Inducted: October 29, 2003
Gus was born in the Netherlands near Delft, the son of Gosewinus and Antje Sonneveld. He and his family weathered the difficult years of World War II: but he prepared for a brighter future by taking a four-year Diploma course in Agriculture.
Gus brought that training, practical experience, ambition, and an active and inquiring mind when he came to Canada in 1948 with the sponsorship and encouragement of Peter Lugtigheid. For several years, he worked as a sharecropper in sugar beets for area farmers, and for C.I.L. in Chatham.
This gave him practical experience in Canadian farming, and the savings to buy his own cash crop farm in Harwich Township, near Blenheim. In 1950, he married Joan Nauta, of Merlin.
Gus soon became active in farm organizations. He campaigned in a vain attempt in 1967 to keep the Canada and Dominion Sugar Company Chatham beet refinery open.
He became so well established in the community that he ran as the Liberal candidate in the 1972 Federal election, just 24 years after his arrival in Canada. He was not elected, in spite of credentials that would have made him a Member of Parliament with an impressive and practical knowledge of agriculture.
Gus became a respected voice for grains. He has served as a member, Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Livestock Feed Board; as a Board member of the Canada Grains Commission, and as Chairman of the Canada Reserve Grain Stock Committee. He was a Board member of the Ontario Soybean Growers’ Marketing Board.
He was a Kent committee man, and alter a Director of the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board.
His knowledge of grains and livestock has made him an advisor to many farm organizations in Ontario and in Canada, including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the National Farmers’ Union, Ontario Cattlemen’s Association, Ontario Pork Producers; the Corn Producers’ Association and the Canada Grain Council.
His sound advice has been sought by farm organizations, and agriculture ministers, and he has enjoyed the admiration and respect of agriculturists across Canada.
Mr. Sonneveld has been actively involved in the First Reformed Church, Chatham.
The Sonnevelds have eight children: Gus, Jr., R. R. 2, Merlin; Jack (Shelley), Blenheim; Ruthann(Brian) Shoemaker, Elmira; Henry (Darleen), Blenheim; Ben (Mary Jo), Blenheim; Wesley, Chatham; Wilma (Richard) Wright, Ridgetown; and Julienne (Kevin) Salvadore, Maples.
There are 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
His friends, neighbours and associates have good things to say about him. According to one, “he is a very bright man. He understands the global picture of wheat! Some people know something about the picture; he goes far beyond that”. Another said, “He has been very hard working all his life”. He is “very informative”, and the source of “good advice” to many people.
He is, one friend and associate said, “a very bright man, and very well-educated”. That education has been obtained by studying everything pertaining to agriculture, in a life that has been crowded with activity.
His children respected the good advice he has given them, including his encouraging, “keep smiling, and keep going!”
His wife has the nicest thing of all to say about him, after more than 50 years of marriage, "He is an honourable man!