Inducted: October 31, 2007
Frank Vercouteren established a good reputation with the Kent farm community early when he was Chairman of the International Plowing Match in 1979.
He made a favourable first impression when he volunteered for the job, at a time when the planning committee was looking for someone who was hard-working and reliable. That reputation was maintained through the years the Plowing Match was planned and carried out, and the post-Match details were finalized. He began as a member of a small, strong committee working to have the International Plowing Match and Machinery Show located in Kent County.
Mr. Vercouteren had practical farming experience as a youngster, and this early experience came in handy through that decade of the 70s. He introduced innovations to the Plowing Match, including contracts which speeded the handling of entries and exhibits, and won the praise of the Ontario Plowmen's Association.
He also won the respect of the men and women who worked with him. One of them said: "Frank worked at the job 26 hours a day. He was ready to spend all his time to make it a success!"
Mr. Vercouteren was born in the Netherlands on June 12th, 1938, the son of Theodore and Alida Vercouteren. The war years were hard in the Netherlands, and the family, including siblings Frank, Marie, Ted, Alida and Fred (later drowned) came to Canada in 1947. Their ship, "The Waterman", provided only the most basic accommodation, since it had not been refurbished after serving as a WW II troop carrier. It was the first ship to transport immigrants from the Netherlands after the war.
The Vercouterens first settled in Raleigh Township, where Frank went to school and worked on farms. Frank would have liked to be a lawyer, but opportunities were lacking. After some years, he looked for a new career, and in the winter, he drove daily to London to attend a Beauty School. He worked as a hairdresser in Ridgetown with his wife, the former Theresa Geelen. Her parents, Jacob and Eliza Geelen, and their ten children had come to Canada in 1952 on a refitted ship.
Frank and Theresa were married at St. Michael's Church, Ridgetown on November 16th, 1963.
Later, Mr. Vercouteren moved to the Blenheim area and bought an 100-acre hog farm, sold a few years later when he purchased a 50-acre farm closer to Blenheim.
Mr. Vercouteren made an important career move when he studied for the Real Estate exams and became a broker. His many years of practical farm work, gave him an advantage in the sale of farm properties. In recent years, he has become a licensed auctioneer, fulfilling a life-time ambition.
Mr. Vercouteren was interested, from the first, in municipal affairs and good government, and has demonstrated it through many years of public service. He was first elected to Ridgetown Town Council in 1967.
After a holiday from municipal service through the 1970s for the Plowing Match, he was elected to Blenheim Town Council in 1980, serving for 14 years. During this period, he served on Harwich Township Planning Committee; as Chairman of Blenheim Arena Board; headed the Blenheim Centennial Committee, the Blenheim Business Improvement Association, and was the President of the Blenheim Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Vercouteren received the Blenheim Citizen of the Year Award in 1980. As Reeve of Blenheim, he was a member of Kent County Council in 1988, 1989 and 1990. He headed the Agriculture and Health Committee for some years. Mr. Vercouteren has been a member of Chatham-Kent Municipal Council since its inception in 1999.
Mr. Vercouteren started a pheasant and quail breeding hatchery on his farm in 1980, and raised thousands of ornamental pheasants and peacocks. This won for him, "The Most Diversified Collection Award" from the Canadian Ornamental Pheasant Association. The birds, and an antique village with a log cabin attract classes of students to the Vercouteren farm every year.
He is a member of the Canadian Pheasant Association (25 years), Chatham-Kent Real Estate Board, the Appraisal Institute of Canada, the Blenheim Moose Lodge, the Blenheim Royal Canadian Legion – Branch 185, and the Blenheim Seniors' Group Committee. He was Chairman of the Blenheim Pumpkin Fest Contest.
The Vercouterens have two children, a daughter, Janet Fulkerson, and a son, Michael, both of Blenheim. There are five grandchildren: Tanner and Megan Fulkerson; and Erica, Mandy and Kyle Vercouteren. The Vercouterens are members of St. Mary's Church, Blenheim.
One of his friends characterized him as "a good guy". He added: "If it wasn't for Frank, we wouldn't have many of the things we have today! He is a fighter!" Another said, he is "fair and honest in his dealings with people. I encourage him to keep going as he is today. We need people like Frank in public office."