Tina de Jong Hoy, a Midland resident and Grand Rapids native, cherishes her Dutch ancestry

Today, Tina de Jong Hoy is a Midlander, married to Michael Hoy. But her roots stretch back to a small country known as the Netherlands but once called Holland by Americans. Her paternal grandparents were Lucas de Jong and Catharina Nauta. Her maternal grandparents were Reindert van den Berg and Trijntje (Tina) Pieksman. Tina’s dad was Johan de Jong and her mother was Feikja van den Berg. All were born and raised in the medieval city of Harlingen in the Friesland Province of the Netherlands and lived under the German occupation from 1940 to 1945. 

Tina’s parents emigrated to Grand Rapids, where she was born. Her parents’ Americanized names became John and Fay de Jong. In 1974, Tina journeyed to Harlingen to spend time with her paternal Oma (grandmother) in the house where Tina’s dad had grown up. In 1976, Tina graduated from high school and that same summer joined the Air Force. Her story began in the Oct. 5 edition and concludes today.

The summer of 1976 found Tina at the Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. She was an airfield management specialist. She said, “It was a mobile unit and we were constantly traveling. We kept track of the arrival and departure of aircraft. Then the report went to headquarters.”

One of their exercises was in the Mojave Desert in California, and the crew lived in tents. Tina said, “The media people had come out to photograph the landing and taking off of the C-130 type of aircraft. But the aircraft stirred up so much sand that they had to run to get out of the clouds of sand.”

A truck was rigged up with pipes and a water supply for showers. Tina said, “I was the only woman in the crew and I took my showers wearing a bathing suit.”

Of her experience in the Air Force, she said, “I did a lot of traveling. No boring desk job. It was a great experience.”

Once out of the Air Force, Tina went to college on the G.I. Bill and attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan. She had a history major and a Latin minor. Tina said, “The Latin class kept getting smaller and smaller and we were finally meeting in the professor’s office. There were four of us. Then, Hope College decided to offer a class teaching Dutch, and I decided not to waste another semester taking Latin and took the language course learning Dutch.”

She completed all her courses by December 1983 but graduated with the Hope College class of 1984.

Tina said, “I spent a year floundering. I lived at home. I couldn’t get a job. I was overqualified.” Then, a fellow church member suggested the Blindness Rehabilitation Field in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan University. She said, “I had 14 months left on my G.I. Bill, so I signed up. There were five people. Four were blind and I was the only one with sight.” Tina earned a master’s degree in blind rehabilitation and interned at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1986, Tina went to Saginaw to interview for a job at the Michigan Commission for the Blind (now called the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons). She got the job and stayed there for the next 30 years. She heard about Recordings for Recovery and thought that might be a good resource to use in her field. That was how she met Midland resident Michael Hoy.

The summer of 1992, Mike called her and invited her to a cookout in the backyard of his home in Midland. Tina accepted and she “felt very comfortable with Mike.”

Mike said, “If you don’t mind, I could show you the Tridge.” After showing Tina the Tridge, Mike said, “If you don’t mind, I could show you the family cottage on Wixom Lake.” After that, Mike said, “If you don’t mind, I could show you the Hoy log cabin at Benmark.” Benmark is a private hunting and fishing club in Roscommon County started by Mike’s grandfather, John Elmer Hoy, and some friends in the 1930s.

Mike and Tina’s first date lasted 12 hours. After Tina drove back to Saginaw, she discovered that Mike had left his wallet on her dashboard. The next day, after church, Tina drove back to Midland to return Mike’s wallet to him. “We’ve been together ever since,” she said. 

They dated for three months, and in 1992 Tina flew out to New York to the family compound at Chateaugay Lake in New York state to officially meet Mike’s folks, John and Polly Hoy. Tina had actually met Polly before she ever met Mike.

Mike and Tina flew back together from New York to Benmark. It was Labor Day weekend. Sunday had been an overcast day, and that evening, Mike and Tina were sitting on the porch at the log cabin by the pond. Tina said, “Mike asked me to marry him, and the sun suddenly burst through the clouds, lighting everything up. I said yes.”

They were married on April 17, 1993 at the Memorial Presbyterian Church on Ashman in Midland. Fay de Jong made her daughter’s wedding dress, just as she had made her own wedding dress in 1957 when she married her husband John. Tina brought her wedding album to the interview. Beautiful photos!

In 1997, Mike and Tina took a cruise to the Netherlands so Mike could see the land of his wife’s ancestors.

Now retired, Mike and Tina continue doing volunteer work.  They work one day each week at the H.E.L.P. food pantry at Memorial Presbyterian Church. They are members of the Midland Lions Club, compiling The Lion’s Tale newsletter for the club each month. They also do the monthly newsletter for the Lions district. And they co-chair Paws with a Cause for the district project.

The Dutch influence is obvious in the Hoy home.  Lace valences hang at the dining room and kitchen windows instead of drapes. Tiles with windmills on them mark the backsplash of the kitchen sink. Plants grow in a bay window. And Delftware is prominently displayed.

The Netherlands today is much different from what our geography books once called Holland. The Netherlands will always be known for tulips growing as far as the eye can see, and windmills and dikes dotting the landscape. We read the story of the little Dutch boy who saved his town by sticking his finger in a leak in a dike. And there are still those of Dutch descent, like Tina de Jong Hoy, who cherish their ancestry. Proud to be called Dutch. Proud of a homeland, changed today but remembered as it was yesterday.