Joseph Noorthoek came from his native Netherlands to the United States as an ambitious young man of twenty-two years of age, and through his own ability and well directed efforts he has gained place among the substantial and representative live business men of Grand Rapids, where he established his residence in 1888 and where he is now president of the Riverside Lumber Company, with headquarters at 1201-15 Monroe avenue. On the small island known as Saint Philipsland, in the Netherlands, a small island that was reclaimed from the sea and provided with its system of dikes in 1487, under the reign of King Philip, Joseph Noorthoek was born February 20, 1866, and in his native land he received his early education and sturdy training of practical industry. One of his boyhood ambitions had been to come to the United States, and he cherished this ambition after he had attained to adult years. He finally gained from his parents their consent to his coming to this country, and gave them his promise that if he were not satisfied in the land of his adoption he would return to that of his birth. After he had been here a year he tried to induce his parents to join him but as they could not reconcile themselves, in their advancing years, to leave their old and loved home, with its gracious associations, memories and friends, and he had to content himself with occasional visits to the old home land, where his parents remained until the close of their earnest and worthy lives. Upon his arrival in Grand Rapids, Mr. Noorthoek applied himself to any work that he could obtain and that would insure him living expenses. In the spring of 1889 he found employment with S. P. Swartz, who was here engaged in the lumber business. To gain requisite knowledge of the English language and to further his knowledge of American business methods, Mr. Noorthoek attended night school during this period. On the nights that he thus attended school he did not have time to eat his evening meal until late at night, after he had finished his school work. This condition came to the notice of his employer, who arranged to have him quit work an hour earlier on the school nights, as he felt that his youthful employe should be encouraged in his ambitions to obtain further education. For the loss of these extra hours Mr. Swartz made no reduction in the pay of his young employe. In 1893 Mr. Noorthoek entered the employ of the Fuller & Rice Lumber Company, and he has been continuously identified with the lumber business during the intervening period of more than thirty years. He remained sixteen years with the Fuller & Rice company, and in 1909 he organized the Verhey-Noorthoek Lumber Company, which established well equipped yards on the west side of the city. In 1921 Mr. Noorthoek sold to his partner, Mr. Verhey, his interest in this prosperous enterprise, and then organized the Riverside Lumber Company, a closed corporation in which his sons are his associates. He purchased at that time the land on which the present large and well stocked lumber yards of the company are established, and the business, conducted efficiently and on fair and honorable policies, is now one of substantial and important order. Mr. Noorthoek esteems himself fortunate in having his sons as his able coadjutors, and knows that in their later control of the same they will always uphold the honors of the family name. He is loyal, appreciative and liberal as a citizen of the land and city of his youthful adoption, has here gained substantial prosperity, is here the executive head of a prosperous wholesale and retail lumber business, and here he is found aligned in the ranks of the Republican party, his religious faith and affiliation being indicated in his membership in the Reformed church, in the teachings of which he was reared in his native land. In his native Holland one of the most devoted and valued friends of Mr. Noorthoek in his youth was Miss Elizabeth DeBlaay, and after he had made a start for himself in Grand Rapids he prevailed upon Miss DeBlaay to join him, their marriage having been solemnized November 21, 1889, and their companionship having been one of ideal relations. Of their fine family of five sons and four daughters one son died in childhood, and Martin died in 1922. Adrian is secretary of the Riverside Lumber Company; Elizabeth is the wife of Cornelius Schriver; Lina is the wife of Rine Keegstra, of Grand Rapids; Sue is bookkeeper for the Riverside Lumber Company; Joseph, Jr., is vice-president of the company; Nellie is the wife of Peter Reminga, of Grand Rapids, and Roger is actively associated with the business of the Riverside Lumber Company.
Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 6 July 2003