When I was still a student, sixteen years ago, I was a little afraid of Simon. This was not caused by his enormous stature -he was even larger a man than me- but by his rather special sense of humour: edgy, sober and very direct.

When you walked into his room he greeted you with the phrase: “Nice of you to have dropped by!” And that’s where you still had to start saying something…

My fear of him passed away when I visited a conference with Simon in Mainz.

In the evening he took me with him to a restaurant where I absolutely had to eat Schweinehackse, because it was the local specialty and because it was the favourite dish fo Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl.

After the conference he took me to one of the many museums in Mainz, to a meeting with two archaeologists that -as I only understood later- were very high up in the German world of archaeology.

Simon knew everything and everyone in his field, from top to bottom. And everyone knew the man with this enormous stature. ‘Der Gorilla aus Holland’ our easterly neighbours called him.

Simon didn’t see a problem in taking a junior archaeologist, barely out of university, to a bunch of high-brow, top archaeologists. To him, everyone counted.

I sounds like a paradox: nobody likes to worry, but when it’s not going well with the people we care about, we do want to worry. Even if it’s bad news, you still want to know.

This could be noticed in the period right after his second operation: it was uncertain whether he would make it. In those days people from here and far away came to visit him. Friends, but also colleagues, from all over the country. Every evening, there were different people beside his bed and those who did not visit, used different ways to show their interest.

He was proud of this. It dragged him though.

Now it looks like I want to give ourselves -those present here- a pat on the shoulder: we managed to do this! Well, yes, we did, but that is not the point.

The point is that Simon had this rare gift which allowed him to attach people to himself in a personal way. Everyone: friends and colleagues, at home and abroad. All these people were naturally inclined to worry about him when this was needed.

We do not have to worry about Simon any more and we don’t have to drag him through anything anymore. This is good for him, even when it is painful for us.

Eulogy spoken at the funeral of Simon Lieuwe Wynia (1935 – 2005)


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