VegSource Interactive, Inc. | Obituary
Hans Siegenthaler, Vegetarian Activist
by Marr Nealon

HANS SIEGENTHALER, lifelong vegetarian, 20 year vegan, animal/social/environmental activist, gentle soul, and brilliant beam of light, passed away Thurs. Jan. 23 at 4pm, in his home in Northridge, CA, in the company of his devoted wife Coby & close friends. He was 81.

Hans & Coby have been perpetual crusaders for a kinder world---holding monthly vegan potlucks and Green Party meetings at their home, marching in animal rights demonstrations, opening their guest rooms to activists passing thru LA, making phonecalls, writing letters, always contributing their energy volunteering for numerous causes.

They are the only couple I have ever met, who after 51 years of marriage, were still like newlyweds, still thrilled to be in one another’s company, who still had a twinkle in their eyes for each another. I believe their secret has been sharing the heartfelt bond of a cruelty free lifestyle, and as Coby says, "Just simply loving each other & being cruelty-free to each other, as well as the animals!" Hans hung on thru recent illnesses. It was obvious he didn't want to leave this wonderful woman he'd been sharing life with, nor their circle of friends. He greatly enjoyed having people stop by their friendly haven.

A memorial will be held Sunday evening, Feb. 2 in the west valley of Los Angeles, location TBA.

Enjoy this excerpt from an article written a year ago by a dear friend of Coby and Hans, Janet Allen:

Coby and Hans

I have an image indelibly etched in my mind. We are at the Huntington Library and Gardens a few years back, Coby and Hans, myself, and their two German exchange students. The Siegenthalers are ahead of me on the dirt path, walking hand in hand like a couple of teenagers, Hans holding Coby’s purse by his side. I can’t resist, pull out my camera, and take the photograph that will continue to warm my heart every time I look at it. True love.

The Dutch pair emigrated to the United States from Holland in 1955, and in 1961, they officially became naturalized U.S. citizens. Since then, the Siegenthalers have become a highly esteemed, almost celebrity, couple within the vegetarian, animal welfare, and environmental communities, and deservedly so. Whether hosting monthly vegan potlucks, Green Party meetings, or alcohol-and-meat-free New Year’s Eve parties in their distinctly European-flavored home, no participant leaves without feeling as though they’ve been on a brief trip to the Netherlands. Tea and grain-based “fake coffee” are served at regular intervals from Coby’s mobile tea table; an antique Dutch spinning wheel sits in the front hallway; cuckoo clocks interrupt conversation every hour on the hour to remind you how time flies when you’re having fun. A steady flow of illustrious house guests--including “adopted sons” Howard Lyman & Michael Klaper, M.D., the late biochemist and leading world authority on fluoride toxicity Dr. John Yiamouyiannis, sports nutritionist Douglas Graham. DC, and anti-vaccination activist and scientist Dr. Viera Scheibner--have all stayed in the Siegenthaler’s spare “Lincoln bedroom”. Their house with elastic walls has also acted as Los Angeles’ “vegan youth hostel” to exchange students and foreign travelers alike, who have found their way to this mecca for animal lovers.

But the Siegenthaler’s activities are by no means limited to anywhere near home. The calendar on their desk is scribbled to the edges with a myriad of commitments year-round, from demonstrations to protests to health lectures and international vegan conferences. Not just compassionate and conscious folk, Coby-a retired registered nurse--and Hans--a former chemical engineer--are intelligent, educated people who share a passionate interest in a wide range of subjects: politics, human rights, nutrition, alternative medicine, solar energy, organic foods, sustainable agriculture.

The common thread? Their ultimate goal is to end all suffering on the planet, with animal welfare and liberation coming out on top of the list. Friends who rub elbows with the Siegenthalers get used to having petitions thrust into their hands for a signature advocating this or that cause, and can depend on encountering a variety of fliers, announcements, and newsletters spread across the living room table. It is their common values and lifestyles, their love for all living creatures, which Coby & Hans claim are the key to their rock solid relationship of over half a century.

The Siegenthalers burst into this world from the finest of gene pools and were nurtured from birth in supportive environments of compassion and service. Both were fortunate enough to have been raised by parents who were members of the Dutch Vegetarian Society, as well as devoted Theosophists. However, appreciation for their comfortable and abundant life here in America comes well-earned. “Zuerneet!,” they exclaim in Dutch, “Don’t complain!”

Both raised in ravaged Europe during World War II, it is riveting to hear them tell stories about the hardships, famine, danger, and political unrest they courageously endured, not to mention the tales of how their parents bravely harbored Jewish refugees in their homes during Hitler’s regime. Both families risked their own safety to assist a steady flow of displaced souls escape capture, concentration camps, and extermination. Hans recollects the “hungry winter” of 1944-45 when food was scarce and he exchanged his suspenders and textiles from his father’s factory for something to eat. He remembers having to stand guard when allied bombers were flying overhead, and the rainy night when “a fire bomb fell on our house, through the thatched roof and ended up in the toilet.” His social activist mother was eventually imprisoned for wearing an inverted Star of David as an act of protest against Nazi genocide. (Note: On February 17th, 2002, Hans proudly accepted an honorary award for his parents, Hugo & Wijbrigje Siegenthaler, from the “1939 Club,” in cooperation with the Los Angeles Consulate General of Israel and Yad Vashem, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, recognizing the couple as “righteous among the nations” in tribute to their noble sacrifice and service toward the Jewish community during the Holocaust.)

Hans exclaims that their meeting was “by design.” Having met in Amsterdam through a vegetarian youth group called “Witte Guilde” or the White Guild, their early relationship was fraught with both romance and adventure, but always tinged with a no-nonsense practicality.

Hans loves to jokingly recall an incident during their courtship when they accidentally stumbled onto German territory during an innocent Sunday bicycle ride through a pretty forest in 1949. After resting on a bench inscribed with the phrase “Nur pour l’amour” (translated as “Only for Love”), they ignored the sign marking the border (as they had always done in peacetime) and continued on with their excursion. But war changes things, and this time they were in for trouble. “We were stopped by a German with a gun, taken to the local police station, and then to jail in Gronau. We stayed two nights and days in separate cells. Coby put her make-up mirror through the bars on the door window so we could wink to each other.” Their eyes still sparkle when they look at each other.

The following year, having secured steady work as a chemical engineer in Zaandam, Holland, as well as a place to live amidst a terrible housing shortage, Hans finally proposed to his bride-to-be in a little rowboat and they wed within the month. “I picked up Coby with my bicycle at the hospital, she (sitting) on the luggage carrier on the back of my bike in her white nurse’s dress. Up to the town hall for our marriage license. We married on December 22, 1951, the first day of the year when it starts becoming lighter.”

An appropriate beginning for a loving union that has continued to become more radiant with each passing day, brightening not only each other’s lives, but those of everyone lucky enough to stumble across their path.