Visitation at Funeral Home
Service of Remembrance
Obituary of Cornelis L. Smits
Cornelis Leendert Smits was born on May 7th, 1929 in Parimaribo Suriname, formerly known as Dutch Guiana in South America. Cornelis was the youngest of 10 siblings born to Henriette Wilson & Hendrik Smits.
He attended primary school in Parimaribo. As a young man he loved to play soccer and had an adventurous spirit about him. In his late teens “Nelis” as he was called, wanted to pursue this sense of adventure through travel and so he & many other of his friends joined The Merchant Marines. As a seaman he traveled extensively throughout South America, the Caribbean and in his twenties his travels took him to Europe, Northern Africa and eventually to the United States.
He loved this life of going to exotic lands & enjoying different cultures whether it was in Brazil, Norway or Jamaica. The pursuit of “The American Dream” challenged him, particularly during his trips to Louisiana and then New York City but he continued his venture with determination. He loved to dance & it was during one of his NY trips in 1952 that he met a young woman named Emelina Pola originally from the island of Puerto Rico who also came state side following the paths of some of her own siblings to study and pursue a better life in the states. One dance led to a two year courtship. As they fell in love they learned together the ways & language of this new land in which they endured many hard times. They eventually married in 1954. Their union produced three children Jimmy, Yvonne & Diana. “Connie” (as he became known here in the states) had another major quality that became apparent, a fierce sense of determination to do better for himself and his family.
He worked for a time at The St. Vincent de Paul Society and in 1957 took an entry level position in the shipping dept. at Ulano Products, a small family owned company that manufactured the film used for the silk screen industry. The company did well as did Cornelis who, in 1982 was honored by The Ulano Corporation for 25 years of service. By then he supervised and ran the entire shipping component of the firm. Many of his Surinamese friends found a path to NY as well. They found ways to retain their culture through many social gatherings. Cornelis loved his traditional food. But, there was another culture that was honored as well thru the families numerous trips to Puerto Rico. The Smits family was a melting pot…and, it was good. Mr. Smits retired from Ulano in 1993 after 36 years of hard work. His adventurous spirit resurfaced vacationing to many foreign countries and eventually he decided to spend his retirement years in a place reminiscent of his home land in terms of weather but still accessible to his adult children and their families. He spent the next 23 years as a resident of Hollywood FL relaxing, cooking, going on casino outings, bike riding, vacationing, and following his beloved MIAMI HEAT team. In 2013 Cornelis returned to Brooklyn to be with his family who supported him, as his health began to decline. On Feb. 1st, 2015 he passed to his eternal rest surrounded by family.
He is survived by his 3 children Jimmy, Yvonne & Diana.
2 son-in-laws, Abraham & Clark
1 daughter-in-law, Wanda
6 grandchildren, Taina, Kino, Lina, Enrique, Tiffany & Angelica
1 great- grand daughter Tyler
And a host of nieces, nephews and friends here in the US, Suriname, Holland and the Caribbean.
The family wishes to extend profound gratitude to: Abe, Marlene & Freddy, Rita & Carl, Lillian, Hank, Willie & Arlene, Mary, Nancy & Ray, Maria Luisa, and the countless number of Health Care Professionals both in FL & NY whom in his last months touched his life & provided exemplary physical, emotional & spiritual care,
With Special Recognition to: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital NY Calvary Hospital, Brooklyn Campus Menorah Center for Rehab & Nursing Care, Brooklyn Mathew Taub & Associates, Pembroke Pines FL Memorial South Rehab Center, Hollywood, FL
To honor the memory of Cornelis his family has specified Memorial Sloan Kettering, if one wishes to make a donation to a charitable organization.
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3024 Quentin Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11234