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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

Dutch refugee settled in Hudson

HUDSON, Mich. - Simon H. Sleutelberg, whose family ran a local clothing store for more than 60 years after fleeing the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands during World War II, died Sunday in Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. He was 85.

Mr. Sleutelberg died of heart failure brought on by double pneumonia, said his son, Rabbi Arnold M. Sleutelberg.

The elder Mr. Sleutelberg "was always so appreciative of the warm welcome and safe haven that Hudson represented" when his family settled there after emigrating to the United States in 1939, his son said.

He returned the favor by being generous whenever opportunity arose, such as by giving free clothing to house-fire victims and providing free burial suits for people too poor to own nice outfits, the rabbi said.

"He loved people. He took such joy in serving them well, and getting them the goods they needed at a fair price," Rabbi Sleutelberg said.

While Mr. Sleutelberg's father had run a butcher shop in Holland, he chose to be a clothing merchant in Hudson because by that time, meat merchants also had to sell groceries to be competitive.

Mr. Sleutelberg's work in the store was interrupted only by his being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. He became a laboratory technician in Texas until his discharge in 1945.

He and his wife, E. Edith Hes, were introduced to each other as pen pals by a mutual friend. In late 1953, he traveled to the Netherlands to meet her, and they married six months later after her emigration to the United States was arranged. Miss Hes' family had survived World War II by hiding in the attic of a Christian family in their hometown for 2 1/2 years.

The couple retired in 1992, closing the store and allowing local churches to sell the remaining merchandise.

Along with his wife and son, Mr. Sleutelberg is survived by a daughter, Ester Rosalie Sleutelberg, and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. today in the Brown-Van Hemert Funeral Home, Hudson, where services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to the Hudson Educational Foundation.



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