Those who knew John Hemmes knew what a kind person he was: someone who was always looking for ways to help people who were having problems or were less fortunate.

“He enjoyed people and he enjoyed life,” says his daughter, Jana Pederson.

John was born in Coevorden, Netherlands, and lived his teen years during the Second World War. He became a banker and his career took him from Amsterdam to Beirut to Kobe, Japan, where he helped implement the post-war Marshall Plan. He eventually made his way to Edmonton in 1966, where he lived the rest of his life and established deep roots in the community through his family, career and service.

Died on December 24, 2020
Edmonton, AB


Jana, the youngest of three children, remembers her dad as an active parent. Throughout his life, John volunteered with Scouts Canada, Edmonton’s heritage festival, Westend Seniors Activity Centre, food kitchens and Trinity United Church, where “he would always count the offerings at the end of the service,” says Jana.

As a banker at Alberta Treasury Branches, John used his skills to do income taxes for people who couldn’t do them on their own. When John and his wife Helen moved to a cooperative senior home called Summit Village, he would do the taxes for his friends and neighbours. He even did books for the co-op itself. Jana says that helping others was ingrained in John; and he understood it not to be a choice, but a happy obligation.

This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.

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