Paul's Story

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Paul Van Zyverden

Services for Paul Van Zyverden will be Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at 11 a.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church with the Rev. A. Austin McGehee officiating. Burial will be at Magnolia Cemetery with Robert Barham Family Funeral Home in charge of the arrangements.
Mr. Van Zyverden, 85, of Meridian, passed away Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, at Anderson Regional Medical Center.

Paul was born July 22, 1932, in Haarlem, Holland. As a teenager, Paul worked in the family bulb business in Holland, along with his father, Jack, and older brother, Dirk. At 16, Paul began traveling from Holland to Canada and the U.S., following in his older brother's footsteps. Together, they would make sales trips to North America and then return to Holland to help organize during the harvesting and packing season. In the 1950's, the bulb business was mainly concentrated in the northeastern part of the U.S. Paul began making sales trips to the southern part of the country to scout out possible business leads. In 1961, after realizing the great demand for flower bulbs in the South, Paul opened a warehouse in Meridian - actually a rented loft over a hardware feed & seed store at 2118 Front Street. Paul liked Meridian and felt it had a great central location.
In August of 1963, Paul married Els van de Graaff in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, but they settled in Meridian. Els also worked in the business, which helped her learn the English language. The couple worked hard, and soon, a larger space was needed. As a result, they rented the basement of the Scottish Rite Temple for a period of six years. In 1967, after realizing the need for more space, a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse was built at 2215 Highway 39 North, adjacent to what was then Sunbelt Motors. In 1968, they moved into the building, and that same year, their daughter, Jacqueline, was born, followed by a son, Robert, in 1970.
In 1972, the business was divided into two companies; one being owned by Dirk in Edison, NJ and the other kept by Paul, based in Meridian. Both businesses had entities in The Netherlands.
After two expansions to the facility on Highway 39, a new, larger facility was needed. In January 1973, a 60,000 sq.ft. building was completed on what is now Van Zyverden Road. As the result of Paul's hard work, coupled with the efforts of the people at Van Zyverden, the Meridian company has had many expansions over the years. The present facility is now approximately 500,000 sq. ft.
Paul retired in 1996, leaving Jacqueline and Robert to run the business along with the great team of people that were already in place. He loved the business and remained extremely proud. He enjoyed seeing the success of the company in the years to follow. He also loved and appreciated all the long-time employees he worked with for so many years. Although he retired, he kept up with what was going on in the company and the flower bulb industry. He had many friends and associates from his lifetime of work in the industry. When he was in Meridian, he still loved spending time at the office and in the warehouse. He was a true entrepreneur, reading The Wall Street Journal daily.
In addition, Paul was a very patriotic man. Although he wasn't born in the United States, he always teared up when he heard the National Anthem. He appreciated and loved what America stands for and for "the American Dream". He enjoyed the American lifestyle, especially living in Meridian and spending time in south Florida. He loved to support America however possible; he bought American cars and purchased stock in American companies.
Paul loved Meridian and its people. He and Els had many close friends and had a good life in Meridian. Paul didn't have many hobbies. As someone recently said, "he lived to work - he didn't work to live." For many years, his work was his hobby until his retirement. Paul was a very simple man; he loved The Waffle House ("the Waffle") and Cracker Barrel ("the Cracker"). He did cherish his time playing cards with his close friends. David Majure, Jack "Doc" Denney, Richard Wilbourn and Ray Joyner were part of the "old timers" who passed on before Paul. Paul still enjoyed the game with his remaining group, but he missed his older friends.
Paul's favorite pastime was his "trains" - looking at trains, watching them, riding on trains, reading about trains. Paul would take his granddaughters and their friends "Train Chasing". This meant they would go find where the train was, whether it was near the highway or interstate. They would follow alongside it for as long as they could or as long as it held interest. His granddaughters loved this activity. He recently traveled to Roanoke, Virginia with his brother-in-law to see the Virginia Museum of Transportation to see a large steam train exhibition.
In the earlier years, Paul said he would never go back to Holland, but later in life, he seemed to appreciate his roots and the Dutch culture. He lived in Holland from 2003 until 2010 (mainly in the spring & summer months). While living in Holland, he enjoyed being able to spend time with his Dutch family and friends. He also enjoyed seeing the blooming fields of flower bulbs in the spring. He also loved certain traditional Dutch foods. While in Holland, he also took advantage of being able to travel about Europe. He loved to drive or take the train to Paris, and he did this often. In the winter months, Paul spent time in the warmer climates of Florida or Mississippi; Paul was a very cold natured person and did not enjoy cold air-conditioned spaces or extremely cold weather. He loved overlooking the ocean and beach, whether it was in Florida or Holland. Paul also loved ships and taking cruises, especially to the Panama Canal. Many times, he took multiple cruises with the same itinerary - sometimes never leaving the ship. He wasn't interested in seeing the local towns; he appreciated the view from his ship.
Paul was definitely not an athlete or athletic, but he did enjoy watching soccer on TV and attending Mississippi State Football games. He loved people. He loved being around the people at Van Zyverden, and he loved his family, especially his children and grandchildren. Paul was a generous man and wanted to be sure his family was well taken care of. He was very proud of his family and the business he had built.
He is survived by his children: Jacqueline Van Zyverden Hogan and husband, Tim and Robert A. Van Zyverden and wife, Gayla; grandchildren: Anna Van Zyverden, Sara Van Zyverden, Alexa Hogan and Chandler Hogan; brother, Dirk Van Zyverden; sisters-in-law: Jeanne van Zijverden-Timmers, Hanny van Winsen-van de Graaff and husband, Frans, Tineke Sierks-van de Graaff and husband, Pim; brother-in-law, Kees van de Graaff, and wife, Marijke; nieces: Elisabeth van Zijverden, Juliette de Jong-van Zijverden and husband Michiel, Jeanine van Zijverden, Cindy van Winsen, Joan van Winsen and Willy van de Graaff and husband, Rogier van Dijk; nephew Ben van de Graaff, and wife, Saskia; and several great nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Elisabeth Anna "Els" Van Zyverden and parents, Jack L. "Co" and Engelina G. "Lien" Van Zyverden.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Hope Village for Children, The Boys & Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, or a favorite local charity of your choice.
Visitation will be Friday, Sept. 22, at Barham Family Funeral Home from 5-7 p.m.
Published on September 22, 2017
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