Tribute to Dan by his son Bram Desmet, as read at Dan's Memorial Service.
Dan’s story is largely that of a self-made man. One who, as my favorite author would say, “took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but his own vision.” That is how among other things we came to live in this country and then almost two decades later start our own family run company.
But to say Dan was a self-made man is not to say he was a man unto himself. Quite to the contrary so much of what defined Dan was his love for and dedication to others, especially his family and friends.
But, Dan was a fiercely intelligent man that truth be told could intimidate even the most self-confident among us with his sharp wit and unabashed convictions on everything from the mundane to the monumental. And yet those who loved him most may have been the ones who learned to stand up to and even spar with this force, this man who was our very own Lion of Flanders.
I for one can recall no point of greater self-growth in my life than learning to stand up to my father’s ideas and shear force of will. And as funny as it may sound this was the real beauty of being able to work with my father: the opportunity to not only learn from his immense knowledge, but to also learn so much about myself by being able to occasionally butt heads with one of the smartest and most insightful individuals I have ever known. Yet despite this Lion’s gruff exterior inside lay a giant teddy bear as any of Dan’s grandchildren can gladly attest to. Opa was the ultimate bear hug machine and as his grandchildren and all of his friends know he was also one of the most generous people you could ever meet.
Knowing Dan you could not be found wanting. As my mother recently recalled to me when Dan was in the Merchant Marines he had saved a bit of money while at sea for some time with little to do with his earnings except for save it. But as soon as he was back ashore he walked into a nearby bar and bought drinks for everyone inside. That was Dan, generous to a fault. Always believing that to die rich was a fools errand and that there was no shame in enjoying what you could while you could.
Over the years Dan and I became each other’s sounding boards, constantly bouncing ideas off of each other. And then a couple of years ago I distinctly remember that sounding board becoming an echo chamber. We would quite literally finish each other’s sentences and when we did we knew we were onto a good idea. Dan had always been a great and dedicated father to my sister and me but it was in working with my Dad over the years that he really became one of my best friends.
Dan and I ended up seeing eye to eye on so much there was seldom a reason for both of us to travel to any one meeting, but those rare occasions where the two of us were able to go out on the road together are some of my most cherished memories of my Dad. One such fantastic trip was last year when Dan and I attended IBC in Amsterdam, but we had made reservations rather late and my Mom had come over to Belgium to visit so we all ended up staying in Gent, the birthplace of both my sister and me. Gent, as my father was fond of saying, is not only one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium, but also one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Beauty aside those of you familiar with your European geography will note that Gent and Amsterdam are not exactly just down the road from one another. This made for some wonderfully long commutes to and from Amsterdam everyday, but also allowed for plenty of time for Dan’s famous storytelling. It is times like these that I will miss the most.
Dan swore me to secrecy with most of his stories on that trip, on more than one occasion telling me “you better not let your mother know I told you that story, she wouldn’t be happy that I told you.” The general lesson I gathered from these humorous tales is that my sister and I were WAY TOO WELL BEHAVED as kids and young adults and that we should probably have been up to a lot more trouble to properly live up to our parents, especially my Dad’s, trouble making legacy.
On a more serious note I also want to recognize my father as one of the most outstandingly supportive and loving husbands to have every graced our planet. As most all of you know my wonderfully strong mother was diagnosed with cancer shortly before Dan and is now in complete remission. While undergoing treatment he would not leave her side making the hospital essentially his new home. Despite knowing that a likely even tougher journey lay ahead for him in his own health battles he was solely focused on seeing her through her own tough struggle. His dedication to the love of his life was truly enviable and if we all endeavor to be as loyal to the ones we love as my father was the world will only be better for it.
And while I mourn the loss of my friend and my father, I mourn most of all for my children and my niece who had their Opa taken from them much too soon. Opa’s stories, Opa’s laughter, and that heart-warming smile are lost to them more than anyone else. So in closing I just want to say to Connor, Madison, Olivia, and Holden that your Opa loved you and that I know from his lips to my ears that you were the thing he cherished most in this world.
Tribute to Dan by his daughter Yoke Rhodes, as read at Dan's Memorial Service.
The greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother and my father did that perfectly. My parents were married for 32 years and they showed us what marriage is truly about. my father was an incredible man. He was a successful business man who was tough on the outside but had a heart of gold. most of us know that the love between a father and daughter is unique. a father is a daughters first true love. then when the daughter finds her prince charming the father lets her go but with a very close eye on the prince.
Stephen might still have scars from the very tight hug at our wedding that Dan gave him but he welcomed Stephen into our family and treated him like a true son. whenever I needed my father he was there. I trusted his advise and turned to him for every difficult decision. my father was also the best opa in the world. He loved his grand kids more than anything and my heart is so heavy knowing that they will grow up without him now but I know he will never be forgotten. Opa made such a positive impression in our children's lives and I know that opa is watching over all of them. dad I love you and just like the song you and I danced to at my wedding "you can tell everybody this is your song it might be quite simple but now that it's done I hope you don't mind I hope you don't mind what I've put down in words how wonderful life is when you were in the world."
Tribute to Dan by his friend and motorcyle riding buddy Kym Schumacher
I’ve known Dan and Linda for around 23 years now. Our families both moved to Suwanee, Georgia back in 1989, while Pris and I came from the St. Louis area and the Desmets came from Belgium. Our families had quite different backgrounds, but we were both new to the area and seem to hit it off well with each other. Dan was always very busy with work, traveling around the world, and he was very successful in his endeavors. Along the way, Linda and Pris became very close, our children went to school together, we spent some money on weddings and now we have grand children to play with.
Dan and I did not spend much time together as we were both busy with work providing for our families over the years. Then about five years ago, I found out that Dan had always enjoyed riding motorcycles and like myself, did not own one when our kids were little as there just wasn’t time for that pleasure. I started riding Harleys and Dan acquired a used BMW that he and Linda would ride. Then he got a new GT which put the bug in me about getting one. I exchanged a few emails with Dan about the bike and my interest kept growing. Then he offered to let me use the bike for a week while he was out of town, I took it up to the North Georgia Mountains; well not long after that I was the owner of a BMW as well!
I usually rode by myself but I started riding once in a while with Dan and found out he was quite a rider. Later I heard about this group of riders, known as the Bibbers. I knew Dan spoke four languages, while I struggle with one, and thought to myself, what does this word means or what language is it. Finally I asked, it was so simple, Belgium International Bikers! Riding became even more enjoyable with this group if that’s possible. They rode hard and always rode to eat somewhere. The rides were great, food was good and the camaraderie was always there even if I didn’t know what was being said most of the time. Every so often Dan would speak up and tell the group to speak English, but it didn’t matter as I always enjoyed the rides. BMW came out with a new six cylinder bike, which of course Dan and I both wanted dearly. Our wives thought we were crazy but we both had plans to add to our fleet of bikes …………
I am blessed to have known Dan and will always be thankful that we met the Desmets when we moved here to Georgia. Dan has been taken from us way too soon as he was a great man, great husband and a great father. We will all miss him but we can take pleasure in knowing that he is in heaven and hopefully we will be joining him there some day. May God bless us all.