March 21, 2017
Hank Deenen’s long history of contributions to his industry began as far back as 1965, when he helped create the OGMLA (Ontario Garden Maintenance and Landscape Association).

Together with Casey van Maris, Tony DeGroot, Bernie Boumeister and John van Roode, Hank recognized landscapers needed a platform to share their ideas and experience, so the OGMLA was born. Hank chaired the inaugural meeting and eventually served as the group’s first vice-president.

Hank’s son, Harold, says his Dad had many fond memories of OGMLA meetings in the basement of his home. Hank Deenen was also a member of Ontario Landscape Contractors Association.

Later, the OGMLA merged with the OLCA (Ontario Landscape Contractors Association) and the ONTA (Ontario Nursery Trades Association) to form Landscape Ontario in 1973.

Both Hank and Harold attended the unity meetings that resulted in Landscape Ontario. “My Dad was a strong believer in Landscape Ontario,” says Harold, who himself became president of LO in 1982.

Hank Deenen passed away on Nov. 9, 2016, at the grand age of 91. He left one son, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Hendricus Martinus Deenen was raised on a farm in Holland, and later served with the Dutch army stationed in Indonesia during World War II. In 1952, he emigrated from Holland with his wife Maria and daughter Leona with $17 in his pocket.

Like most emigrants, he and his wife Maria found work wherever it could be found. Having grown up on a farm, his natural talent in landscaping became apparent when he began maintaining the property of the factory where he worked. The neighbouring properties began to notice and wanted the same service. Hank Deenen Landscaping was born and in 1954 became a full-time venture in Scarborough.

Hank’s one-man landscape maintenance business transported equipment to and from job sites in the company's only vehicle, a station wagon, which on weekends served as the family's means of transportation. When the work week was over, the wooden sign advertising the company name, was taken out of the back window.

The early years were challenging with Hank taking on a job as a truck driver delivering home fuel for BA Oil. That changed in 1957, when a number of his clients began requesting winter maintenance.

Today, Hank Deenen Landscaping Limited exclusively serves commercial, multi-residential and institutional properties providing a number of specialized services. The company has won numerous Awards of Excellence over the years.

Hank’s commitment to maintaining strong associations was definitely passed on to his son. Along with being a past president of Landscape Ontario, Harold Deenen is also a past president of CNLA, treasurer for the Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council, and current CNLA Human Resources Chair.

Harold has received the Frank Ewald Junior Landscape Award for outstanding leadership to the horticultural industry and Honorary Life Membership in Landscape Ontario. Harold was the first Canadian to receive the Certified Landscape Professional designation, and is well-known throughout the industry for his work in bringing certification to Canada.

In August of 2016, Harold was presented with CNLA President’s Award for his outstanding commitment to the industry and association.

In his eulogy for his father, Harold said, “It is gratifying to see how many people Hank’s life has touched, and what a great life! Ninety-one years navigating his way from a young farmer in Holland to a successful businessman in his new country, beloved by family and friends alike.”

Harold says he worked with his Dad every day after graduation. “When I came home from college, of course I knew everything. We fought often about procedures and systems, because Hank was all about the handshake contract. I was all about number crunching and systems. Stuff Hank wasn’t crazy about. “

Reflecting on Hank’s disdain for computers, Harold tells the story of Hank coming into the office and looking around at the staff. “He strolled into my office, sat down, looked me in the eye and asked, ‘What are they all looking at on those TVs?’”

Harold says his dad’s business methods may not have been sophisticated, but his life lessons will always remain with him. Some of those lessons include:
  • Work hard and take care of your family.
  • Keep walking or some day you won’t be able to.
  • Your word is your bond. If you say you are going to do something, you must do it.
  • Treat every person you meet as a customer. They may be one some day.
  • Be on time for all appointments. Being late shows disrespect for the person you are meeting.
  • Avoid burning bridges, because you never know when you will meet that person again.
  • Treat your employees with the respect they deserve. They are your greatest asset.
To conclude Hank’s eulogy, Harold asked, “How do we measure the value of life? Is it the old axiom, ‘He with the most toys wins?’ Is it working hard and providing for your family? Is it leaving behind a legacy? Or, is it being kind and respectful to everyone you meet? If it is indeed a balance of all these, then Hank lived a perfect life.”