Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Injustice Corrected

Twenty years ago I read the below article by then Editor-in-Chief Father Karel Denys. I was simply a subscriber to the Gazette van Detroit. I remember thinking at the time, "how sad that this great man has no gravestone to mark the place where his body rests." 

Last year during the Annual Dinner, one of his descendants, Ms. Pat Cools Dorset, and I promised each other that we would correct this injustice. Today we have. Camille Cools' grave is now appropriately marked. 

At the same time, in Moorslede, his birthplace, a street has been named in his honor. The foto at the bottom of this post is courtesy of  Belgian Publishing Inc., Board of Directors Member Bruno Scheers. My heartfelt thanks to the Mayor and people of Moorslede!

"80 Years Ago - Camille Cools: printer, publisher, editor"

From the August 4, 1994 (Vol.80 No.16) Gazette, pp.1-2 

[NOTE:  I have corrected some minor grammatical and syntax errors]

"After resigning as agent of the Gazette van Moline in the beginning of 1912, Camille Cools opened a printing business in partnership with Pieter Vinckier, in September of that year. The Cools-Vinckier Printing Co. was later renamed The Belgian Press. At the end of 1913 they printed a Vermakelijken Almanak ("Amusing Almanac") of more than 100 pages for the year 1914. Unfortunately no copy of it can be found.

"The time for publishing the first number of the Gazette van Detroit on August 13 was most auspicious: German troops invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914. The paper provided news from Belgium up to August 12 to the Flemish American communities, where many recent immigrants were greatly concerned about the fate of the relatives and friends they left behind. Unfortunately, except for the first number, no copies of the Gazette van Detroit before March 1916 have been found.

"Camille Cools found an excellent helper for the technical aspect of the Gazette in Staf Vermeulen, a native of Izegem, where he had been the best printer under Alois Strubbe until he emigrated to the U.S. in 1913.

"About the motto of the Gazette – Het Licht voor ‘t Volk – Camille Cools himself, in the August 4, 1916 edition wrote (under the title “The Large Distribution of the Gazette van Detroit”): “Two years ago the terrible war broke out in Europe and the Germans invaded Belgium and made our people suffer so much. Then the idea came up to publish a newspaper that would give people light  about all that concerned the war and mankind. This would be a paper that would inform the people about all the things that our people had to endure and at the same time shed light  on the deceptions that were perpetrated among the Belgians in Detroit, who always and too often had to suffer for them…”


"One of Camille Cools’ good friends and collaborators was Frank Cobbaert, a native of Nederhasselt in East Flanders. They were among the first members of the Belgian-American Century Club – Cools as member No.1 – founded in 1913. Cobbaert wrote that Cools had discussed his plans for a newspaper with him and that he had asked Cools about the direction that the newspaper would take. According to Cobbaert, Cools answered that his only goal was the defense of the people against the interests of capital (!). That is when Cobbaert pledged his support to the project. Cobbaert, a recent immigrant, was well acquainted with the Daenist movement in Flanders [based upon the move for justice to Flemish workers led by the Aalst native Fr. Adolf Daens]; that is, if the eulogy Cobbaerts gave at Camille Cools’ funeral is any indication.

"Cobbaert, who succeeded Cools as Editor in October, 1916, wrote many editorials in defense of Flemish workers. He was especially ardent in his defense of the ‘beetwerkers’ (Flemish migrant workers employed in the sugar beet fields of Ontario) who were being exploited. Staring with the January 5, 1917 edition, the Gazette van Detroit masthead added an additional exhortation: Het Recht voor ‘t Volk (“Justice for the People”).

"There was no Gazette printed on Friday, September 29, 1916. The Belgian Community knew why: Camille Cools had met with a sudden and untimely death at the age of 42. He was survived by his wife, his two daughters, his parents, his five brothers and his three sisters. His funeral was held at Our Lady of Sorrows Church on September 30th, and his body was interred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit. There is no tombstone on his grave."

Editorial note: today, August 13, 2014, there is indeed a gravestone to mark his rest. 

Copyright 2014 by David Baeckelandt. All rights reserved. No reproduction without my explicit, written permission. Thank you!

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