Descendants turn out for Reinstra family gathering

"One of Whidbey Island’s oldest families celebrated its history and heritage at the Reinstra family reunion held Saturday, Aug. 19, at Oak Harbor’s City Beach.More than 150 family members attended the gathering, which was the first reunion for all the descendants of Age and Jantje Reinstra and their eight children.Displays of family history and genealogy were set up, along with charts and old photographs. The family’s story begins with Age and Jantje Reinstra, who left Friesland, Netherlands in 1893 with the intention of settling on Whidbey Island. They arrived in Nova Scotia, Canada, and lived in Saskatchewan for several years, before moving on.In 1898 the family arrived on Whidbey Island and purchased 80 acres of land across from what is now the Soundview Shopper on Highway 20. They farmed, growing wheat and oats and raising cattle and chickens. It was on this farm that the eldest of the remaining Reinstras formed their earliest memories of their grandparents.“I remember their farm because we lived next door to it on the north end of Whidbey Island,” Jane Oakley, a granddaughter who lives in Oak Harbor, said. “I remember that we called them Heit and Mem, which is Dutch for Momma and Daddy, and that Heit was on the Cornet school board.”June Vance, another Oak Harbor grandchild of the Reinstras, helped to plan the reunion. “I have been working on the genealogy and it’s amazing how many relatives we’ve come up with,” she said. “It just boggles my mind.” She and other family members say it would be near impossible to figure out exactly how many descendants of Age and Jantje there are. The Reinstra’s eight children were John, Jerry and Ted Reinstra, Jessie Kammenga, George Reinstra, Jennie DeGraaf, Arthur Reinstra and Josephine Lam. They and their children, have created some lasting landmarks on Whidbey Island. Age and Jantje’s oldest son, John, owned and operated a brick factory on what is currently City Beach, Vance said. Cement bricks from the factory were used in a number of buildings that are still standing, including the Harbor Light Tavern and the old Oak Harbor Bank, which was used as a pawnshop and now stands empty at the corner of PIoneer Way and Dock Street. The brick factory property was sold to the City after John Reinstra died. John’s daughter, Viola Ammondson, 90, of Oak Harbor, was the oldest family member to attend the reunion. William Lam, a grandchild of Age and Jantje, built Lam’s Links, the golf course near Deception Pass. He managed the golf course until his death in August, 1999, when his brother, George, took over the operation.For more information about the Reinstra family, call (360) 848-8605. "

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