On 17 July 2014, Antoine van Veldhuizen, managing partner of Expatica, and his family lost their lives on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. As the fifth anniversary of the crash approaches, we asked people close to Antoine to tell us how he changed their lives, how they loved him, how he is missed still today.

If you knew Antoine and want to send us a testimonial for publication, please contact Mark Welling.

Barbara Rogoski

Former colleague

Antoine was my boss in the Sales department of Expatica for a year. He was a very visionary thinker. He was very devoted to his wife and children. We sat next to each other, and we always had a good time in the office. We went to a lot of expat networking events together, like this one at the Bols tasting center where we had some nice cocktails. We worked together on several complex advertising deals, and he gave me some good advice from time to time. When I learned his plane went down, I had been gone from Expatica for a few years, but I still felt the profound loss as all other Expatica staff who knew him. He is gone but not forgotten.


Bastiaan Seelen

VP AdForm Benelux

I met Antoine when selling our online media company to a German company. Learned a lot in those days from him. Both from a legal and a negotiation perspective. We sold the company and laughed our asses off doing it. I will never forget his face when I was doing a John Cleese impersonation and our German counterpart suddenly entered our meeting room!

The years after we regularly kept in contact, and did some business as well. We often met a the ice rink, preparing for the Alternatieve 11-stedentocht. Me being way to serious in training, while his way was: “training is done at the event”.

In Haarlem we would do our catch-ups over lunch, where his big and loud laugh would energize me a lot. We were planning another one but on Skype he messaged me that he was going on holiday first. And them the bone chilling message came on Facebook. I think of him and his family a lot. Such a great a guy and lovely family, such a big unnecessary loss.


Cristina Nunziata

Former colleague

There was something special about him. He was kind, always with a broad smile on his face… and he was big. “Buongiorno, big mountain!” is how I would greet him in the morning. You are the mountain that Holland misses.

I recall one day at the office, desks facing each other and me interrupting here and there to remind him of things I needed help doing.
He then stopped, looked at me, and with a cheeky smile said: “Cristina? I am a man and can only do one thing at a time.”
He was funny and yes, realistic too.

It’s amazing how for some people a lifetime isn’t long enough to make an impact. Some others simply do.
When I left Expatica, he gave me a personal ‘memento’ nicely wrapped: a cow egg timer with a loud mooing noise. I now boil loads of eggs.


Dave Deruytter

Head of Expatriates & Non-residents at ING Belgium

The way Antoine always said “Hello Dave” on the phone to me immediately put me in a zen mode. No need for him to add who he was.
The intonation and pace of “Hello Dave” could only be Antoine, speaking as always, from his heart. And I knew after a few calls that he always had a ‘win-win’ in mind. Even better, he was not looking for his win, as he was sure that would happen eventually, but he was looking for mine, my win. Pure trust is magic! And Antoine was second to none at creating and ‘being’ trust.

With this experience, Antoine will keep on living (further) in me (too), like he will in many other people. He most certainly magically touched many souls on earth, including mine.


Hans Groen

Former colleague and friend

When Antoine went on a trip to Luxembourg, he always called. He would discuss his plan on his way to see the client. He really just did that to keep in touch with me, as I had not worked at Expatica for at least three years. I enjoyed it very much, and we often had a laugh about the funny situations we had experienced. Antoine always won with laughing.

It is the death of Antoine that brought me back to Expatica. A terrible way to return to a company that is so dear to me and that had just lost his Mister Expatica. There is not a week that I don’t think about him. Sometimes, when I have a difficult decision to make, I step into our office library where a beautiful picture of Antoine is hanging. He always seems to look different on that photo. Sometimes encouraging, sometimes heartily laughing again. Seeing him is often enough to gain insight. It’s nice to see and feel his presence in that way.


Ilse Visser

Founder Undutchables Recruitment Agency

The last Champions League match of Ajax against Real was such a special moment again. The stadium always vibrates with a very special atmosphere during these matches. You feel the enthusiasm and excitement as the whole stage swings with the flags. And then I think of Antoine.

My very first CL competition was with Antoine, Ajax-Barcelona. It was an unforgettable match and experience. For the first time we talked extensively about our families, and of course about Ajax.

Antoine and I have known each other for a long time, businesslike. Both as starting entrepreneurs, working with and for Internationals. With Antoine you could easily talk about new ideas, concepts. A bubbly barrel full of enthusiasm and inspiration. Mark often provided the realistic note to convert those wild ideas into a plan. Together we have set up the Expat Awards, a very nice, new concept.

But most of all I think of Antoine during a CL match of Ajax. When the whole stadium radiates the same enthusiasm and happiness as Antoine always did.


Kathleen Bruggeman

Corporate Communication & Marketing Officer, Vlerick Business School

Dear Antoine,

Dear friend,

Very often my thoughts go to you and your family.

Your loss has left all of us with a bitter emptiness, an unbelief…

But your unique laugh I still can remember and hear, your enthusiasm, your positivism and incredibly beautiful balance in life … all this makes you that you are still very much alive in my heart, in the heart & soul of so many of us.

You were and still are the greatest example of how you should live the life to the fullest.

You will never be forgotten!

May you rest in peace with your beloved ones in the sunny, blue skies.


Mark Welling

Friend and business partner

At the Expatica office, Antoine’s picture is hanging on the wall of our meeting room, alongside all the books from Simone and Antoine’s personal library. Along with these physical memories, his spirit is still very much alive in the company.

The death of Antoine had an enormous impact on Expatica, and on me. With his sudden death our long-lasting collaboration, our partnership, disappeared overnight. The balance in the Expatica team and my own balance disappeared at the same time. It made me think about our relationship, our friendship, the way we collaborated as a two-man team. It forced me to reflect upon why we worked together so well, about our shared values, and about our differences.

It took me a long time to accept and really deal with it, to put everything into perspective and see the way forward without Antoine.

I’m still very appreciative for all years we worked together, and for his living example on what is and what isn’t important in life. His warm empathy, his respect and interest for all people and cultures, his desire to help others, the way he enjoyed the beautiful little things in life – will all remain a vivid inspiration for me.

I often miss our cooperation based on trust and respect, our Monday morning catch-ups, his laughter and positive remarks on almost everything. In those moments I go to our meeting room, and I look at his picture, with his twinkling eyes and quiet smile.

“Don’t forget: always approach life with a smile.”


Matt Shaw

Former colleague

Antoine started my career. I will always be grateful to him for that.

I don’t have one particular memory, a singular stand-out event, or specific anecdote from my time working with Antoine. My enduring memory of him will always be of the positive atmosphere and spirit he brought to the office and to any conversation.

Antoine did not see problems, only opportunities, and that was contagious. The first time I heard the term ‘low hanging fruit’ used in business was from Antoine. He was willing to follow his intuition, jump in without hesitation, drive positive change and bring the rest of us with him.

It was that enthusiastic, positive and inclusive spirit that made the culture of the Expatica office what it was at that time, and a pleasure to be a part of.


Natasha Gunn

Former colleague

You laughed a lot,
We heard it echo down the hall,
Big, like your heart,
Generous, and tall.

You gave a helping hand,
A steady, strong support,
Helping others reach their dreams,
A people’s man.

 


Richard Chalks Corriette

Former colleague

Antoine continues to be missed. He was always encouraging, and you could rely on him to set you straight on a few things. Antoine was a good soul, and I always felt comfortable in his company. We laughed about the most crazy things – which was great. A brilliant man with a wonderful family, taken from us far too early.


Suzy Ong

Former colleague

Antoine was one of the coolest bosses I ever had. I remember a faithful Friday evening, we were smoking up a storm in the lunch area when we heard the front door open. We looked over our shoulders as Antoine peeked in, together with his father-in-law. There was no mistaking that smell, but he simply smiled cheekily and said: “Having fun, guys? Enjoy your weekend!” And that was the day I thought – Man, he’s cool!


Wiebe van Bockel

 Commercial Director at Voerman International

First thought I have is how time flies. Five years already. I still remember the day it happened and the intense ceremony at the church in Haarlem. Great speeches, memories and music. Antoine was a person who was always around and involved. Creative and continuous ideas floating around when we met with him. He enjoyed life, and the glass was always half full. I do enjoy people with a positive mindset like that. He created something completely new in a market that was just taking off. A great entrepreneur and people person.

Antoine also built a strong foundation within Expatica. As the company is still around and a central part of the expat communities in Europe, that’s the strongest signal that Antoine did it right. By setting up this company and founding it in a strong way, it is still relevant in today’s expat communities. I value a lot how Mark and the team moved on with his legacy and built on foundations he set. Today, creativity and a positive mindset are still the base of a great company in a rapidly changing landscape.


Xian Wang

Former colleague

How are you doing in heaven? Have you made peace with life or death?  Death is such a harsh word to say. Unfortunately, there are no words that can soften it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since you were gone. It still feels very surreal to me.

Thank you for being my first boss. You were an inspiring mentor that guided me through my first job. I joined Expatica when I was 22 years old. Young and fresh from school, I barely knew anything about life. The excitement of starting to work also came with great anxiety. I’m grateful that you were my boss. I remember my first project was to put Expatica on Wikipedia. As English is not my first language, I struggled a lot with the wording. I was afraid and didn’t feel confident. You noticed that and encouraged me to work together with the editors in the office. Being a natural leader as you were, you let me finish it with patience and calmness.

You had a wide variety of interests too and liked to share them with other people. Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, was one of your favorite writers. You liked to discuss his books with me. It was great fun to talk about it, as I always learned something from you.

To me, you were a knowledgeable mentor who was always ready to help. Even when I left Expatica to start my own teaching business, you continued to be a helpful resource by referring me to other companies who would benefit from my services. For this, I’ll always be grateful.

But life is a tricky business. No one can predict what destiny has in store. Good or bad, fortune or misfortune, it is never revealed to anyone. When I feel confused, I think about you. What I’ve learned is that, the best way to memorize a lost one is to carry on living with all your heart. You inspired me to aim to be the very best version of myself.

Antoine, I want to thank you for all the things you taught me, about work and about life. I’ll always remember your cheerful and bright smile. May you and your loved ones be surrounded by angels in heaven.

Sending you a lot of love.