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Catharina Eck

Anna Catharina (Trienchen) Eck (∗ 03-02-1882 † 02-06-1950) was born in Kerkrade, her husband Jean Cremers (∗ 28-12-1878 † 02-05-1947) came from Voerendaal. I can not say for sure, why they moved to Valkenburg, but maybe somebody else knows more (maybe about the other uncertainties in this story too). It certainly had to do with the work of Jean as a teacher at the Valkenburg MULO school for boys.
When she came to Valkenburg, she tried to make herselve understandable by speaking her dialect from Kerkrade. There were no supermarkets, the shops still had counters, where you could express your desires. So Grandma Cremers went shopping in Valkenburg. She had almost everything together, when she said: „Dan jäft mich gevälligst nog ’ne pot zeem!“
Which means nothing else than that she wanted to get a pot of apple syrup, please. The saleswoman didn’t understand anything but one word: zeem. In the dialect of Valkenburg that means shammy, so she came up with a piece of leather. They misunderstood each other completely, until she got what she wanted by pointing at it. Apparently the dialects of Valkenburg and Kerkrade are so far apart, although the towns are near. Since then she never spoke one single word of her native dialect in Valkenburg anymore.
By her family she was called Trienchen, but in Valkenburg they probably said Catherina. That name lives on in her granddaughters Ineke and Rieneke. By her children she was called „Moeke“ (=Mom).

Her daughter, Gerda, my mother, described Catharina Eck as a firm, but at the same time very warm hearted woman. That must have been true, because otherwise she never could have managed, on more mature age, not only to set up a hotel but also to build up a very close-knit circle of guests, which is so necessary for the survival of any starting company.
It all started in the Muntstraat, at number 7. Grandpa Cremers had to deal with increasing problems from his Parkinson’s disease, it was clear that he would have to stop working soon. So Catherina started to rent out rooms with breakfast, which was obvious in Valkenburg with its booming tourism. Less obvious was the diligence, with which she tackled it. She hired rooms from neighbours and integrated them into her company. The guests who slept at the neighbours, came to her for breakfast. After a while they could have a warm meal too. That way her business grew to a complete pension.
Everything ran so smoothly, that they couldn’t satisfy the growing demand anymore. So she looked after a location to build a real hotel. Which was found at the Wilhelminalaan in Valkenburg. It was built of local yellow limestone blocks and got a very modern look.
In Germany it was the time of inflation and of high unemployment. Consequently, many Germans came in work to hotel Cremers, especially from the Rhineland. I do not know, why I think in this context of Boppard. Maybe some staff members came from there?
The two older daughters each got a task in the hotel. Wielke was physically not that strong, but she could count well. So she got an administrative task. Gerda with her fledgling 16 years got in charge of the kitchen. But in fact she did it of course along with the chef. (Later she often told us that she was 16 years old by then, so I assume that the hotel is opened in 1928. Arnold Schunck) There she learned cooking - to her children’s advantage - but in particular she learned there to manage a staff. Joop, the only boy in the family, would be a priest. So he had to study, while daughter Jetty was still too young to work.

Jan.-Feb. 1929 - Villefranche-sur-Mer

The vacations of the Cremers family were usually spent during the winter in South France, because in Valkenburg at that time they knew only the summer season. So en passant they learned a some more words of French, which of course was indispensable for a hoteliers family. Jean Cremers had the diplomas for teaching French, German and English in his pocket, but he also needed more practice.

Of course they also had to improve their English a bit. The 18-year-old daughter Gerda was sent out. With the help of the ecclesiastical contacts that they had, presumably via “reverend uncle” Willy Eck, who was rector of the nuns at St. Peter’s, they found a very Catholic family in London. They would receive Gerda as a paying guest to enable her to follow English lessons in England. A non-Catholic family, even if they would have been as blameless as can be, was not worthy of consideration at all. But although she was staying at a proper family, where she enjoyed less freedom than at home, some ladies in Valkenburg could not sympathize with it:

First time to London. Departure from Ostend, November 1931

“But Mrs Cremers, how can you do that anyway! A girl of 18 years old, alone in such a big city! Who knows, what she will get up to there!”
She answered, shrugging her shoulders: “I have got unlimited confidence in my daughter!”
An anecdote, which my mother often told to characterize her mother, probably plays during this stay in England, as her parents came to visit her there. They went eating in a London restaurant. Actually that could not be a problem, because Jean had given English lessons at school. But when the waiter came and Jean had to translate the wishes of his wife, he showed not te be able to cope with this. He was a rather timid man, he suffered his illness and he wanted to do it all very perfect. The waiter had proposed her something with fish and now Jean had to explain, that she did not want that and if he could recommend something else. It took her all too long, until he had found the correct wording and so she just said it herself in her best English: “I don’t fish!”
The waiter understood perfectly. So was our Grandma all over. And yet, we loved her above all.

1946 - Jean Cremers in front of the hotel

The disease, which increasingly handcapped Jean, resembled Parkinson’s and was often called that by the family. It was a consequence of the pandemic (global outbreak) of the Spanish Flu after the end of the first world war, in which he had helped Belgian refugees. As a result of this disease, many people suffered from neurological dysfunction for the rest of their lives (Encephalitis lethargica).

During his studies at the seminary of the Franciscans Joop became friends with Pierre Schunck. They both did not remain there. When Pierre, in the service of his father, started to manage the laundry in the Plenkertstraat, he also visited his friend Joop. This way, he and Joop’s sister Gerda became friends. Catharina, who saw that something was going to be between those two, initially hoped that they would take over the hotel. Gerda felt like doing so, but Pierre was just not the kind of man for that. So Catharina and Wielke went into retirement in the Plenkertstraat, next to the laundry. Jean was now deceased. The hotel was sold and was called hotel Austen from then.

Catharina Cremers-Eck

In haar huis, Plenkertstraat 92A, Valkenburg (naast de »Eerste Hollandsche Stoomwasserij«)

Wielke Cremers

When the laundry was sold too, they had to move again. We, so Gerda’s family, moved to the house next door, while Grandma and aunt Wielke moved to the Bogaardlaan. That was around the corner of the market, where then the girls’ school of Valkenburg was still located. So often our girls went there for lunch.

† Anna Catharina Cremers-Eck

Grandma got increasingly problems with her goiter, a strongly swollen thyroid. The disease was a result of iodine deficiency and nowadays it is almost extinct. But our granny slowly suffocated from it. My sisters Marie-José and Christine were there when her time was over.
Her life motto came from the Bible. Her daughter, Gerda, made it to her own slogan:
A wife of noble character who can find? (Book of Proverbs 31:10) In the Dutch translation this is: A strong wife, who can find her?

More pictures with Catharina Cremers-Eck and her biographical data you find at

See also: family Eck Chermin

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