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WJ Mouat Hawks Football

Hawks lose their beloved Opa

By Cam Tucker, The Times June 14, 2011

Opa Smeysters teaching a volunteer "the sticks". Photo: Y. Churly

Abbotsford lost of one of its fun-loving and good-hearted characters on Friday.

John “Opa” Smeysters, a volunteer at W.J. Mouat and with the school’s football team, the Hawks, passed away on June 10 after a nine-month battle with asbestos cancer at the age of 74. A memorial bursary will be started in his honour.

A man with a big heart and contagious enthusiasm, Opa will be missed by a great number of people.

“Every person he’s come across, they just end up completely loving the guy,” said grandson John Smeysters Jr.

“He had love for everyone. His whole life he was a giver. He didn’t expect much in return . . . trying to make other people feel the best they could about themselves.”

The loss has also hit Hawks football program hard.

Not only was Opa an integral part of maintaining the football field and ordering team uniforms and equipment, but he dedicated countless amounts of hours to helping players and coaches, making them smile and enjoy the game, said head coach Denis Kelly.

“He was outstanding in terms of his influence on the kids,” said Kelly.

“He was an unbelievable person for the school to have.”

Opa worked at W.J. Mouat strictly on a volunteer basis.

He was always at school functions, and was part of the lunchtime security group. He even spoke to classes about his experiences growing up in Holland during the height of the Second World War.

“Every facet of the school he was involved in. He made some unbelievable contributions,” said Kelly.

Added former Hawk linebacker Ty Declare on the Facebook memorial page that has been set up: “Opa, you have touched all our lives, and you will never be forgotten. You have been such a big influence in my life alone, and all of my memories of Mouat are filled with your smiling face. I know you are in God’s hands now. You will always be in my heart.”

A memorial service will be held on Thursday at the Northview Community Church (32040 Downes Rd, Abbotsford) at 11 a.m.

All current and past Mouat football players are to asked to wear their Hawks’ jackets.

People are asked to donate money to the bursary that will be set up in Opa’s name, instead of flowers or gifts.

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