Hailing from the historic city of Delft in the Netherland, Dick was the ninth child in a vibrant family of 12. Born May 21, 1942 during World War II in German-occupied Holland, Dick often recalled the joyful celebrations in the streets of Delft following the liberation on May 5, 1945.
Dick’s father, a second-generation carpenter, maintained a busy workshop at the back of the family home, which was a source of fascination for Dick and his siblings. The hand-crafted wooden windows and doors his father produced would inspire Dick’s pursuit in another craft, as a type compositor and printer. Working as an apprentice at a local print shop while attending technical school in nearby Rotterdam, Dick began a long and successful career in the printing industry.
At the urging of his younger brother John, the two brothers decided to immigrate to Canada in January of 1965, joining their older siblings Simon, Frank and Bill. Dick and John travelled by train from Montreal to Vancouver seeing for the first time the scale and beauty of their new country and the adventure and opportunity it offered. In Vancouver, Dick found employment as a typesetter at a local printing company and six months later, he found himself handling production at a small two-person print shop called Hemlock Printers.
In early 1966, Dick met the love of his life, Klaaske (Clara), who was visiting her older sister and brother, also Dutch immigrants to Canada. They married in December of 1967, with daughter Vanessa born in 1969 and son Richard born in 1972. Dick’s near 50-year career at the helm of Hemlock Printers officially began in the summer of 1968 after he purchased and incorporated the company. In the early 1970’s, Dick was joined by brother and business partner John, followed by brothers Bill and Frits who, along with other dedicated staff, laid the foundation for a thriving and continually evolving printing business.
Dick had a dedication to quality, to ‘doing things right’ with pride and care, and to respect and support everyone he worked with. He navigated Hemlock through generations of technological change and turbulent economic times, while always looking ahead and maintaining his principles of respect and integrity. The successful business, which thrives to this day, is a testament to Dick’s passion for his craft and for the inspirational leadership he provided to the entire Hemlock ‘family’. Over his decades in business, countless relationships were formed with clients, suppliers, industry peers and non-profit and community organizations, all of whom experienced Dick’s perpetual optimism, creativity, intellect and his wonderful sense of humour.
Dick’s adventurous spirit led to many family vacations with Clara and the kids, which are the source of many fond memories, stories and laughter. He was an avid sailor spending weekends and holidays exploring the San Juan and Gulf Islands on the family boat, the Delft Blue. In the 80’s and 90’s, Dick’s sailing adventures also took him to Hawaii on three occasions, once as lead (and winning) navigator. We lost him too soon but take comfort in the knowledge that he lived a full, active and accomplished life, which affected so many in a positive way. To his family and friends, Dick was always a loving and caring spirit who will live forever in our hearts.
Dick was awarded posthumously with Honorary Fellowship in 2021 for his dedication to the craft of printing and for inspiring so many Canadian designers to higher levels of quality in their printed materials. In the words of George Kallas, founder of Vancouver’s MET Fine Printers, “Dick was a fierce competitor, always planning years ahead before making any move, he was definitely a General in my books! Being as competitive as he was, he helped drive the industry, and together we brought commercial printing to a different level.”
Dick was considered a “trailblazer”, bringing innovation to the design community and constantly elevating our capabilities as a result. As technology advanced he constantly included the graphic arts community in the journey, inviting designers to learn and participate, and help guide the business toward success, never wavering from his principles of respect and integrity.
Dick’s legacy includes his deep commitment to environmental and social sustainability, as well as an unwavering commitment to community and social issues. Hemlock’s investments in innovations around waste, energy, and carbon reduction resulted in Hemlock being named the greenest printer in the country. They were among the first printers in the country to be certified and promote the benefits of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and the very first printer in the world to convert to computer-to-plate, eliminating toxic film requirements. These innovations allowed graphic designers in Canada to be among the first to start advancing sustainability as a priority in our industry.
Dick was passionate about the graphic arts industry as his career started in typesetting and letterpress. Unlike many contemporaries who held trade secrets close, Dick generously shared with anyone who would listen, often offering training to and hosting gatherings for the design community. Beyond his unwavering generosity and willingness to print whatever poster, report, or collateral DesCan asked for, Dick and his team were always ready to contribute cash, space, time, energy, and their significant influence for DesCan events, award shows, and conferences.
In 2008 Dick accepted DesCan Vancouver’s invitation to be their founding sponsor of Practivism as an annual event which explores the intersection of communication design and environmental and social activism as an annual event each fall.
In 2009 Dick created the Jim Rimmer Award, a student scholarship in memory of his good friend and DesCan Fellow Jim Rimmer.
Dick sadly succumbed to cancer on April 25, 2017.
Awarded Fellowship 2021