Geertruida Lodder Zippro: The Extra Mile

Much of the attention of the Relief Society Conference of October, 1945, was devoted to efforts to assist surviving members of the Church in the former war zones of Europe. Contact had been reestablished with some of the European branches, and reports of their experiences and especially of their needs were read to the sisters assembled in Salt Lake City:

“One of the most touching incidents to come to us from Europe is the story of Sister Zippro, the Netherlands Relief Society president. She was willing to face alone the dangers of an invading army in order that members of the Church might receive assistance from the Relief Society. … Her bravery and devotion to the ideals of Relief Society under such trying and perilous circumstances are worthy of our highest praise,â€? reported the conference.

Geertruida Zippro and her husband Willem had been introduced to the Church in 1929 by Geertruida’s brother, Peter Lodder. The Zippros’ five-year-old son had died the year before, and the couple responded to a spiritual witness that their child would one day be restored to them. They were baptized on March 9, 1929; on the following day, they were confirmed and their infant son was blessed in the branch meeting in Rotterdam. A daughter joined the family in 1933.

The family remained active in the Church. Geertruida was called as District (stake) Relief Society president, with responsibility for sisters throughout the Netherlands. That she took her calling seriously is demonstrated by her actions through the war years:

On May 10, 1940, the government of the Netherlands surrendered to the invading German army. With an armistice signed, there was no cause for what happened on the night of May 13-14, when the German air force bombed Rotterdam. In the half-hour raid, 30,000 Dutch citizens died, and an 800-acre area of Rotterdam was obliterated (in Salt Lake terms, equivalent to the total destruction of an area from North Temple to 800 South, from 500 East to 500 West).

Sister Zippro, living in Amsterdam at the time, needed to get to Rotterdam to check on the welfare of Church members living there. But the conditions of war had disrupted train travel and all other means of public transport. Her solution to this problem awed the Relief Society board in 1945 when it was reported during the Relief Society Conference:

Sister Zippro rode her bicycle, alone, the sixty miles from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, through the chaos and destruction of war. She found that the LDS chapel in Rotterdam had been destroyed, along with the homes of members. She helped to coordinate efforts in Rotterdam for displaced Saints to find shelter, many of them in the homes of other members. As donations of bedding, food and clothing were received at the mission home, contributed by generous Dutch saints, the articles were turned over to Sister Zippro and the Relief Society for distribution.

This emergency trip to Rotterdam was only the first of many such rides made by Sister Zippro during the war years. She fulfilled her responsibilities as Relief Society president by riding throughout the Netherlands, checking on the welfare of members, arranging for food distributions, and helping to keep the branches and isolated members in contact with each other.

Eventually her bicycle tires wore out and could be patched no longer. Replacement tires were impossible to find. But this didn’t end her travel – Brother Zippro cut strips from an old rubber garden hose and wired them onto the rims of her wheels. Sister Zippro resumed her work.

Food was scarce, and sometimes the Zippros, with other Dutch Saints, were on the verge of starvation. At least once they felt that their needs were supplied by heavenly aid. Brother Zippro was at work near a canal, and saw an unmanned barge, loaded with potatoes, floating down the canal. Suddenly the barge veered out of the channel and headed straight for Brother Zippro. He was able to unload two sacks of potatoes before the barge floated free.

On another memorable occasion, two armed German soldiers entered a branch meeting attended by the Zippros. Fears turned to brotherhood when the two soldiers identified themselves as Church members who asked the privilege of partaking of the sacrament.

Sister Zippro’s travels didn’t stop with the end of the war and her release as Relief Society president. The family emigrated to the United States following the war and settled in the Ensign Stake. Sister Zippro worked as a nurse’s aide at the Salt Lake General Hospital, before her death in 1962.

(originally published November 2005)

13 comments for “Geertruida Lodder Zippro: The Extra Mile

  1. Ardis
    October 15, 2006 at 10:34 am

    As a P.S. to this, I’ll note that I always try to find a woman who is unknown to church history. The day this one came out, two sisters in my ward came running to tell me “Her daughter was my sister’s best friend!” and “My grandson married her granddaughter.” I thought it interesting that Sister Zippro was both dynamic enough (or at least had a memorable enough name) that both of these wome remembered her more than 40 years after her death, and also that she was modest enough that neither sister had had any idea of Sister Zippro’s wartime bicycle rides.

  2. Tatiana
    October 15, 2006 at 11:04 am

    That is so awesome! Thank you for posting these. =)

  3. mami
    October 15, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Keep them coming!

  4. Julie M. Smith
    October 15, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you, Ardis. This is such a wonderful story.

  5. John M. Shaw
    October 15, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    The War years fascinate me and how the saints endured WWII is really inspiring, thanks for the post. I believe a few years back something was writtend about a Sis. Polzin out of Germany with very similar stories, could you take a look into it?

  6. Kevin Barney
    October 15, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    Wonderful, as usual, Ardis.

  7. Ardis
    October 15, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    John — That’s Elli Polzin. I only know her from reading some of what Gerold and Norma Davis have written. Then there’s also Leon Fargier, who may have been the only Melchizedek priesthood holder in France during the war, who walked and rode everywhere to bless members and perform ordinances.

    People say every once in a while that they’re glad they live today, that they could never have been pioneers. I’m not sure about that. The pioneers did what they had to do. The Saints in wartime do what they have to do. As the church spreads more and more over the earth, with our brethren and sisters living in places that will inevitably come into conflict, I’m glad I’m not a seer with the power to see what lies ahead. I just expect that somehow, many of them (us) will go on doing what needs to be done, doing the best we can for each other. We have a magnificent heritage to live up to and pass on, don’t we?

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone. It’s easy to post these — the work is already done, after all :-) — what I’d like to hear is that some of you have thought of men and women in your own families or circles who have stories of faith. Do the research or the interviews, write the stories down, and share them. Preserve the memory of someone whose faithful life will inspire a future generation reading the record of our times.

  8. Bryan Zippro
    October 19, 2006 at 1:22 am

    I am deeply greatfull for this women and her husband for joining the church. I love to her this story and have had it told to me by my father. Geertruida or better known to me as great grandma died when I was very young but I do have vage memories of her and my great grandfather. I loved to visit them and remember how loving they were to us grand children.
    They had two children. My dad John, and my Aunt Corey. If you are interested, my dad has a very fasinating story of that time in the Netherlands.
    Thank you for sharing this story.

  9. Bryan Zippro
    October 19, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    Oop’s it was late when I wrote this. She is my Grandmother not great grandmother.

  10. Bryan Zippro
    October 19, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    Oop’s it was late when I wrote this. She is my Grandmother not great grandmother.

  11. October 19, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    Bryan, I’d be very interested in hearing more about your family’s story. You can write to me directly, if you’d like, at AEParshall at AOL dot com. It’s wonderful to hear from a member of the family, and I hope your family finds my version of your grandmother’s story acceptable. I read through a lot of records to piece it together. She is somebody to be proud of.

  12. March 13, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Ardis, I have been editing my fathers story with him for the past 6 years, he is the son of Geertriuda Zippro in the story above. My father just passed away this January 30th before we could finish the book, which also contains my Grandmothers story and short history. I plan on finishing the book shortly and can shoot you a copy of the war years in The Netherlands.

    If you are interested you can let me know and thank you for keeping my family history alive!!!

    Mike Zippro (Bryan Zippro\’s) older brother.

  13. Ardis Parshall
    March 13, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Mike, I’m very interested — will contact you off list.

    Condolences on the passing of your father, and thank you for remembering that your grandmother’s story was posted here. Of the the sisters’ stories I’ve posted, hers seems to have been retold again in local meetings more often than any other (or so I’ve heard, from various readers who have let me know they passed her story along).

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