A prince among men

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

My father Henry (Hank), was born Hindrik Mulder, in the Netherlands in 1939.

He immigrated to Alberta, Canada in the 1950s with his parents, sisters and brother. As a young man he was lured by and lived in the hustle and bustle of large cities like Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. He spent his 20s and 30s, climbing the corporate ladder. His 40s and 50s were spent running a successful small business. He attended university, built his own house, designed computer programs and wrote fascinating articles.

However... these were things he did – this was not who he was.

I’m quite convinced my dad knew everything, regardless of the topic. My mom and I often referred to him as our walking encyclopedia. He read, all the time, and he sought out every opportunity to learn more because as he often said, “A true sign of intelligence is admitting that you don’t know it all.” And, he could fix or build anything. Literally.

At the age of four, I already knew how to get his attention with questions like, “Dad, what’s infinity?” He would patiently answer all my questions, even after my mind started to wander off…

As a young girl, I often went to him for help with my homework or to find out the meaning of a word. He would always challenge me to find the answers by reading through textbooks and dictionaries with me even though I would repeatedly say to him, “But dad, there are so many words!”

As a teenager, I remember my dad as the man who, when I became a little too self involved, would repeat the words, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” This is how he lived his life.

As an adult, I knew my dad as someone with a wonderful sense of humor. We all loved the opportunity to share our own humor with him with the goal of seeing him laugh so hard his eyes watered.

My dad hated injustice and he loathed those who made others feel inadequate. He always said that a true gentleman never made those around him feel uncomfortable.

He had unending patience - a trait that was not shared by my mom, my husband Geoff or me. But it didn’t matter because Hank told us our impatience was endearing. My mom and I would always tease him about his “checking questions” – midway through conversations he would stop and ask us something – just to make sure we were listening.

He was an honest man – which often got him into trouble when we would ask him how we looked or what he thought of our artwork. He just couldn’t bring himself to lie! But when he gave a compliment or handed out praise (as he so often did) we knew it was real. That was the beauty of my dad – he was consistent.

My dad was a very private man, yet many who only met him casually knew immediately the kind of person he was. After his death on February 25, 2009, people used terms like honest, kind, selfless and brilliant, to describe him. He would have been overwhelmed to be thought of so highly.

Our family was closer than most living literally each day together, which has made dealing with the loss of my father all the more difficult. He loved his wife of 45 years, my mom – his Janey – more than anything else in this world. He loved her spontaneity, spirit and mind and he often thanked her for allowing him to be himself in this life. He loved my husband Geoff – even before I knew I did – and he admired his creative spirit and gumption. He loved his newborn granddaughter and was convinced of her intelligence from the soulful look in her eyes. He loved me with an unending devotion, always full of pride.

To summarize my dad’s life, I will always recall the words my mom often said of him.

"He was a prince among men."

I miss you dad.  Happy Father's Day.