The Boeing Boys are a group of volunteers who’ve been with Schoolhouse Supplies from the start. With skills to build parts for the mighty aircrafts as backgrounds, they stock our shelves, and make sure to joke with every person who passes by the workroom table. Among their number is a man named Werner Van Bemmel.
At first glance, Werner might not seem all that enthusiastic about volunteering at our Free Store for Teachers. Indeed, if asked what originally brought him to Schoolhouse Supplies, Werner points out one of his Boeing brothers and dryly remarks, “Dave. He dragged me here. I thought it was only going to be for one day.” He’s been here nearly every Tuesday since.
Nearly a 15 years later, Werner has been recognized by Schoolhouse Supplies with the inclusion of his name on our donor board for his lifetime contribution of $4,000-$10,000 – testament to a philanthropic spirit that was forged during a life of personal challenges and hard work.
Though you would never know it from his manner, Werner’s personal story is dramatic, starting with his birth in the jungles of Indonesia in 1932 to his imprisonment in Japanese concentration camps there during World War II. Separated from his family at age 12, he survived the loss of freedom, jungle critters, poor rations, and forced labor.
Werner was 14 when he was reunited with his family (though sadly, his father did not survive) after the war, and they returned together to their native Netherlands. It was there that, in 1967, he spotted a job ad for an engineering position in Everett, WA, at a young company called Boeing. He landed the job and made a career of analyzing the designs for airplanes and airplane parts and writing instructions for fabrication.
After retiring from Boeing in 1995, Werner found his way into the company of the Boeing Boys. One day, when this group of buddies was catching up over breakfast at a local restaurant, Dave mentioned a start-up nonprofit with an intriguing idea: a free store for teachers. And the rest is history!
It’s hard to know how best to pay tribute to a man like Werner. Even if he doesn’t want a fuss, a little fuss must be made. So our thanks go out to Werner Van Bemmel for his commitment and his passion for ensuring that every child succeeds.