Farming Rural 04

John Eyking

May 18, 1931 ~ November 27, 2021 (age 90)


John Servatius Eyking



We regret to announce the passing of John Servatius Eyking, 90, on Saturday, November 27th, 2021 at his home in Millville surrounded by family.

John, the third child of Johannes and Elisabeth (van der Kolk) Eyking, was born May 18, 1931 in Beverwyk, the Netherlands. His family grew tulip bulbs and vegetables on a small plot. John’s generous and strong character was formed by his close-knit community, during the Depression and World War II.

Throughout the war years John contributed to the family’s well-being with hard work and creativity.   At the age of ten his father assigned him schilleboer, a gatherer of potato peels to feed the goats and cow.  John staked out his territory through Beverwyk’s streets and for several years diligently made his collections until the Hunger Winter forced many to eat their leaves and peelings.   

Following the war, John was ready for new possibilities and self-growth. He attended night school, did folk dancing, joined a church boys’ club and a young farmers’ association. In 1951 John served in the Netherlands Army as a nurse in the medical corps. His tour of duty provided time to consider his future, setting him on the path to emigration. On June 4, 1953 John landed at Pier 21, Halifax, and was assigned to work in Cape Breton. Cape Breton’s opportunities captivated John. Within six months he established his own landscaping business. Most importantly, in the fall of 1953 John met his future wife, Jeanne Mertens.

Jeanne, from the southern province of Brabant, Netherlands, had also arrived that summer. John was instantly smitten. After a yearlong courtship, they married on February 19, 1955. They began life together in small leaseholds growing tulips. After tulips failed to thrive in the harsh East Coast climate, someone suggested he consider poultry.

John and Jeanne established their family business, Hilly Acres Farms, in the heart of Boularderie Island. The family and the farm were prolific. The household grew to ten children, and, as quickly, the hen barns and vegetable fields also multiplied. Imbued with the Dutch spirit of the “tuinder” (an industrious gardener) from his upbringing, he tended to his crops with diligence and affection. He was similarly a proud family man- devoted to the success and happiness of his family. And so, John founded a hardy and loving clan.

He took on leadership roles and was a strong supporter of co-operatives but perhaps John’s greatest contribution to his industry came with the work he did with the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency (CEMA). In the 60’s and 70’s chaos ruled Canada’s poultry and egg markets and an oversupply of eggs led to territorial disputes. Egg producers across Canada persuaded the government to establish a sustainable egg management system for all of Canada. He was honored, both to represent the egg producers of Nova Scotia and by the faith they put in him.

John spent considerable time mentoring, investing and participating in agencies dedicated to supporting Cape Breton’s economic growth. Ventures such as Grow CB Partnership, BCA Holdings Ltd. and New Dawn Enterprises benefitted from John’s direction and business skills.

John’s social conscience knew no bounds. In time, he and his wife established the John and Jeanne Eyking Family Foundation. From empowering farmers in Lesotho, Africa; to supporting the Millville Community Centre Eggfest, L’Arche and Rotary Club they embraced grass-roots programs, locally and internationally. In recognition of their philanthropic work John and Jeanne were inducted into the Cape Breton Business and Philanthropy Hall of Fame.

John built Hilly Acres Farm while tending to his community’s needs. Jeanne worked diligently beside John, running the farm store, caring for family and supporting his endeavors. As John would say “Jeanne was the wind in my sails”. His ten children were the heart of the operation, all contributing to its success. With the farm on solid-footing, John and Jeanne found time for travel. They travelled every continent and frequently visited the Netherlands. These journeys fed John’s innate curiosity and spurred new ideas.

John was a dedicated self-learner. He read everything from Chekhov to the Economist. He took great pleasure in synthesizing his ideas and discussing them at the kitchen table with his family and others. An original thinker, John’s ideas mixed logic and common sense; drawing on philosophical and religious references. His mind remained sharp to the end.

After Jeanne passed in 2017, John and his youngest son, Peter would go for Sunday drives, often with his dear friend, George Unsworth. They would discuss everything from gardening to the state of the Calabash Road.

John’s mantra was “I want to better myself.” He came to love his adopted country and participating in its democratic process. John was recognized for his life work in many ways. In 1997, he was inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame and in 1998 awarded his Doctor of Laws degree from Cape Breton University. In 2020, John was appointed to the Order of Canada for his contributions to community and agriculture. It was a fitting tribute to end a good life in a great country.

John is survived by his 10 children, Jeannie (Fred), John (Janet), Elisabeth (Clifford), Paul (Karen), Mark (Pam), Patrick (Angela), Francis (Joan), Chris (Janet), Theodore (Geralyn), his special son, Peter; his 32 grandchildren, John (Amanda), Steven (Twila), Chris (Cindy), Kristen, Jamison (Elizabeth), Paul Lucas, Aurora (Steven), Mieka (Christian), Josh (Natalie), Vanessa (Pedro), Samuel (Emily), Lisette (Rory), Amy (Ryan), Adrianna, Bethany (Wade), Elsie (Neil), Jessica (Nicole), Erika (Amber), Emily (Fernando), Nico (Carissa), Britanny (Morgan), Jonah (Melissa), Taylor (Nathan), Katrina, Morgan, Darrion, Aaron (Lizzy), Grace, Ryan, Marcus, Maria, Oscar; his 33 great-grandchildren: Blake, Jaxon, Bryson, Daniel, Abbigale, Alexandria, Hannah, Gabriella, Marika, Sacha, Danika, Calysta, Lucienne, Anders, Davie, Raya, Ellis, Elizabeth, Liliana, Clara, Els, Leon, Kirk, Ryker, Willa, Cullen, Ayla, Dalton, Briar, Violet, Nash, Bowen, and Emmett.

In the Netherlands John is survived by sisters, Agatha and Jeanne, brothers-in-law Ben and Kees, and sisters-in-law Martha and Gree. His wife Jeanne, parents John and Bets Eyking, brothers Henk, Piet, Theo, sisters Bep and Hennie and brother-in-law Herman and Jos predeceased him

There will be no visitation. A funeral mass will be held on Tuesday December 7, 2021 at 10:30 am in St. Joseph’s Church, Little Bras d’Or. The family will receive visitors at a reception to be held at the Millville Community Hall immediately following the funeral at 12:00. COVID-19 protocols will be followed. Memorials may be made to Haley Street Adult Services Centre Society.







To send flowers to John's family, please visit our floral store.


Funeral Mass
December 7, 2021

10:30 AM
St. Joseph Church, Bras d'Or
162 Church Rd.
Little Bras d'Or, NS B1Y2Y2

December 7, 2021

12:00 PM
Millville Community Hall

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