Adriana Van Luik




(Compare with 1941 photo at end of page)


(van Luik is the European way of spelling the last name, and there the name starts with an L and not a V: "Luik, Adriana van" is how it was listed in her official Dutch pension paperwork, for example)

Born: Adriana Lissenberg, 21 August 1917, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Parents: Abraham Eliseus Jan Lissenberg and Jacoba Groenewegen

Died: 31 August 2005, Las Vegas, Nevada, age 88 years and 10 days

Married in 1941 to Jacobus (Jack) Van Luik

Four children, Jaap (known as Jack in the US); Bram (known as Abe in the US), Alex, and Corrie, in order from first to last. [This short life description is by the # 2 son, Abe, who lives in Las Vegas a few miles from where Adriana lived her last 14 years of life.]


Grandchildren, 10 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren.


Adriana suffered a 'Cinderella' childhood, with much hard work and no play. Her father died, she had a short-lived stepfather, Willem Schippers, who also died, and then her mother tried to emigrate to America and left the children, temporarily, with relatives. Because of the strains of the times, it was the great depression in Europe too, these relatives turned them over to an orphanage (in Groesbeek, near Nijmegen, in 1932). There, she worked hard from early to late every day. Because she was 15, she was farmed out to local families to do housework and cooking. She was supposed to get a pittance of pay, never did, but the orphanage was paid for her labors. Her siblings were younger and so remained in the orphanage.

She was ill used, deprived of promised food and pay, but after about a year she left the orphanage and ended up with a good family in Nijmegen that became like a substitute family to her. She supported herself working at an old folks home and also being an occasional domestic for the family that had taken her in and several other nicer families that treated and paid her well.

In the meantime, her mother was intercepted by the authorities before she could get off the boat in America. She was sent home and after some legal delays, meaning about a year, took the children back to live with her. Adriana refused to go back to her mother; she stayed with the people who had taken her in and were good to her in Nijmegen.

At the old folks home she met a girl who introduced her to her brother. He was handsome, played a jazz trombone in an ensemble, and was an amateur boxer going for his Golden Gloves. They fell in love and got married; it was 1941, both were 24. He gave up boxing.  His name was Jacobus (Jaap, Jack in the U.S.) van Luik.

The Second World War was in full swing, and she bore two sons during the war. The first son, Jaap (Jack), was born during the German occupation when food was scarce. The second son, Bram (Abe) was born toward the end of the war, conceived during a break in Jack Sr.'s slave labor service in Germany. His first slave labor assignment was horrible; many did not survive that camp. His second assignment was in Hagen, Westphalia, and was obtained through the auspices of a kindly furniture maker, who requisitioned him from the first camp as an act of kindness (just like in the movie "Schindler's List"). In this second assignment he worked in the factory making specialty furniture for the high command and also worked doing home maintenance for local families, as ordered.

In the town of Hagen one day, planes flew over to bomb a larger town to the east and the Germans fired on them, causing fire to be returned. In that fire-fight, Jack Sr. (our father) was injured, shrapnel deep in his back, and after being nursed by a local farm family, when an opportunity came for a train home a kind doctor had him put on that train to go home and die. It was the last train to cross the border before it was closed. The allied forces were approaching.

Adriana nursed him back to health against the odds. When better, he worked for a time in the fire department.

He had been a policeman before the war but moved to the fire department when police were being used to round up Jews. Policemen were exempted from slave labor, but as a fireman he received an ultimatum to report for slave labor, or be shot. After the war, peacetime found them in a comfortable home, reaching toward middle class with him working a respectable job at a local factory. Both did some night school; he was promoted. Another boy was born, Alex, then finally a girl, Corrie. Then they heard about a special program.

A friend of the oldest son came by to say his family was moving to California because there was a special refugee program for those injured by the Americans in action during the war. Adriana’s husband thought he should qualify. Adriana urged him strongly to call, now. It was Saturday. Their eldest son, at Adriana’s urging, climbed over the neighbor’s fence and called. It was about 11 AM.  The man on the other end of the neighbor's phone said he would have to impersonate his father, he had to take his application now, over the phone. It was a 10-year special program and ended at 1 PM that very afternoon!

Six months later, the family of two forty-year olds and four kids ranging from 15 to 3 ended up in College Station, Texas, where friends were made that, literally, lasted a lifetime.

In rapid succession, jobs took her husband to Galveston, Houston, Lake Charles, and finally there came the point where Adriana again very strongly urged that they pick up and do what they had always dreamed of -- move to California. There they awakened to the American Dream: big house, pool, several cars. She became a nurses' aide, then went through night school, and passed her State Board the first time. Adriana was now a Licensed Vocational Nurse.

In her later years, the stories from her nursing days never ceased to flow. She was actually very happy, though always tired since she worked the graveyard shift and did her housework in the daytime. And when it came to housework she was a perfectionist. Right to the very end.

After 20 years of working, she retired shortly after her husband retired. Her husband wanted to leave California and move to where the kids were: Washington State. They did that and had a nice home in Ridgefield, Washington. For a while three of the four kids were nearby, the fourth just 200 miles away, until he moved across the country.

She also had an inner life. She and her husband were members of the Theosophical Society in the Netherlands, which they quit in the U.S. when they instead became Rosicrucians and he a Mason, she an Eastern Star member. Their attitude toward Christianity was one of respect, they were very much influenced by the little book "Esoteric Christianity" by Annie Besant. Since the sponsor for our coming to America was the Presbyterian Church in College Station, Texas, they were active Presbyterians for a while. But when they moved from Texas, they chose to stop attending and studied and practiced their own spirituality.

Life was good until her husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack, in 1989. She was a relatively young widow at 72. Two years later she, and then the number three son, moved to sunnier climes. Las Vegas, where the number two son lived, became home. She quite enjoyed herself and declared her freedom. She said she was through feeding people and serving them. It was her turn. True to her word, she never had anyone to her house for a dinner the entire time she lived in Las Vegas. She did, however, enjoy eating out and was not averse to paying for it.

She did continue to serve others, though, and gave away the products of her talents as a great pastry chef. The local family (and sometimes the more distant ones, too) were at times surprised with Dutch style pastries that were really hard to resist. They were never exactly the same. She used whatever was at hand. She loved her Las Vegas Eastern Star Lodge and its ladies, just as she had loved those ladies and that organization in Ridgefield, Washington, and (in both places) often fed them deliciously richly decorated cakes -- always iced with whipped cream -- and other pastries.

One good surprise came in Las Vegas, when she rediscovered her brother John, with whom she had lost contact for a number of years. John turned up in an Internet White Pages search of California. What a surprise when he answered that phone! It was good for her to have him to talk to and see when he came to Las Vegas. Occasionally she sent him some of her trademark pastries, which he always praised and appreciated. They had originally found each other when her brother discovered her husband’s business card posted in a store selling Dutch food. After Adriana and her family moved to Washington, they had lost contact.


What she loved almost as much as anyone or anything, however, was her 1992 Buick Skylark. A remarkably dependable car for over 121,000 miles, most of it put on during  Sunday "Sucky Rides" that were the highlights of her week with the number-two son chauffeuring her on day trips, to California usually, but also to Arizona and Utah on occasion.

She was a good sport and allowed an occasional long and grueling off-road trip. Definitely risky and abusive of her little sedan, but it always performed flawlessly. Adventures, she would call such hair-raising trips.

On many of these trips she talked about her vision of the afterlife. She was convinced there was one, that the spirit hovered around the body and visited places and people important to this life for a certain number of days, then moved on to greater things. Infrequent return visits were possible over the longer term. However, she also firmly believed in reincarnation. She wondered if her husband had been reincarnated already or would be waiting for her. These discussions were always light-hearted; she had no fear of dying or death.

Her car was destroyed in an accident she survived. But it devastated her. To cheer her up, we went out and bought a brand new 2005 Buick LaCrosse, a simply gorgeous car. She only had it just under a month, 562 miles. The day after we spent half a day and five hundred dollars registering it, while sitting at her table with her afternoon coffee, her heart gave out and she quietly collapsed and fell. She was found several hours later because of the daily ritual of calling her and going to check on her if she could not be raised by phone in an hour. She had been dead 3 to 4 hours when found, according to the coroner's examiner.

The examiner described a painless drifting into unconsciousness as the likely scenario. That fits with the calm and peaceful look on her face. It also fits with what she had said a few days prior: 'sometimes I feel I am going to faint, and once I did. Picked myself off the floor. One of these times I may faint and not get off the floor.’ Hearing this, son and daughter-in-law each strongly and repeatedly urged her to see her doctor as soon as possible. Her appointment was only days away.

She is universally remembered as a very strong and willful woman. She is also remembered for her wit and charm. She was a clever and insightful conversationalist. She communicated via email regularly and was not afraid of computers.  In her 70s she hiked to Timpanogos Cave in Utah and up to Mary Jane Falls in southern Nevada, with a thousand foot (300 m) elevation gain in both hikes. Her baking prowess, and her upbeat disposition are frequently mentioned by those offering condolences to the family.


She had a perfectionist streak, and little tolerance for those who did not meet her exacting standards, particularly among her children. So, she was not perfect, but she came pretty darn close!



Adriana (Jeanne in Holland, Jane in US)

and Jacobus (Jaap in Holland, Jack in US)

in March of 1941, at their wedding.

 Back to Life in 2005 page (Adriana was with me on many of my picture-taking forays, this year as well as previous years)

Almost four years later, a surprising letter is found from her mother!