Dirk  Messelaar

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Plum Island - Dirk Messelaar, 71, of Plum Island (Newbury), St. John, USVI, and Schagen, Netherlands, loving husband of Deborah Hood Messelaar, was with family when he passed away peacefully at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

Dirk was born in Ipswich, Mass., along with his twin brother, Jan (John), to John and Greta Messelaar. Following WWII, his parents had married and emigrated from Holland to Ipswich, in 1946, where they established the John Messelaar Bulb Company. Dirk and John were joined by brothers Pieter and Paul, and sister, Dieukwe (Fiedler), as well as a handful of foster siblings. The family spent blissful summers from 1953 to 1960 at their little camp in the dunes of Sandy Point on Plum Island.

Dirk graduated from Ipswich High School in 1965, UMass Amherst in 1969, and ultimately earned an Ed.D. from Boston University. In 1969, he married his high school love, Deborah Hood. He taught English at Ipswich High School before accepting a faculty position at the College of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, USVI. After two years, he and Deborah took teaching jobs at Kimball Union, Meriden, N.H. Their first son, Thijs, was born in 1976. A year later, they built a house overlooking the water on Great Neck in Ipswich. In 1978, they welcomed their second son, Aaron.

Dirk had a long career serving the UMass system, where in addition to teaching technical writing, he developed many continuing education programs. After 27 years at UMass Lowell, Dirk went on to become the dean of Corporate, Continuing, and Distance Education at UMass Boston, before establishing it as the College of Advancing and Professional Studies. He worked to set up the first online courses at UMass through UMass Online and established important partnerships with Chinese and Indian universities.

Dirk was an avid boater, who enjoyed sailing and motoring the waters of Ipswich Bay and beyond. He was proud to own homes in North Holland, St. John, and Plum Island, where he and Deborah split their time over the past several years. He enjoyed the arts and learning, exploring museums of all sorts and attending symphonies whenever he got the chance.

In addition to his wife, children, siblings and their significant others, Dirk will be dearly missed by his beloved daughters-in-law, Alexis Katkevich Messelaar of Newburyport and Aurélie Motré Messelaar of Ipswich; as well as his cherished grandchildren, to whom he was Opa, Adrien and Amélie Messelaar of Ipswich; several nieces and nephews; many cousins in Holland; friends all over the world; and his schipperkes, Jaap and Arie.


Relatives and friends are invited to attend visiting hours on Friday, January 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Morris Funeral Home, 45 North Main St., Ipswich. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. with a private burial to follow at Highland Cemetery. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Friends of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA 01950, or to the charity of your choice. To send a condolence to the Messelaar family please go to MorrisFH.com.
Published on January 15, 2019
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