living the gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching of Christ to all who would listen. He loved the Lord with everything in him and longs for each of us to live our lives accordingly so that we may join him in an eternal family unit. His heart weeps for the choices made by those he loves, and rejoices in those who have turned to the Lord and accepted the gospel fully in our lives.
He was a worker in the Monticello Temple. His weekly shifts were the highlight of his week. Within the walls of that holy temple, Dad took his problems, worries and weaknesses and worked and prayed, receiving great solace and answers. He testified often of the strength, power and necessity of temple work, and was honored to serve the Lord in that capacity. He became dear friends with all who worked in the temple, and I have heard numerous times that it will be his smile, his genuine love for his fellow man, his testimony and his optimistic outlook that will be sorely missed.
Mom and Dad worked the farm and Dad started another business, Fritz’s Window Washing, which he loved. He was so excited that with a squeegee, hard work and integrity he could earn a living at 68-years of age, which he learned from some Dutch tourists would not have been permitted in Holland, even to this day. To him, this was proof again of the greatness of this country.
In 2005, Dad had a stroke, while visiting in Utah and Mother carefully nurtured him back to health. But in mid-2006, Dad began not feeling well and began to slow down a little. In early fall, he went to his doctor, Dr. Leonard Cain, to try and figure out what the problem was. Doctor after doctor attempted to locate the problem, but by December there was still no answer, and Dad was having trouble swallowing.
On December 14th, my sister Eirin was admitted to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with a life-threatening condition. Everyone came, from Washington, Arizona, Tennessee and Colorado. Dad arrived on the 14th, driven by Bishop Spencer Smith, for which we thank him most profusely, and for the first time I saw that Dad was in serious trouble. Eating was an arduous chore, he never managed more than a couple of bites, he was weak and his legs and feet were swollen. Eirin’s surgery went smoothly, she recovered enough to go home and Dad went home as well, to more tests.
On January 18th, Mom and Dad sat in the doctors office as they learned he had Signet Ring Adenocarcenoma and that it was untreatable. The cancer was growing too fast and any treatment they tried would be unsuccessful and would make Dad miserable for the remainder of the short time he had left. The decision was made to not undergo chemo or radiation and Mom and Dad went home to the farm.
Within a day or two, they came across this poem and it struck at the very core of their hearts. I’d like to share that with you today. It is called:
You gave me your hand
I’ve wrapped it in mine.
You’ve given your heart
now our hearts entwine
You have me your love
I gave mine to you.
We’ll dance life’s waltz;
that’s just what we’ll do.
As our love grows old
and rocking chair bind,
we’ll dance down the paths
of love in our mind.
When I’ve gone ahead
and you cry out my name,
I’ve still in your heart,
our love will remain.
Just reach out your head,
I’ve planned it for you.
We’ll waltz ‘round the moon;
That’s just what we’ll do.
We’ll waltz ‘round the moon;
That’s just what we’ll do.
On February 7th, Mom drove Dad to Durango to have a surgical procedure that would enable him to eat. A mistake was made during the surgery, and Dad’s esophagus was torn. The same day surgery turned into five days in the ICU and five days in a regular room, before Mother talked the doctors into inserting a feeding tube. Dad made it very clear to mother that he wanted to die at home. She drove him home, ten days after they’d entered the hospital. The hospice nurses were at the house when Mom and Dad arrived.
Enid, Jeannie and Leah were a godsend to Mom and Dad, as was Dr. Cain. Loving, efficient and kind. As a family we wish to offer heartfelt gratitude for the way these two women loved and cared for Dad and Mom. They taught Mom how to make Dad comfortable, how to administer his medications and how to feed him through the tube. Mom cared for Dad, checking on him every few minutes, sleeping by him at night, sitting by him during the day. Mother grew more and more exhausted and traumatized as the end grew near and the man whom she’d always been able to take care of, always been able to make better, whom she loved above all others, drifted into unconsciousness most of the time.
When I arrived in Colorado, my father, who had declined greatly week to week, was permanently in bed and sleeping most of the time. We were able to have some wonderful conversations during his moments of waking, for which I always be grateful. It was nearing the end and Dad was suffering.
We, as a family, out of devotion to him, verbally released Dad so that he could return to Heavenly Father. He smiled in understanding and fell asleep. At 5:45 p.m. the next evening, on March 8th, 2007, Dad slipped quietly away from life, crossed the veil and graduated. This is what Dad always called death, a graduation and cause for celebration. And so, we are not celebrating Dad’s life, but honoring it. We are celebrating his graduation to the next phase of eternity and drawing together as family and friends to honor this man we love so dearly.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who lost his wife, Marjorie, said no one who has not experienced it can understand the "absolute devastation and consuming loneliness, which increases in intensity and gnaws at one's very soul." Yet in the darkest nights, there comes a voice that whispers "all is well, all is well, with a peace, certainty and unwavering affirmation that death is not the end" and that "as surely as there has been separation, there will be a joyful reuniting."
Dad really wanted to bear his testimony at his funeral. We set up the video camera to do that, but he declined so quickly there was never the opportunity where he could gather his thoughts to do that. I found notes Dad had written of his testimony, and so I would like to share them with you today, on his behalf:
In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76, verse 22, it reads: And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of Him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we given Him: That He lives.
Jesus Christ and our dependence on Him for Salvation: Dad's testimony of Jesus Christ was strong and unassailable. He longed for the day, which has now arrived for my father, when he would kneel at the feet of the Savior and with tears streaming down his face, thank Him for the great sacrifice He made so that all of us could make the choice to return home. He testified often of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, assuring all who would listen that through Jesus Christ, and only through Jesus Christ, could eternal life be attained.
Which leads us to the Atonement. Our eternal salvation and happiness is based on that loving and, words fail me here, incredibly giving act of the Atonement paid by Jesus Christ.
You cannot descend below where the Son of God descended on that night in Gethsemane. There is no sin, save sinning against the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ will not forgive. You may wallow in sin for a time, eschewing all you have been taught, and still Jesus Christ descended below even that so every man, woman and child, from the expulsion from the Garden of Eden forward, could, if they so chose, step on that path, once again, which leads us back to our heavenly home and the presence of our Father in Heaven and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There was nothing more important to my father than his wife and children. All that he was about, in every aspect of his day for every every day of his life was about his family. That knowledge that the family is an eternal unit and one that can be solidified through the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ brought such peace and joy to his heart.
Because of his love of his family, the Plan of Salvation became something he studied and taught about. Matthew B. Brown's "Plan of Salvation is the best book on this subject which I have read, and certainly my father has read. The Plan of Salvation gives us hope for the future. It helps us to understand that we are part of a grand design that began long before we came to be and will continue throughout the eternities, as families, if we so desire.
On that stormy day in Holland my father learned the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was true. He embraced it with everything in him. He lived every aspect of the gospel, determined to return to our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ with his family by his side. He testified of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God at every opportunity. He testified of Jesus Christ as our Lord, Savior and Redeemer, the King of Kings . . . the Son of God. He testified of His gospel at every opportunity, and bore his testimony, in turn, to each of us in the waning weeks of his life.
And so this child of Amsterdam, this son of America and this man of God has finished and triumphed over his mortal probation. We are certain he has been gathered in the arms of his Savior and heard “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Fritz Hendrik Sluyter is now enjoying watching over his family, missionary work, sailing I am certain, and hockey, if hockey is allowed in heaven. We’re not certain if heavenly hockey bears any resemblance to earthly hockey, but we know this much: Dad will have a puck in his hand and his skates on.
And this is why, because of the rich tradition of my mother's ancestors who helped to carve this nation out of the American continent, and because of all my father suffered at the hands of despots before becoming an American citizen I am the woman I am today. I am an American. I am a Latter-day Saint. And these two things assure that I will fight with my last breath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and this wonderful country we live in; and why I will testify of Jesus Christ and His gospel at every opportunity.
And so yes, I do,
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic, for which it stands,
one Nation, under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all."