In Memory of





Obituary for Johannes (John) Barend Zandstra

Johannes, “Jan”, “John” Barend Zandstra

Johannes “Jan/John” passed away the morning of January 31, 2023. He went to be with his Lord and Saviour very peacefully with family at his side at Donwood Manor. Jan was pre-deceased by Elizabeth “Bep/Betty” in May 2019, and his brother Niek (Marja) in January 2019. He is survived by: sibling Hubert (Ilse) Zandstra; children: Peter (Cathy) Zandstra, Marietta Werschler, Nelly (Greg) Sinclair, and Nina (Jon) Labun; grandchildren, Matt (Caitlin), Michael, Rebecca (Kristian), James, Jascha (Lydia), Nico, Simon, Josiah (Alicia), Marie, Emily (David), Frieda (Gage), Willem (Danielle), Marcus and Peter; great-grandchildren, Joseph, Charlie, Emma-Louise, Ivy, Ellie, Zadok; and countless others whose lives he touched with his love and laughter.

Jan was born in Magelang, Indonesia as the son of a Dutch Armed Forces officer. By the age of 4, he was interned in a Japanese prison camp with his mom and 2 younger brothers and stayed until Dutch internees’ liberation and repatriation to the Netherlands. His father Pierre Jacques Zandstra was killed during the war, after which the family relocated to Scheveningen, Netherlands to live with his mom’s parents. While Jan’s now single mother finished her Master’s degree at the local University, Dad finished his schooling and continued with higher technical training as a Structural Engineer. During this period, he also served the required 2 years in the Dutch military as a communications officer. Nearing the completion of his service he found himself back with his mom and brothers in Zeist, Netherlands where the family had purchased a home and was settled. It was in this city where he encountered his future wife at the local Christian youth drama ministry while helping set up the stage for a community outreach play. They were soon in love and eventually married on Dec 20th 1960.

Jan, like many young people of his age, had a great desire to emigrate. After considering Australia, New Zealand, USA, and South Africa they resolved to move to Canada and emigrated in early 1961. They found themselves in Edmonton among a fast-growing Dutch ex-pat community and could feel a little bit more comfortable as they adjusted to the new experiences and cold harsh winters. Jan found work, first as a cement worker, then returning partially to his chosen field as an engineering draftsperson, but always desiring to be fully licensed as a Structural Professional Engineer. The requirement for professional engineering was that he would have to graduate from University of Alberta. There were only two paths to accreditation; the first was to pay and fully attend all 4 years of classes, or the 2nd option: challenge for credit by passing written exams for every class across the 4 year program. Jan took time off work for 3 months to study and wrote all 4 years of exams in 3 months under the “challenge for credit” option. At completion he was hired as a fully qualified Professional Engineer with Underwood McClellan in Edmonton.

During their first 5 years in Edmonton, Jan and Bep added their first two children, Peter and Marietta and gained great friendships with Maart and Nel Van DeGuchte’s, Louise and Art Vandenberg, the Scholte’s and many more. Bep’s sister Gé also joined them working at Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital after graduating from Nursing in the United Kingdom. After five years in Edmonton, Winnipeg became their new home as a result Dad’s job transfer with Underwood McClellan. They were quickly adopted by many families here, including the Halbesma, Wynia, Vanderhooft, Koene, Spier, Harris, Kamaraad, Craddock, Kehler, Giese, Meinders, Eisses, Melissen, Schippers, Jongsma, Schaafsma, Vanderwees, Postuma families, and many more with apologies to those missed. In Winnipeg Jan and Bep added two more children: Nelly and Nina. There were many happy times as all these families raised their children, with boating, hiking, camping, skating and tobogganing as the seasons allowed.

Dad was a steady, dedicated worker and succeed quickly in his career. After a short time in his Engineering position in Edmonton he was relocated to Winnipeg by his firm, to help with the heavy backlog of work on buildings and bridge contracts across Manitoba. His career also extended to a term with Manitoba Hydro where he was responsible for several of the northern hydro projects including the towns of Jenpeg, Sunset, and several others. After a few years at Hydro, Jan worked briefly at a few other firms but soon branched out on his own, starting his own firm under the name ‘JB Zandstra Consultants’. This was a difficult transition; always alternating between “drowning in too much work”, or “no work at all”. Over the years he often sought to hire junior graduates from UofM and draftsmen from Red River College, giving them their first start in their professions. The business eventually flourished with many projects and gained respect from clients across Winnipeg and around Manitoba. Some of the tallest structures in Winnipeg today have J.B. Zandstra’s P.Eng. stamped approval on their original drawings. At retirement he sold his company to Smith Carter with a commitment that all his staff would continue there for at least 2 full years.

Dad was a faithful follower of Christ Jesus. He was an example of the confidence that God is in control no matter what. We cannot remember him ever complaining about a situation. His steady faith through his entire life produced a peace and acceptance that could be seen in the way he treated everyone.

As his dementia become more serious his life and travels reduced. He lived at Donwood Manor Personal Care Home without complaint for almost 6 years. Initially his wife Bep was a steadfast support to Jan with daily or even twice daily visits, despite the progression of his dementia. When Bep passed away, he seemed to understand, tearfully expressing “Bep, no more”. Following Bep’s passing, others stepped in and provided loving support and care, helping to keep him as alert, engaged and active as he could be. The Donwood Care Home staff treated him like their own ‘Opa’, as we say in Dutch for Grandpa.

In the final years he survived all the Covid variants without infection, entirely due to the diligent amazing staff and nurses at Donwood Manor until this most recent outbreak. At this point he wasn’t strong anymore and in His grace, God has taken him home. Jan passed away very peacefully, with family by his side, on January 31st, just short of his 86th birthday.

The memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, February 4, 2023 at Covenant Christian Church, 653 Knowles Ave., Winnipeg.

The service will be livestreamed at

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Resonate Global Mission (CRWM) or Donwood Foundation.