Cycle route At home with Toon
"Without love, everything makes no sense,
then you are as poor as the street....
But with love lies all beginnings,
never is it too late...
This is a place to love,
a place and a country to love."
Theatre-maker, poet, singer, painter and life artist Toon Hermans was born Antoine Gerard Theodore Hermans in Sittard, Limburg, on 17 December 1916. He had a good start; the second of five sons of a Sittard bank director, he grew up in Villa Zomerlust at 10 Parklaan. Until the bank, where his father was director, went bankrupt, due to a mistake by his father and he lost his job. The family moved to a small house at Begijnenhofstraat 5 in the centre of Sittard. When Toon turned 12, his father died and the family fell further into poverty.
Unfortunately, Villa Zomerlust was completely demolished in 1987; a model of the villa should still be found in the Domeinen archives. The house on Begijnenhofstraat still exists; a bust of the life artist can be found in front of this house. The death of his father, his childhood in poverty and the love in that warm Catholic family were later a source of inspiration for all his works.As was the love for his Sittard and for his great love Rietje.
His wife Rietje Hermans-Weijtboer (1925-1990) grew up in an orphanage in Amsterdam and met Toon on a terrace where he had a date with Rietje's girlfriend. Toon instantly fell in love with the beautiful beautician. They married in 1946 and had three sons. The love for Rietje was not only a great inspiration, Rietje was also his sounding board. If Rietje did not give her approval, the made had no right to exist in Toon's world.
His career began with a fascination for clowns. He had his first public performance at the Sint Jozef building, on Wilhelminastraat. In a talent show, Toon imitates his idol Johan Buziau and wins. Toon invents the concept for the One Man Show and grows into one of the Big Three (with Wim Kan and Wim Sonneveld). The style of his conferences, his songs, his drawings and his poems (which he himself invariably calls "versjes") is melancholic but there is always that smile. Until wife Rietje died of cancer in 1990. The smile disappears from his face and when he sings "Lente me" tears trickle down his cheeks.
Toon died on 22 April 2000 at the age of 83 in Nieuwegein. According to the presenter of Nova that evening, "Toon leaves behind a land of fond memories". Toon, after a service in the Gemma Chapel, was buried in the Public Cemetery in his beloved Sittard with his wife Rietje. Near the family grave is a bench around a red beech tree with a poem by Toon.
"Shall I travel to a star,
north or south
'tis equally far.
Deep within myself
I feel it already,
I am here... and everywhere".
This route takes you past a number of places in Sittard that were important in Toon's life. Much has not been preserved, but there is enough to get to know the man behind the beautiful art a little better. Have fun!
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