By Jan Stel, Co-chair of European Grandparents for Climate
Koen taught me how to demonstrate in Brussels. Koen was always in good spirits leading the way with his loudspeaker.’ What do we want?’ he would ask us. ‘Climate justice’ we answered in chorus and at the top of our voices. ‘When do we want this?’ was the next question. With conviction we shouted: ‘Now!’ I enjoyed his leadership and will never forget it. Koen became a friend, who told his grandchildren stories about his palaeontologist friend. The man who had given them dino eggshells.
Koen was visionary and purposeful. He was a Fleming who understood the need for a European Grandparents Organization. With Marc Cabus and a few Dutch grandparents from the first hour, they laid the foundation for our European Grandparents for Climate organization. Together we are strong, together we can face the climate challenge, together we can fight for a fair and good future for the youth, was his message. I learned a lot from him.
With him the Flemish Grootouders voor het Klimaat, and the European Grandparents for Climate, lost a pioneer, inspirer and organizer. Koen’s charisma, made him the right man for the action, and a catalyser within our Flemish Grootouders organization. Koen saw opportunities where others didn’t, and did not like empty words. Koen was straightforward, a man with a passion and his heart in the right place. No matter how ill he was, he called me in December to congratulate us on the founding of the European Grandparents for Climate association. In his weakened voice, he spoke highly of what had happened, of the fire that had been lit in Brussels, and of the future of our European organization. I was moved and so grateful for his words. And suddenly he said, “We’ll talk again, I’m tired now. ‘Thanks Koen’, I said. ‘Bye Jan’ said Koen…
Let me close with the words of Marc Cabus in his impressive retrospective at the Flemish Grandparents for Climate website:
“He was proud of his children, but most of all he was a grandfather. How his eyes shone when he stood next to a grandchild. How those boys shone when one of them stood next to him at the podium at our annual picknick.
Thank you, Koen. What a legacy.
Keep smiling, Koen.”