Geert Hofstede, Harrie Hemmelder, and fighting ALS

Geert and Gert Jan in 2014

Geert Hofstede, 1928-2020

On 12 February 2020 - three years ago - my father Geert Hofstede passed away. He had been declining since a few years. We suspected nothing at first; after all he was from 1928.

From around 2016, he started to have more problems. Just after his 90th birthday, he could no longer control his left arm. We blamed it on an old injury. Later, it became clear that there was some kind of degeneration going on. He fell more and more often, and his speech became blurry. In the end, there was not a single muscle he could control; he was unable to move and could barely speak. His mind was fully there though, and his sense of humour.

He accepted his fate, and died with dignity; see

My parents at Geerts 90th birthday


ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and PSMA (progressive spinal muscular atrophy) are members of a group of diseases that progressively damage nerves and muscles, leading to death, often by asphyxiation. They can take many forms, and the speed varies a lot, but from the first ill-recognized symptoms until total paralysis, it could take three to five years.

In the Netherlands, around 50 people fall ill every year. There is no cure, but researchers hope to change that soon. They need funds, though.

Geert’s symptoms were those of PSMA.

Harrie in 2021

Harrie Hemmelder

My brother-in-law Luc has a friend who I met way back in the nineteen-eighties when they were both students: Harrie Hemmelder. A few years ago, Harrie started to have physical coordination issues in his job as a physical exercise teacher. After a puzzling and worrying time, it became clear that he had ALS.

At the time of writing, he is at home, in a chair, tended by his wife and children. Harrie is unable to move or speak. His mind is there though, and his soul is accepting. He speaks by looking at letters on a screen, after which a computer voice pronounces the sentence.

Luc and Gert Jan in 2014

How to die

We all die one day. As George Harrison sang, there is an art of dying. My father had, and Harrie has, a wonderful sense of humour, that helps them, and those around them, to accept their disease. In Geert’s case it was also easier because he was in his nineties. For Harrie and his loved ones, having to part in the middle of life, it is much harder.

Luc and I go for cycling tours together. When he told me that he was going to raise money for the fight against ALS, I did not need to think about it for long.

Looking South from Mont Ventoux

Fighting ALS

On 8 June 2023, a number of teams of cyclists will climb the legendary Mont Ventoux, in Southern France. The climb from Malaucène is from 329 to 1911 metres above sea level (

Each cyclist, and each team, try to raise as much money as they can. See (in English). I am a member of “team Harrie Hemmelder”.

Of course, I’ll also be thinking of Geert.

Donate to my team to fight ALS


If this touches you in any way, and you want to help combat these diseases, then donations are most welcome.

Thank you! You can scan the QR-code, or go to