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‘Always look on the bright side of life’ was the motto on the obituary card of Johan Dragt, volunteer at the ISI Permanent Office since 1992. On December 4, 2012 Johan passed away at the age of 78. That motto reflected exactly his attitude whenever he was confronted with a setback.


Many ISI members will remember Johan Dragt as the tall and always friendly man who contacted them during ISI Sessions to ask their cooperation for the ISI Multilingual Glossary of Statistical Terms. He was the originator and the soul of that project. But he was more than that.


After completing his study in Economics at the University of Amsterdam in the late ‘50s and fulfilling his military service as a lieutenant in the Army Administration Corps, he started his career as a statistical researcher at the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands. Later he became head of the Statistical Department of the city of Utrecht. He pioneered with the first computers and made clever use of the rather primitive printers and plotters from the ‘80s to compose maps that gave insight in the many data his department collected. He was an active member of SCORUS, the ISI organization for studying statistical problems in Large Cities.


In 1992, at the age of 58, he took early retirement and started working as a volunteer at the ISI Permanent Office. The Glossary was his passion. With endless patience and perseverance he managed to collect some 3500+ terms in 31 languages with only some 20% missing cells in that huge matrix. He participated in many Scorus conferences and ISI Sessions, the most recent ones those in Dublin, Lisbon and Berlin. During ISI Sessions he manned an ISI booth with great enthusiasm, always eager to inform people about ISI’s activities.


He was a very social person who never forgot to make a phone call at a birthday, not even to people he worked with long ago. He was always busy doing things for other people. He was a city council member in Maartensdijk, where he lived, but also a board member of a hospital and was very active in the Dutch Labour Party PvdA and in a Union for Senior Citizens. He did hard manual fieldwork to preserve nature and gave computer lessons to older people. He drove disabled children to a swimming hall and assisted them in taking a swim. Furthermore he was the regional coordinator of the yearly Income Tax Declaration Service organized by the Socialist Labour Union. He must have filled out for free several thousands of Tax Forms in all these years. For all his services to society he was knighted in the Order of Oranje-Nassau four years ago. During the awarding ceremony special attention was given to Johan’s work on the Glossary.


Johan was married to Lies Heinekamp for about 40 years; they had two daughters and five grandchildren. Lies died in 2001 at the age of just 65 from Kahler’s disease, a leukaemia related cancer in the bone marrow. Five years later Johan met Elly Rutgers-Zwagerman and they enjoyed seven very happy years together in which Johan became a highly beloved grandfather of Elly’s grandchildren.


Since a few years he was suffering from Kahler’s disease too, but he continued with his many activities. Alas a year ago it was no longer possible for him to make the weekly travel to the Permanent Office in The Hague, nevertheless he made some last contributions to the Glossary from home. In September 2012 he greatly enjoyed a visit from nearly the complete Permanent Office staff in order to celebrate his 20 years of service to the ISI.


Our condolences go to Elly and all his beloved ones. We will miss him dearly.


Gerrit J. Stemerdink