WARRNAMBOOL has lost its popular piano accordion busker, Wim Van Der Mark, who died peacefully in hospital a week after his 87th birthday.
His cheerful music and singing had been a feature of the central business district for almost two decades in his retirement years.
He will be given a tuneful farewell today at Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, where he was a regular member of the choir.
One of his nine children, Catharina Porter, told The Standard her father started busking during a holiday trip to Queensland, which gave him the confidence to hit the streets in Warrnambool.
“It was his hobby and got him out of the house,” she said.
Apart from street busking, Mr Van Der Mark also played at Lyndoch aged care centre, the Archie Graham Centre, and sang at Flagstaff Hill.
“Music is a great friend,” he once told The Standard. “There’s an awful lot of lonely people.”
It was a skill he learnt while growing up in Amsterdam and helped him through the German occupation and harrowing war experiences.
Later Mr Van Der Mark joined the Dutch forces in Indonesia, narrowly surviving several close encounters with bullets.
On returning to the Netherlands he and his wife Dina decided to seek better opportunities abroad and emigrated to Australia.
Mr Van Der Mark’s first work was on a Chatsworth farm before moving to Warrnambool in 1950 in search of something more suitable to his carpentry skills.
“He was walking down the street one day when he heard the sound of a familiar machine and went to investigate,” Mrs Porter said.
“Dad boldly walked into the workshop, told them they were doing it all wrong and promptly helped set it up properly.
“It was at Jack Benny’s workshop and they gave him a job.
“When work quietened down dad set up his own business in the backyard and continued it until his retirement.
“Many of his family have some of his carpentry at their homes.”
Mr Van Der Mark’s music resonated across the generations, including toddlers who danced on the street as he played to senior citizens.
He also joined with grandchildren during family gatherings and would often get the accordion going while younger ones played heavy metal guitar music.
Mr Van Der Mark’s family said he died from a heart condition.