In April of 1930, Peter Van Ruiten and his wife, Mary, took a brave step and left their homeland in Holland to forge a new life in America and a better future for themselves and their family.
Without knowing the English language, and “by the grace of God,” the couple arrived in New York with their 10-month-old daughter, Lucia. They boarded a train with no sleeping accommodations and with just a loaf of bread, cheese and jam, embarked on a five-day trek across the country to Southern California.
Once in Los Angeles, they met up with relatives and immediately began working milking cows, a job that both Peter and Mary were committed to 365 days a year for two years until their second daughter, Kathryn, arrived.
Peter and Mary added a third child to their family, their son John, and began exploring opportunities to purchase cows and rent dairy farms. The work was exhausting and began to take a toll on Peter’s health, so he took a respite from dairy farming in 1937 while he and his family made a trip back to the “old country,” fulfilling a promise he had made to family members there when they left for the United States.
In 1938, anxious to get back to work again, the Van Ruitens purchased 20 acres of land in the city of Cypress, where Peter built a house and barn for dairy farming. By 1940, ten years after they left Holland, they had built two dairy farms on the property, as well as a family house, where Lucia still resides. During those years, the Van Ruiten children attended school at St. Boniface in Anaheim, and the family attended mass at St. Irenaeus Church in Cypress, once the parish was built.
Prior to Mary’s death in October 1981 and Peter’s death in January 1982, the two wrote a loving family letter to their children and grandchildren in December of 1977 explaining the path they took once arriving in this country and how they built a life here through hard work.
“We hope that our example of hard work and sacrifice will also be followed by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren in future years,” wrote the Van Ruitens.
They also used the letter to address how they would be handling their estate. The Peter Van Ruiten Trust, established in 1982, and the Mary Van Ruiten Trust, established in 1984, were set up to benefit not only the three Van Ruiten children and seven Van Ruiten grandchildren, but five Catholic organizations, including the Orange Catholic Foundation and the Diocese of Orange, which has been receiving quarterly distributions from these trusts since 1984. With their residential properties in Cypress and Bellflower as the main source of income for the trusts, the couple felt it was imperative that their legacies with their finances honor God.
“He who gave to us so generously should be given back generously in return with great love and thanks,” wrote the Van Ruitens.
The funds received by the Orange Catholic Foundation from the Van Ruiten Trusts are used where the need is greatest in the Diocese of Orange, with some of the more recent distributions directed toward facility improvement projects at four Catholic elementary schools within the diocese and for the education of seminarians.
Their words to their family concluded with some sage advice for their grandsons and granddaughters, values that Peter and Mary hoped to have passed on to the next generation.
“Never miss Holy Mass on Sundays, live by the ten commandments, and save 10% of your income for lean years,” wrote the Van Ruitens. “Follow the good example of your parents and also remember the many good examples you learned when you were with mom, and keep them in your hearts.”
For further information on how to leave your own legacy as you honor God through your charitable trust or estate plan, please visit the Orange Catholic Foundation website at ocfpg.org or contact our staff at (714) 282-3021 or [email protected].