[by daughter Francine Whitney]
Francoise Wilhelmina (Willy) Everts Douwes died on August 24, 2014 in Canaan, Connecticut. Until June 2014, she had been a resident of Abington and Cheltenham townships.
Willy Douwes was born on July 6, 1923 in Jakarta, Java, then a part of the Dutch East Indies. Her future husband, Karel Douwes, was a childhood friend there. Following three years of Japanese occupation during World War II, the couple immigrated to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1945 and where Karel studied medicine. They were married in 1950.
In 1958, the Douwes’ immigrated to the Philadelphia area (where Karel eventually became Head of the Department of Surgery at Episcopal Hospital, in the Kensington area of the city; he later worked at Merck, Sharp and Dohme in West Point, Pennsylvania). The Douwes first settled in Melrose Park, and later lived in Wyncote and Rydal. Willy Douwes was involved in the Cheltenham Art Center, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and the Netherlands-American Association of the Delaware Valley. A fluent speaker of five languages, she also worked as a part-time translator and tour guide for the Center for International Visitors for many years.
In the early 1980s, Willy Douwes became interested in political and environmental activism. For two decades she was an active member and a leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). She was a regular, contributing letter writer to the editor of the Chestnut Hill Local. Following a serious car accident in 2004, Willy continued to campaign for peace from Stapeley Hall in Germantown, where she lived for two years.
Willy is survived by two daughters, Francine Whitney of New York and Caissa Douwes of Connecticut; she was predeceased by her husband (1991) and two brothers.