Winny Overbeek Van Gils, 95, passed away on Wednesday, May 13, in the presence of loving family. She was born August 29, 1919, in Bandung, Java, Indonesia, to Frieda Heijman and Karel Overbeek. She had two younger brothers Johan (John) and Dirk van Renesse. John would be her close friend all her life while Dirk died a war hero in a World War II prison camp.
Growing up in Indonesia, her childhood was brilliant and adventurous. There are epic stories of sneaking out of her parents’ home to swim and play around with the water buffalo, fly kites, ride bikes or climb trees. She loved her native land and would always long to be home.
During the beginning of World War II, she married Gerard Eduard Van Gils. Together they would endure wartime Indonesia, three years of Gerard’s time as prisoner of war, and the Indonesian revolution. While their hearts were with Indonesia, their loyalty was to their Dutch citizenship. After the war they would relocate to the Netherlands where they continued to raise their five children: Marguerite, Dirk (Leo), Friedje, Gerard, and Bert. In 1956 Gerard was invited to work for General Tire & Rubber Co in Akron, Ohio, so they once again moved their young family. In America, their sixth child, Carl, was born.
Together with her husband, Winny was devoted to her children. She drew great pleasure from their success and growth. One of her greatest joys was and continues to be her love of family including grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Winny always loved children. She devoted her life to teaching and for years operated a private Christian Montessori school in Redlands, California. Known affectionately as “Miss Winny” she was loved by everyone who interacted with her at the “Children’s Corner.” Many years later, she delighted in the growth and progress of those children who were once her students.
In Redlands she had to say goodbye to her husband of almost 50 years. Gerard passed away in their home on December 17, 1990.
She is perhaps best known for her volunteer spirit. In 1995 she served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in her beloved homeland of Indonesia. She worked in local church branches, taught English, and performed much humanitarian service.
After her mission she served in many volunteer positions in her new home in St. George, Utah, working in local schools, charitable organizations, and in the community. She founded and organized a community garden where families would have an opportunity to raise flowers and vegetables; she started a fundraising effort known as the “Living Angels” to raise money for worthwhile charities including the Erin Kimball Foundation which cares for at risk women and children; she volunteered until two weeks prior to her death at the DRMC Wound Clinic.
In 2002 she was selected as an Olympic Torch bearer and later in 2007 met former President George Bush when she was chosen as National Volunteer of the Year for ViSTA (Volunteers in Service to America).
Winny was extremely devoted to Jesus Christ. She carried with her a testimony of His Gospel and readily shared it with others. Though we are sad and our feelings tender, we take heart in her faith that families can be reunited again and that this life is just a preparation for greater things to come. Our memory of her encourages us to find greater charity and love and to try harder to be of benefit to this world.
- Funeral services will be held Monday, May 18, at 11 a.m. at the St. George 5th ward, LDS Chapel, 85 South 400 East, St. George.
- Visitations will be held Sunday, May 17, from 6-8 p.m. at Spilsbury Mortuary, 110 S. Bluff Street, St. George and on Monday, from 9:30-10:30 a.m., prior to services at the chapel.
- Interment will be in the St. George Cemetery.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Spilsbury Mortuary, 435-673-2454. As an alternative to flowers, please consider making a donation in Winny’s name to one of her favorite non-profit organizations, the Erin Kimball Foundation, PO Box 1230, Washington UT 84780 or at www.erinkimball.org.
Friends and family are invited to sign Winny’s online guestbook at the Spilsbury Mortuary website.