Christine Marina Zimmerman

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christine Marina Zimmerman passed on Thanksgiving Day, 2015 at LaurelWoods in Columbus, N.C., at the age of 94 (May 7, 1921 – November 26, 2015).

She was born in Den Haag, The Netherlands to Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich and Augusta Clasina Helfrich-Gieben. She was the widow of Johan Carel Zimmerman (1922 – 2002) who was also from the Netherlands. She is survived by daughter Guusje Moore-Zimmerman and her wife Lana Coble, daughter Elizabeth Mangino, son Paul Zimmerman and his partner Pam Stone, twin granddaughters Catherine Moore, Katherine Halvorson her husband Jason Halvorson, grandson Michael Mangino and great granddaughter Leah Halvorson.

Christine spent her early years in Den Haag along with her twin sister and their two younger brothers. Upon graduation she went on to attend secretarial school. Their father became an admiral in the Dutch Navy and was appointed overall commander of all Dutch forces in the Netherlands East Indies in October 1939 and the entire family joined him there. When the Japanese invaded, her father got out with the fleet but the rest of family could not and her mother, twin sister, herself and brothers spent the entire occupation in Japanese concentration camps. Her father succeeded Admiral Hart as commander of the Allied Sea Forces in 1942 and signed the Japanese Document of Surrender on behalf of the Dutch government on the USS Missouri in 1945.

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Upon liberation of the camps, Christine had the option of going back to The Netherlands with her father and mother. Deciding she did not want to be “The Admirals Daughter” but instead wanting to forge her own identity, she accepted a post as secretary in the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. They needed a bilingual secretary and Christine was fluent in five languages: Dutch, English, French, German and Malaysian. In 1946 at the age of 25 without knowing anyone at her destination she flew from Australia to Washington, D.C. to begin a new life in America.

After four years in Washington and realizing there was no one in D.C. she wished to marry, in early 1950 she arranged a transfer to the Netherlands Consulate in Chicago. Within a few days of arriving, she literally bumped into the love of her life, Johan, in a doorway. Three months later they were married on May 7, 1950 in Chicago. She always said one of the reasons she fell in love with him was because “he had lovely manners.” Johan worked for Holland American Steamship Line and they were subsequently transferred to Arlington, Va. where the children were born. From there to Atlanta, Ga. and then arrived in Miami, Fla. in 1960 which was to be their home for the next 42 years.

No longer professionally working, Christine volunteered at her beloved Rivera Presbyterian Church in Miami. Among the many ways she served was as a nursery age Sunday School teacher, delivered audio copies of the service to shut ins, handbell choir, made sure choir robes were cleaned and volunteered in the office. She served on the Session as a deacon and elder and her appointment to the session in the 1960s made her one of the first women to serve in that capacity in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. She was also an advocate for LGBT rights in the church. It was said when she left Miami it took five other volunteers to replace her.

She also volunteered at school libraries and PTA and followed her son (their youngest child) in those capacities as he moved through the school system. Later she added being a pink lady in a local hospital to her resume.

In 2002 Christine and Johan retired to Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. There, she joined Trinity Presbyterian Church where she also served in several volunteer capacities thereby continuing her work from Rivera Presbyterian. At Lake Pointe Landing she assumed leadership of their library and grew it from one room to two. An active swimmer all her life she continued her habit of swimming three to five days a week until she was 89. In 2013, Christine moved to Columbus to be even nearer to her son Paul and his partner Pam and began attending Holy Cross Episcopal Church with them.

A Celebration of Her Life will be held at Holy Cross Episcopal Church, 150 Melrose Ave, Tryon, N.C. on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. There will be a reception in the Parish Hall afterward. All are welcome to attend.

Memorials may be made to either the Holy Cross Outreach Fund or to the Heifer Project.

An online guest register may be signed at

McFarland Funeral Chapel
Tryon, N.C.