In Memoriam Gert den Hoedt

Gert den Hoedt passed away on 8 March 2019 at the age of 83.

The announcement of his decease contained four characteristic elements:

I have tried to live as a fellow human being
Honorary member of the Dutch Geotextile Organisation (NGO)
Honorary Member of the International Geosynthetics Society
Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau

Gert was closely involved with the NGO from the outset. Initially, he did not believe that a separate association was needed for work with geotextiles but he was to exert a major influence, in his own special way, on the approach and structure of the association. Gert focused on two issues: excluding commercial considerations, and high-quality research and development. Those things are still important for the organisation.

Gert was a genuinely old-fashioned engineer: he could always tell us what could be done. He was also a researcher in heart and soul: creative and always full of energy, despite his physical limitations. His training as a physicist always gave him a special status among civil engineers.

The fourth international conference of the IGS in 1990 in The Hague was a milestone for him. As secretary-general, he was able to achieve recognition for the Dutch position in the field like no other. The organising committee became a group of friends, with Gert as a prominent presence at our bi-annual meetings. With enthusiastic stories about new research and new possibilities, but also disappointments because money wasn’t always available for his research.

He continued to be intensely involved with the NGO after retiring. He tried to pass on his knowledge and, above all, his enthusiasm and drive to the younger generation. That sometimes led to annoyance but those prepared to listen certainly benefited.

He was not particularly eager about the open recognition of his services in the form of the honorary membership of the NGO.  He was above all grateful to be one of the pioneers who opened up the way to the wide range of applications for geotextiles today.

Gert was also a force to be reckoned with internationally. Standards, international congresses. He was as comfortable speaking to an audience of 10 people as he was for 500. His active role internationally was a major challenge for him. The inertia and the hidden agendas. His honest, straightforward thinking and behaviour could sometimes lead to conflict in the international arena. Nevertheless, his dedication, his ability to think analytically, his capacity for work and his unfailing enthusiasm were much appreciated. As demonstrated by his honorary membership of the International Geotextile Society.

In private, he was a sympathetic and empathetic person. He certainly didn’t shout it from the rooftops but, with his wife Alice, he was always active on behalf of the church and society. Here again, his enthusiasm knew no bounds and nothing was too much for him. He was always there for others. He was always interested in, and committed to helping, people who were less fortunate. For a long time, he was an active member of the Parkstraat church in Arnhem. That was recognised when, to his great surprise, he was made a Knight of the Order of Oranje Nassau.

Gert den Hoedt, a remarkable human, a remarkable fellow human being. If you drive on a road, walk along a dike, or see a roll of landscape fabric at a DIY shop, don’t forget that Gert den Hoedt was there when those structures were built and those products made.

We took leave of him with great respect on Friday, 15 March in Arnhem.

 

Written by Hans Dorr (NGO honorary member).

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