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Publication: Globe and Mail, The add link
Issue: 30 August 2008, page S11
Web Link: link

KATHLEEN MACDONALD ROELL A survivor of WW2 internment camps in Indonesia, died at home August 2, 2008, at the age of 101. Born in Edmonton, Alta., in 1906, she attended Kings Hall in Compton, P.Q. She sailed to Singapore in 1926 to marry Adriaan Roell, a Dutch citizen, before settling with him on a rubber plantation in northern Sumatra, then part of the Dutch East Indies. In September 1945, after surviving 40 months in Japanese controlled internment camps, she and her fellow internees were freed by British paratroopers who had floated down from B-24 Liberator bombers flying overhead. She and her two sons were then flown to Singapore to be reunited with her husband who had spent the war as a forced labourer on the Burma railway, the same railway that inspired the novel 'The Bridge Over the River Kwai,' and the film on which it was based. Returning to Canada via Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the U.K. with her family, she arrived in Toronto on March 9, 1946, the first Canadian civilian to be repatriated. After her marriage dissolved she moved to Cobourg, her childhood home, in 1950 and then made a final move to Toronto in 1955, where she cared for her mother in her declining years. When her sons left for University she took up 'baby and lady sitting,' often being as much as a decade older than the woman she was caring for. She retired at the age of 80. Explaining her longevity, she would quote a Dutch proverb: 'Ontkruid fergaat niet.' ('You can't get rid of weeds'.) She lear ned to speak Dutch fluently, albeit with an accent. On turning 97, she quipped, 'Guess they don't want me in Hell or Heaven.' Mrs. Roell is survived by her sons, Pieter Roell of San Francisco, Ca. and Michiel Roell and his wife Judith Jordan Roell of Vancouver, B.C. a brother, Dr. D'Arcy Macdonald of Toronto, three nieces and a nephew. A brother, Garth Macdonald, Q.C. predeceased her. She was the daughter of the late Donald W. Macdonald and Edith Kerr Macdonald and a granddaughter of the late Senator William Kerr, Q.C.