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Three Generations of Support

Making a gift in memory is a meaningful way to remember the life of a loved one, while making a real difference to the lives of disabled ex-Service men and women. As a charity, we are deeply grateful when supporters choose to remember a loved one with a gift in their memory to The Royal Star & Garter Homes.


Mel Zuydam’s father, Willem Zuydam, passed away on Boxing Day last year and he wanted to share his father’s remarkable story. His father was a long-time supporter of The Royal Star & Garter Homes, following in the footsteps of his late English grandfather, who was also a keen supporter. Willem’s wish was that donations should be made to three of his favourite charities (one of them being The Royal Star & Garter Homes) in lieu of flowers at his funeral. Currently, more than £200 has been raised and we are very grateful for the generous support, which will make a real difference to the lives of our residents.


Willem was born in Gouda in 1925, the youngest of three children, he had two older sisters. Little did he know that in less than 15 years’ time, he would be forced to go into hiding on local farms, to avoid the German Army, who at the time were commandeering all Dutch youths into German labour camps. It was at this time that Willem joined the Dutch Resistance and did what he could to aid the Allied cause.


Mel Mel-Aged15
Willem with his sisters Willem aged 15


After the war was over, Willem completed a degree in Economics at Rotterdam University, before moving on to join Unilever, where he spent his whole career as a Managing Director in food flavourings. He was posted to London with Unilever, where he met his wife, Sheila. Sheila’s father was also involved in the Second World War, as a warden during the air raids, and Mel still remembers trying on his grandfather’s ‘big metal helmet’ when he was a child.


Once Willem’s posting in the UK was complete, he moved to Sri Lanka and then on to Istanbul, during which time Mel and his sister Annette were born. After continuing to travel around with Willem’s job for the next few years, the family finally moved back to the UK in 1969 and have remained here ever since.


Willem loved helping charitable causes wherever he could and this is why he took up a voluntary unpaid role as Chairman of a local cottage hospital, after he retired in 1990. The hospital was about to collapse financially but he managed to save the organisation, made it financially viable and remained Chairman until 2001.


Mel-and-Sheila Mel-Family Willem
Willem and Sheila Willem with his family Willem


We would like to thank Mel and the rest of his family for sharing Willem’s remarkable story and we wish them all the best for the future. Thank you for your support.