Publishing stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver - author, editor, and publisher of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan. We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also publish genres of healing and wellness, humour, children's fiction, and rural poetry. Visit our website to learn more about our books.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Belgium, Netherlands & a Special Lady - Europe Adventure Blog Part 9

Have you ever been to Belgium? It's beautiful.

I'm the Never Leave Your Wingman book. (Yes, you read that correctly - I'm a book.) My author/publisher Deana Driver and I, plus Deana's husband/publisher partner Publisher Al, were in Bruges in August as part of our wonderful European adventure (see my first blog). We only spent a day in Belgium because we had so many other wonderful places to visit on our agenda ... but what we saw was beautiful and enough to make us want to go back again.. Allow me to share some of the great sights and sites from this beautiful city.

Oh, hello, Publisher Al! Are you going to lead us on our tour of Bruges?
No? Good thing. I don't think you'd fit in this little tourist vehicle.

Bruges - or Brugge, as the locals refer to it - is one of several European communities that calls itself 'Venice of the North'. We were impressed by its canals, which are tranquil and lovely. These swans and other various birds thought so, too.


Here are some common sights in downtown Bruges:
Horse and buggy rides past quaint little shops...
...which sell Belgian chocolates...

...and Belgian waffles, of course. (Psst... the bananas topping that my author ordered contained grand marnier. Yummmm!)

Bruges is famous for its lace. Many shops sell it and many homes and businesses have lace curtains and/or needlework pieces that show the richness of the local culture...

...these items are all handmade. Gorgeous.

Oh, Publisher Al. Now those are super-sized fries!

After Bruges, we were anxious to get to Holland. 

We had some special plans for the Netherlands. Several special plans, in fact.

First, we wanted to get to the town of Groesbeek in eastern Netherlands before 5 o'clock that day.

This involved driving across a tiny one-way bridge (the crossings were controlled by traffic signs showing who must yield the right-of-way)...
...through a forest which had a sign warning of wild boars crossing the road. 
Now that's not a sign I've seen in western Canada. I've been told we do have wild boars in some areas of southeast Saskatchewan, but I've never seen a sign for them.
Then again, I am a book... so enough said about that.

We saw this windmill as we arrived in Groesbeek, Netherlands. We were disappointed that it was the only windmill we saw in all our time in the Netherlands, but we did see a lot of wind turbines in the Netherlands and several other European countries. Between those and many fields full of solar panels, we determined that Europe is far ahead of Canada in alternative energy sources.

So we made it to this - the National Liberation Museum in Groesbeek - before it closed for the day. The man at the desk was reluctant to take the entry fee from my publishers because the museum was closing in an hour, but they convinced him to 'just take the money' and then point them in the direction of this important exhibit....
...a series of paintings by Calgary, Alberta artist Bev Tosh, called Canadian War Brides: A one-way passage to love. My publishers - who also published my friend The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick - were so happy to see the exhibit that my author was like a little kid, smiling and jumping up and down with excitement. 

 And this was the panel that my publishers came to see.

Everdina (Sussie) Cretier was 10 years old when she received a little coat, made from a Canadian army blanket, as a gift from Canadian tank commander Bob Elliott and his crew on Christmas Day 1944. Decades later, Sussie/Sue and Bob reconnected and fell in love.Sue still had her little coat. She brought it with her to Canada and married Bob, her hero.

Although Sue is not technically a 'war bride', her story (as told by Alan Buick in my book friend The Little Coat) inspired Bev Tosh to create a portrait of Sue for her wonderful exhibit of Canadian war brides. (My author blogged about Bev's exhibit a few months ago, explaining that Bev used Bob and Sue's wedding photograph as the model for her painting.)
Each painting also has an accompanying  description of the war bride, and Sue's painting was at the end of the row, and the first one my publishers saw when they entered the exhibit room.
My publishers quickly pulled out the three The Little Coat books they brought with them (hiding them from me until just a couple days earlier, I might add), and they asked another museum visitor to take this photo of them with the exhibit.  
These are some of the other paintings and displays in Bev Tosh's exhibit, but Sue Elliott was the most important to my publishers, of course.

So we all went to bed very excited that night, and the next day, we were in for a very special visit. 

We drove to the nearby town of Rossum, going through the lock that Sussie Cretier-Elliott's family had crossed in 1944 to escape from the German soldiers to the safety of the Allied forces.

We drove into town and went to a seniors' complex - where we met this wonderful woman... 
...Sue Elliott, the woman who received that wartime gift of a coat from Alberta soldier Bob Elliott and his crew in 1944!
It was no surprise to us that Sue is just as feisty as ever. When we arrived, she apologized for her apartment being a bit untidy. (It wasn't, actually, but she thought it was.) She had just finished washing the bathroom floor, you see, because she can do it better than the people who are employed by the residence to do the cleaning, she said! What a character.

My publishers loved every minute they spent with Sue....  
...from the visiting and sharing of stories to the long walk we took around the neighbourhood.

Sue showed us where her late husband, Bob Elliott (the soldier in the story, who passed away in February 2013) used to go every day to sit and watch the ships and boats sailing down the canal. 

It is beautifully peaceful.

She took my publishers through town and showed them the shop where her father had his garage. The family's house used to be where the large window is on the first building on the right. Sue's brother Gerard runs the business now. 

Here, my friend The Little Coat looks back on the scene that author Alan Buick captures so well with his writing.

On our walk, Sue showed us some local vegetation. This was the first time my publishers had seen a walnut tree...

...and the first time they'd eaten blackberries off a bush. What's the matter, Publisher Al? Was that berry a little sour? If you look closely, it almost seems like Sue knew that when she handed it to him. Hee hee.

We had a lovely visit with the amazing Sue Elliott...
...but we had to say goodbye to her, leaving her with one of the three copies of The Little Coat book that my publishers had brought to Europe and set on the sand at Juno Beach. When we arrived home, my publishers put one of the two remaining copies (signed by Sue Elliott) on their bookshelf and gave one to author Alan Buick, along with some photos of their visit with Sue. Just as they surprised me with this vacation, they did not tell Alan ahead of time that they might be meeting Sue. Only her daughter Trudy knew of the possibility. (Thank you, Trudy, says my author.) Alan was pleased as punch with his gifts.

Anyway, back in Holland....

...we also drove to the nearby town of Alphen, to see the landscape of the area where Sue's family had sought safety from the Canadian soldiers. 

It was hard to imagine this beautiful land as it would have been during wartime.

Then we went to the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, which honours so many who fought and died in that area during the Second World War.

Row after row of headstones.

So we leave you with this thought... as Sue told us about her and her beloved Bob's story written by Alan J. Buick in The Little Coat book - "This book is a warning to never let it happen again."

We will not forget.

Take care.

(Next blog in this series.)


  1. Love this soooooooooo much!!! My Daddy was originally from Holland and my lifelong dream is to visit there. Your post made me feel like I had just taken a trip!!! Sue is an amazing woman and her story is so touching. Thank-you for making my day!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you for your comment. We loved every moment we spent in the Netherlands and would encourage everyone to save their money and visit this beautiful country. The next blog will share some insights into Amsterdam and other parts of Holland, so stay tuned.

  2. So wonderful that you met up with her. What a story. Somehow, someway, I think we are all connected but we do not always have the opportunity find the details.