Darlington Berkel unveiling the street sign carrying the name of his grandfather who bought the property in 1913.
ST. EUSTATIUS–The Berkels are one of the largest established families on St. Eustatius. On Saturday, July 29, their family day became something more than a show of unity with the inauguration of two new additions to the Berkel Family Plantation. Ishmael Berkel turned the plantation grounds into a venue for outings and celebrations, and an attraction for tourists with its own museum. The son of Josiah Berkel, who bought the land in 1913, lives on the property. The highlight of the family day was the unveiling of a street sign reading “Josiah N Berkel Rd.” and the opening of a reception booth at the entrance of the plantation. These two extra features will make it easier for visitors to find the Plantation and will make its use as an attraction more professional, thereby adding to the island’s tourist offering. Close to eighty 80 Berkels from different parts of the world assembled for the occasion, which also included celebrating Ishmael’s 84th birthday.
Proud Jaelen Spellman (left), grandson of Vera Berkel-Spellman, ready to cut the ribbon of the new reception booth flanked by project initiator Ishmael Berkel.
In his introduction to the unveiling, Ishmael highlighted how despite the fact that his father already bought the property in 1913, after tireless efforts they finally got the deed for it last year.
Seventh-Day Adventist Lynch Plantation School was established on the Plantation grounds. Each of the current owners, all descendants of Josiah Berkel, gave up one meter of their property to make room for the road leading to the school, which as Ishmael pointed out with foresight, they made wide enough to accommodate big trucks.
Before moving on to the unveiling of the road sign, Berkel specifically addressed the young ones in saying: “This is all your inheritance to build on.”
His message was clear: such a wonderful property comes with dedication and responsibility. All were reminded of Josiah Berkel’s last wishes stating “Our family will go on. We’ll live and love and stand together; beyond today, around the years.”
Josiah Berkel’s first grandson Darlington did the unveiling of the sign bearing his name.
Visitors to the Plantation and its museum often comment how they feel as if they are in a little piece of paradise with the neatly cared for lawns, flowers, and park-like grounds filled with bountiful fruit trees and surrounded by views of the Caribbean Sea, green hills and the majestic Quill. But, Ishmael remarked how his father would have probably said: “There is only one foolish enough to create this: Ishmael.” His mother loved flowers, but his father preferred using the land for planting sugar cane, sweet potatoes and more.
However, such an attraction as it is now does not happen by itself, so Ishmael built the reception booth for visitors. Since his “baby sister,” the late Vera Berkel Spellman, contributed so much to the establishment of the school on the grounds, Ishmael asked her grandson Jaelen Spellman to cut the ribbon of the booth, which he did with pride.
Inside the booth, visitors already get a preview of what they can expect in the museum, as it is decorated with implements and tools of Statia’s days of yore.
The theme of the day was “Hope for the Future,” and Ishmael had many inspirational words for the youth. “Make your parents proud, but go for what you want, and with dedication and determination you will get there,” he advised them.
He thanked former teacher at Gwendoline van Putten School and long-time friend Jaap Vreeling for the polo shirts that were designed especially for the occasion. Vreeling came over from the Netherlands with his wife.