[ Editor's note: This obituary is reprinted as it first appeared on the website for Sig's funeral services. ]
Peter J. Hovenier returned to his Heavenly Father on January 18 surrounded by loving family. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Ann; son Jack (Dawna, Megan, and Casey); son Jeff and wife Laura (Helen, Peter, Megan, and Julia); son Peter and wife Frances (Blaine); daughter Kathie and husband Mike (Victoria, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Jake), and two great-grandchildren.
His devotion to Ann was the defining characteristic of his life. Nothing made him happier than to bring her joy. His commitment to her, and their eternal relationship, brought them immense happiness. He was always grateful to his brother-in-law, Bill Stepp, for introducing them.
Pete was the epitome of the “self-made man.” Born on November 5, 1931, to Guurtje and Jacob Hovenier in Nieuwe Niedorp, Netherlands, his childhood was interrupted by the Nazi occupation of Holland during the Second World War. During the war his family endured a forced relocation from their home to a tulip bulb shed. A life-long soccer fan, this experience gave rise to his two cardinal rules for World Cup Soccer: always root for Holland and never, ever root for Germany.
He immigrated at age 18 to the United States. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was proud of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, serving during the Korean War from 1951 - 1954. Notwithstanding the conflict in Korea, he was assigned to an intelligence unit in Germany; this contributed to his healthy skepticism of government decisions.
While in the military, he became acquainted with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he was baptized in 1953. The LDS Church was central to his life, and he served in many capacities, including as Bishop of the Bellingham First Ward from 1975 - 1978. Pete and Ann served a mission in Holland from 1999 - 2001. As a church leader, Pete always made time for those in need; he exemplified Christ’s teaching “as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Pete was the first member of his family to attend college. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree from Brigham Young University, and a master’s degree and doctorate from Stanford University. He taught school in California, at Department of Defense schools in Germany, and at Southern Oregon University. He joined the faculty of Western Washington University in 1970, and taught there for 27 years, retiring as a full Professor. He trained hundreds of social studies teachers, and made it a point to know each of them personally. He set the bar high for his students, expecting excellence while providing them with guidance and support.
Some of Jack’s favorite memories with his Dad are swimming with him in Uncle Jake’s pool and going to Disneyland. Jeff’s memories include Dad painting the I-5 rock to welcome him home from a two-year mission. Pete recalls Dad’s continued love and support in his teenage years, even when the natural challenges between teenage sons and fathers made their relationship harder. Kathie remembers frequent outings with Dad, standing on his shoes while dancing together, and Dad sneaking her candy whenever at church or a concert. All of his children appreciate their father’s effort to pass on his Dutch heritage, including chocolate letters at St. Nicholas Day, marzipan, Dutch cheese, Christmas scavenger hunt poems, and family trips to Holland.
Pete was devoted to his family. He was separated from his mother in Holland for most of his adult life and made frequent trips to visit her. His sister-in-law, Amy Shreve, counted on Pete to do small home repairs. His many nieces and nephews loved their “Uncle Pete.” His in-laws, Homer and Laura Stepp, appreciated his many acts of service for them, and deemed him a fine son-in-law worthy of their daughter. He consistently made decisions in his career and church obligations which allowed him to spend time with his children. He took great interest in each of his grandchildren's lives and traveled several continents to participate in each of his grandchildren's baptisms. His greatest hope was that they continue his legacy of service, fidelity and faith.
A funeral service will be held Saturday, January 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the LDS Church at 2925 James Street, in Bellingham; the service will be preceded by a viewing from 11:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. Interment at Bayview Cemetery with military honors will take place immediately following the service.