Franciscus Gerritsen

CAMDEN – Franciscus Gerritsen passed away on Jan. 3, 2020 in Camden, at the venerable age of 96.

Franciscus was born in 1923 in Dordrecht, The Netherlands. His rich and full life straddled multiple continents and took him and his family on unforgettable excursions.

While teaching at the University of Florida in the 1950s (after moving there from The Netherlands with three small children and a 24-hour flight from Amsterdam to New York), he insisted on driving with his family in his beloved French Peugeot through the Appalachians, with black bears in the campgrounds, to Niagara Falls. He was, after all, a “Padvinder,” literally translated from Dutch as “Pathfinder,” (or Boy Scout in English) and loved adventure. His wife, Levina, would have given anything for a large, very American “Woodie” station wagon, but Franciscus was committed to European cars which he deemed superior and safer.

Franciscus and his family left Florida in 1961 to return to The Netherlands, three children having grown to four, to work for the Ministry of Water Resources. Franciscus knew from an early age that he wanted to study hydraulic engineering in Delft. To accomplish this, he needed to take classes as an adult with younger students. He did this without hesitation as he had a single-minded focus when it came to his professional life. He knew what he wanted and unflinchingly sought out opportunities, earning his PhD in his middle age.

In 1953 his expertise brought him and his wife to live in a trailer in Zeeland after the catastrophic “North Sea Floods” that year. In the wake of the floods the country launched a massive construction effort called the “Delta Works” to protect vulnerable Zeeland. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this project is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Franciscus was chief engineer on several dikes in this project.

In 1969 he once again crossed an ocean (this time the Pacific) to become a professor in the Department of Ocean Engineering at the University of Hawaii, where he soon became chairman of the department. Franciscus taught there for the next 25 years, retiring in 1994. He did not take one sick day for the duration of his tenure there. During the summers he and his wife traveled to countries as far flung as India and Sri Lanka, where Franciscus was a consultant for the U.N.

Retirement brought them, after 10 years in Hilton Head Island, ultimately to Rockport in 2003 to be closer to their son, Jacob.

Franciscus approached all aspects of his life with great appreciation and gratitude. This attitude was informed, in part, by WWII. On two occasions during the war Franciscus lived, while others standing next to him died. The more devastating of these two events occurred in his father’s workshop, when an Allied bomb missed its mark and hit the shop instead. He survived mostly unscathed, while one other was badly injured and five others died instantaneously. Franciscus did not take life for granted; he approached all things with a positive attitude, treated people with respect, never criticized anyone and displayed empathy for all who came into contact with him.

Franciscus is predeceased by his younger brother and sister.

He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Levina Gerritsen; four children; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

He will be remembered with love and affection. He will be missed. The Gerritsen family would like to thank the entire staff of The Courtyard at Quarry Hill and Hospice for the tender loving care they gave to our husband and father in the last weeks of his life.

Services will be announced at a later date.

Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock Street, Rockland.

To share a memory or condolence with the Gerritsen family, please visit their Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to,

The First Universalist Church of Rockland

345 Broadway

Rockland, ME 04841

or online at

https://www.uurockland.org/giving