Willy’s (former) Workplace, located in a beautiful renovated 17th Century Amsterdam Canalhouse, Prinsengracht 771-773

28 03 2014

Once upon a time, as all stories start I came into the world. Then one day as a young adult I had the great good fortune to get *a job*, WORKING  for the former British Crown Colony HONG KONG. I began on the 1st of May, 1972 and I left those beautiful offices on 31st October, 1988.

Today, fast forward I am a resident of TURKEY, I live in the southern part of this beautiful country and life is really g.o.o.d. Lots and lots of fresh, clean air, organically grown veggies, fruit, similar eggs, and an extremely PRIVATE comfortable place to enjoy, day in day out.

Yesterday I talked to an old business friend of mine and because of it, my memories returned to what I used to do with so much love and passion: working for HONG KONG, which always was easier to explain than telling others what my job really entailed. You see, saying: I am The Representative BENELUX for The Hong Kong Trade Development Council always drew blanks.

People had no idea what that meant nor what I was busy doing. That quasi-governmental organization (HKTDC) which opened its doors – in Hong Kong –  in 1966 had the commitment to *put Hong Kong* at everyone’s door. Imports-Exports and above all promoting FREE TRADE between the former British Crown Colony and every country on the globe.

The Amsterdam Office was one of the first HKTDC offices opening that door on the 1st of May, 1972, after offices in the first chosen MAJOR countries such as Great Britain, the USA, Germany. Great! I was there from the start. I knew exactly what I was supposed to do and back then: yes –  we hired some premises, we registered with the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce, got ourselves some desks and chairs, a telephone, a typewriter, a COFFEE machine and: we were ready for business, doors open  Monday to Friday 09.00-1700.

Today this sounds very peculiar, but in 1972 no faxes, printers, PC’s, photocopiers, not even a secretary we started out with. But I was HAPPY simply because I *was working for HONG KONG*, a place that had always been a MAGICAL one for me. Yes. Ever since I was in my early 20-ies, as a Stewardess (now called Flight/Cabin attendant) HONG KONG had been a place of magic.

Also today I decided to check online if I -at last- could find something about my former boss LEN DUNNING. He had the creative mind and foresight to convince the Hong Government that such an organization was NEEDED. With *carte blanche*, an open ticket around the world he visited countries where similar bodies already existed, and with that personal in-depth, he founded the HKTDC (1966).

LEN DUNNING – *In Memoriam*  12th March,1930 to 6th July,2011 and an excellent Obituary. He did become 81, yet I was *shocked*. Not because I thought *far too young to die*, but just shocked that Len is no longer alive and of course that because of circumstances, preventing  I had never seen or talked to him again. It was not that I ever was close to him, but he was my *ultimate* superior for many many years. Boy, do I hate it, does such make me sad…now I can never tell him just how much I respected him for CREATING such a fantastic organization, that Hong Kong Trade Development Council. The ideas that were born in his head and also realized were so unbelievably great. Spectacular shows, real fireworks, always and exclusively to attract the attention of foreign officials and public.

For me personally, as just one of those Overseas Reps. i.e. Willy Holmes from The Amsterdam Office, thank you Len Dunning, thank you. Without you I would never have had the opportunity to have such a great career as The BENELUX Representative HKTDC. Also, I would never have met such a melange of interesting people: from pauper to king. Always with only one mission and that was, still is:  to get them GO –  visit HONG KONG.




5 responses

31 03 2015
John McCabe

How wonderful to google “Len Dunning” and find your memorium, Willy. Although, as different tentacles of an organism that reached out around the world from Hong Kong, we were an ocean apart (me in New York from 1981-86), I knew your name as the lady who ran the Amsterdam office (although simply as Willy Holmes)!
An example of Len Dunning’s incredible showmanship was a reception and fashion presentation for store principals of Bloomingdale’s, Federated Department Stores, and others led by the legendary Marvin Traub that opened up an additional USD18 million in HK open-to-buy (at a time when stores were still doing “import programs” – today they have floors full of buying offices). Len arranged Ultima, perhaps the first Chinese-style mansion on the peak, as the venue. His tentacles then reached out to Hollywood, tracking down footage from 1955’s “Soldier of Fortune.” The show opened with a clip projecting Clark Gable carrying Susan Hayward out of the house and up the driveway overlooking the harbour: then the curtain went up, and the event unfolded on that very spot.
Worthy of David Attenborough, always a role model to Len.
How nice to hear that you’re well, happy, loving life, and living in the sunshine! Len would have liked that last part, and spent many of his last years in Bahrain with his lovely wife Irene. Son Richard is back in the U.K., with Len’s grandchildren, where the Dunning name lives on.

27 07 2015
Willy Holmes-Spoelder

Dear John McCabe, how nice to read your text, a bit late, better late than never. I do not believe *we met*, howver: we are still alive & kicking.
Yes: what a moment in time HKTDC was, creator our beloved Len Dunning.
Did you know Irene’s maiden name was (also) Holmes? I loved her and was really sad she passed away.
Willy, she always said, when I visited HK and met her: what oh what do you do to keep such a lovely complexion? Me: looking at her wrinkles (too much exposure to the sun, I guess), also towering above her: she was tiny & I on stiletto heels: Oh: mmm. probably my genes dear. What else could I say.
NOW: you appear to have moved on, to put it mildly, i.e. wow! I have arrived at the ripe old age of 74 meanwhile and well: life is for the living, so should you actually *like* to stay in touch: I am on FB = easiest to connect. Note: this http://www.willyholmesspoelder.com is not coming up as it does = got to send wordpress an email: ?? whatever did I do wrong. Not using it a lot at the moment.
Sincerely, Willy

19 08 2015
Willy Holmes-Spoelder

Dear John McCabe,

Thanks for your time & words. Apologies for my late reaction, one of the reasons: this wordpress facility was not working properly.
Anyway: yes Len Dunning always referred to me as *Willy Holmes*, habitually I guess ie NOT *my BENELUX Representative*

I was never *in his inside circle(S)*, i.e a *hanger-on*, my late husband H.G.Holmes would have phrased this. But I did admire him, besides he always was FAIR & DECENT & had brilliant ideas to attract the world’s attention to *his baby* (HONG KONG) as the #1 place to go, produce, import from. I loved that, made my work also easier visiting BENELUX producers feeling threatened.
Irene Dunning I had a lot of soft spots for, as a woman I mean. Her husband always exposed to all those male dangers. Her maiden name also is Holmes, so we had that – sort of – in common.
Why I decided to upload Len’s Obituary John: this unique pioneer deserves a statue in front of the HKTDC buiding in HK, and all I managed eventually to find was his obituaty. That hurt. Besides: he also gave me the lifetime opportunity to work FOR Hong Kong, which I loved since I learned Hong Kong existed (particularly when I spent my younger years as a *stewardess*. Dutch airlines, except KLM, never got landing permissions in those days.
I am currently residing, as you read, in Southern Turkey, with on online business as a *health practitioner*, vibrational medicine & practical metaphysics being the red threads woven through.
All my best, and who knows: one day you and I may meet. Willy

17 06 2016

Len Dunning was my best friend ever. We spent some very good time together in Bahrain. I miss his intellect, dry humour, kindness every day. God bless him. xx Beate Grodum

15 07 2016
Willy Holmes-Spoelder

Thank you for your comment Beate. As you read: Len was my C.E.O. so our relationship was a totally business-like one. Yet: as time goes by: memories about all the GREAT people I had the good fortune on my roads through this life: I would not have wanted to be without them. Yes: Up there: Len: some of us shall always remenber you.

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