You would never pick out Hans in a bar as a hero. He just didn't have the look. But he went places most people wouldn't dare go, to do work beyond most of us - for Greenpeace, Médecins Sans Frontières and other groups.
He was born in the Netherlands, traveled most of the world (from the Amazon to Antarctica) and died in Vietnam - where he lived with his wife.
Recently, Hans checked into the hospital with pneumonia. He responded well to treatment, and checked out several days later - eager to get back to work on a Greenpeace project. Today, he collapsed and passed away at a hotel breakfast table.
Hans was a behind the scenes person. Not one for the spotlight. He had strong convictions though, and when pressed would talk about them. Here is his crew profile from our first ship tour together – a voyage to defend whales in the Southern Ocean:
It is important for me to participate in this campaign – for a long time millions of people all over the world have been united in voicing that whaling is just not on – we have a responsibility to make sure that we preserve whales, not kill them.
One of mankind's greatest gifts is the one of creation – we have the ability to create both beautiful as well as destructive things.
Another gift given to mankind is freedom. We are capable of choosing to destroy or protect the earth.
Creativity and freedom are not for free - we also have the responsibility to use our gifts in a good way, that is: to make things beautiful, then we can enjoy them together, in freedom.
My personal goal to be with Greenpeace is to be part of a group of people that gives others food for thought.
I was lucky to know Hans, but I know a lot of you knew him better than I did. Please leave messages in the comments. We'll pass them on to his family.