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Family memories fill Vic and Ann van Leeuwen’s home

Ann and Vic van Leeuwen are the "adopted parents" of Merlin the macaw, who actually belongs to their son Dan. (Photo/JFD Photography)
Ann and Vic van Leeuwen are the “adopted parents” of Merlin the macaw, who actually belongs to their son Dan. (Photo/JFD Photography)

MADISON – Vic and Ann van Leeuwen’s home in Ashley Estates shows their dedication to family, civic-minded pursuits, world travels and sports cars.

The van Leeuwens built their nine-room Colonial house in 1987. The floor plan allowed “common-sense layout. We wanted two stories,” Vic said.

Their property needed to accommodate a detached garage for their prized 1966 Mustang. Vic bought the Mustang new and then dated and proposed to Ann in the car. They drove it to Nashville on their honeymoon and occasionally repeat that trip.

In 2006, they added a sunroom, which covers a large storm shelter. They also enhanced the kitchen and family room.

Their furnishings range from casual in the sunroom to more formal in dining and living areas. Ann inherited her parents’ dining room furniture and her grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine and cookware.

In the sunroom, photographs show the journey of Vic’s family through the Holocaust. Vic’s father attended college and learned to fly in Germany, relocated to Holland but then emigrated to the United States in 1927.

Vic’s father flew in missions against the Japanese. “So, a Jewish-Dutch American, trained in Germany, flew against Germany’s ally,” Ann said.

Other relatives of Vic’s father, including two married sisters and mother, remained in Holland. When the Nazis invaded the Low Countries and directed Jews to wear a yellow star, his mother, one sister and their families did not comply and became “submarines,” people hiding in plain sight. “They joined the underground, were eventually captured but survived,” Ann said.

Leoni, the other sister, and her family did comply. “In 1943, Leoni, her husband and four children were transported to the Sobibor camp in Poland and sent to their deaths the day they arrived,” Ann said.

Ann’s father, an U.S. Air Force sergeant in England during the war, met and married Doris ‘Dot’ Elwell. Born in England, Ann and her mother were among thousands of war brides and children who came to America — in their case, on the Queen Mary in 1946.

Ann was raised in Jackson, Alabama, 60 miles north of Mobile. Her 95-year-old father still lives there.

Ann retired as Bob Jones High School media specialist. Vic retired from the Army Missile Command and Missile Defense Agency.

In civic work, Ann and Vic are Madison Optimist Club officers. They’re involved with Rocket City Mustang and Valley Vettes’ Corvette clubs. Ann participates in Madison Friends of the Library and with Alabama Virtual Library. An Air Force veteran, Vic belongs to American Legion Post 229.

At Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Ann serves on the board, as Sisterhood president and Temple librarian. Vic has served as Temple and religious school president. They assist as Temple docents and at several churches’ Passover Seders.

A seamstress, Ann designed their home’s drapes and many costumes for Bob Jones musicals. She also enjoys gardening. They vacation with Ann’s English relatives in Europe, in Alabama and recently in Hawaii.

Vic and Ann are University of Alabama alumni but their children attended Auburn University. “Roll Tide & War Eagle,” he said. For master’s degrees, Ann attended Alabama A&M University and Vic at Florida Institute of Technology.

Ann served as Madison mayor and city councilman for 20-plus years. “Ann finally brought to fruition the ‘Hughes Road Extension,'” connecting Hughes Road to Madison Boulevard and giving the first uninterrupted access to Highway 20, Vic said.

Ann also secured funding for Madison Public Library. “But, she’s most proud when meeting a former Bob Jones or Stone Middle School student who’s a success. That’s when she really smiles!” Vic said.

Merlin, their son Dan’s blue-and-gold macaw, lives in the sunroom. A Citation X pilot, Dan “has a six-year-old ‘mini-Dan’ in first grade in Huntsville,” Vic said. “He’s married to a wonderful gal, who’s a stay-at-home mom.”

Daughter Lanie and husband live in Madison with their six-year-old son and six-month-old daughter. Lanie works as an analyst with an electronic commerce company. Her husband, an engineer, works with the Missile Defense Agency.

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