Albert Keppel

Albert Keppel, undated photo

Courtesy of the Holland Museum Archives

Albert Christian Keppel (August 4 1869-July 26, 1939) spent his entire life as a Holland citizen. Named for the founder of Holland, Rev. Albertus Christian Van Raalte, he was the youngest child of Teunis Keppel and Gertrude Bloewers. According to his daughter, Ruth, Albert describes his childhood as bleak, stating that he did not have "any supervision as a young man." He lost his mother at the age of four and his father took him out of school in 8th grade to work in the family store.


Despite his unhappy childhood, Albert led a fulfilling and happy adult life. He became the manager of T. Keppel Sons, which dealt in fuel and other hardware items, after his father retired and went on to marry Cornelia "Kate" DeVries June 6, 1893. Not only did he run a successful business, but he also was a volunteer fireman for over a decade, deputy sheriff alongside his brother Bastian, who was elected Ottawa County Sheriff in 1892. A member of the Holland Exchange Club, active in the Goodfellows and Hope Church, Albert cared deeply about the community. In 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Keppel donated forty acres of woodland on 168th Ave and Lakewood Blvd. to the Holland Public Schools for a reforestation project. It still stands today, complete with a replica of the first log cabin of Holland, which was erected at Albert's insistence by the Holland Exchange Club.

Family Man

A true family man, Albert cared deeply for his five daughters. Known to be a beautiful singer, despite his lack of training, he would often lead them in family concerts. In addition, it is also known that he would play games with his daughters on a nightly basis. His own unhappy childhood experiences did not translate to his children. He worked tirelessly so that he could give his daughters a better life than he ever had. Regarding her father's generosity towards his children, she wrote, "He never deprived us of anything, no matter what the cost, if he thought that it would enrich our lives." For this reason, the Keppel girls took music lessons, traveled on family trips, and went to college. However, this is not to say that Albert wasn't at all strict. "My father expected obedience from his children," Ruth wrote. "He never physically punished us, but would explain why we should not do what we wanted to do."

The Keppel girls deeply admired their father, as evidenced by their numerous letters home throughout their adult lives. However, Ruth had a special connection to her father. It was Albert who urged Ruth to do historical research on Holland. In fact, many of her essays reference stories passed down to her from her father. "Ruth, someone must carry this on," he is quoted as saying in her essays. And that she did. Ruth wrote extensively on Holland history, but also spent a great deal of time writing about her father. She composed several essays about him, the only immediate family member she ever wrote about.

Retirement and Death

Albert retired from his business in 1932 and spent the last years of his life amongst family. He had a special affection for Evelyn's son Kep. Suffering a heart attack in May 1939, Albert was confined to his bed for six weeks. During that time, his daughters all sent him encouraging letters. "Daddy darling," Kathryn began an undated 1939 letter to her father, "It's a nasty, rainy day. I'd like to be able to stay in bed myself today. Just think your days in bed are more than half over! I wish I could run in to see you every day." A little over a month later, on July 26, 1939, Albert suffered a heart attack while making a transaction at People's State Bank. He died there in Ruth's arms.

  Contact: Madalyn Muncy

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Scholars Program at Hope College, Holland, Mich.

Madalyn Muncy, 2012